Canonical adds ZFS on root as experimental install option in Ubuntu

Canonical is expanding Ubuntu support for ZFS, an advanced file system originally developed by Sun Microsystems.

Ubuntu support is based on the ZFS project on Linux, which is based on the ported code of OpenSolaris, the Sun's open source operating system. It is licensed under the Sun Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL).

Ubuntu Eoan (19.10, due in October) will ship with ZFS on Linux 0.8.1. Features include data integrity checks, built-in RAID, high capacity thanks to 128-bit integrated encoding, deduplication and cloning of copy in writing, built-in compression and efficient control points that allow you to instantly capture a storage group and recover it more late. There is also TRIM support for SSD.

Ubuntu is already compatible with ZFS for use with the LXD container hypervisor. Eoan adds ZFS at the root as an experimental installer option for the Ubuntu desktop, with an extensible design in anticipation of server support later. ZFS at the root means that ZFS becomes the central file system to boot the system.

Ubuntu Eoan will have ZFS support in the GRUB menu, including an option to revert the file system based on ZFS snapshots.

  ZFS snapshot recovery on GRUB in Ubuntu

ZFS snapshot recovery on Ubuntu

ZFS is widely admired but the disadvantages include high resource requirements and configuration complexity. Canonical aims to make ZFS easier to manage while retaining the ability to adjust it manually. To this end, the team has created a new demon called zsys, which integrates with GRUB and helps manage complex ZFS designs.

The support for ZFS at the root is experimental and the announcement emphasizes: "We do not want to encourage people to use it in production systems yet, or at least not without periodic backups."

There are different opinions about the compatibility of CDDL with the General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) used for Linux. In 2016, the Canonical legal team concluded that it was allowed to distribute ZFS as a stand-alone kernel module. Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that promotes open source software, disagreed and stated: "CDDLv1 is incompatible with GPLv2, so distribution of binary files is not allowed."

The group said that Oracle could "resolve the situation instantly" re-license ZFS under GPLv2. The ZFS On Linux team argues that the license problem "prevents us from distributing ZFS on Linux as part of the binary kernel. However, there is nothing in any license that prevents it from being distributed as a binary module or as a source code" .

If ZFS in Ubuntu becomes more conventional, the uncertainty of the license could make it difficult to adopt. ®

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