Why btrfs was inevitable: a corollary to (not) getting ZFS in Linux

February 4, 2009

One of the things I said before about ZFS in Linux boils down to that it's a lot of hard work to get outside code into the Linux kernel. This has an important corollary.

This sort of hard work, of modifying foreign code so that it fits into the Linux kernel, takes people who are pretty skilled Linux kernel programmers. These people are skilled enough to have a choice of what to do, so they can either work on the tedious grinding job of adopting other people's code into the kernel or they can write something new of their own (and get it into the kernel if it's kernel code).

It should not surprise anyone that most programmers, facing a choice between grinding maintenance work and writing something new and interesting, will pick writing something new and interesting. My impression is that Linux kernel hackers are not an exception to this, and that pretty much all of the Linux kernel hackers that are competent to get outside code into the Linux kernel would rather write something new, and generally they do.

Thus, even without other issues we would almost certainly get btrfs instead of an adoption of ZFS; it's simply more interesting for the people doing the work. Arguments that Linux kernel programmers should choose the boring work anyways are missing the point in several ways, including that people simply don't behave that way no matter what you would like.

(The one exception to this is, of course, when someone is paying kernel hackers to do the grinding work. I don't think it's a coincidence that the integration of things like IBM's JFS, SGI's XFS, and even Reiserfs have mostly been driven by employees of their respective companies.)

Written on 04 February 2009.
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Last modified: Wed Feb 4 01:03:55 2009
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