ZFS Data Storage Management


Organizations generate more and more data every day, much of which must be stored for varying amounts of time. Fortunately, technologies have emerged over the years to help address this storage problem. These range from iSCSI SANs and 10 gigabit connectivity to data deduplication, compression, and snapshots. However, one solution that is still under the radar for many is ZFS and it deserves a shout-out.

Originally known as the Zettabyte File System when Sun Microsystems developed it, ZFS is a formidable public-domain file system for managing data storage. ZFS eliminates the need for volume managers by using virtual storage pools called zpools. Regardless if data is stored across multiple partitions or entire drives, administrators have single, unified views of their troves. Additionally, ZFS is designed to deliver high levels of data protection. It provides mirroring and RAIDZ capabilities, which can operate similarly to RAID 5 and RAID 6. RAIDZ protects data even if a disk fails when writing the parity stripe, and RAIDZ2 safeguards against two such disk failures. ZFS also offers functionalities like snapshots, end-to-end data checksums, and a self-healing architecture that corrects all manner of silent data corruption. As a result, ZFS can further elevate the data protection already offered by RAID arrays.

Moreover, ZFS can accelerate reads and writes by moving data between the various tiers of disk cache. This is particularly effective if a RAID array has solid-state caching. The file system will keep the most frequently accessed data in RAM for the fastest response times. Data that is accessed less often is stored on slower SSDs, and data that is relatively inactive will be placed on traditional hard drives. ZFS continually moves data between the tiers depending on usage and it will even move cold data to SSDs or RAM if the files are back in play.

What’s more, ZFS is free and scales to such astronomically large capacities that it is, for all intents and purposes, infinite.