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Appeared on: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Microsoft Details Its New ReNTFS File System

Microsoft officials are sharing some details about the new ReFS file system that will debut first as part of Windows Server 8.

Developed as part of Windows 8, ReFS - for Resilient File System - the new file system will initially be made available as a storage system for Windows Server only. Then it will become a storage system for Windows clients, and then ultimately "as a boot volume," according to Microsoft's Surendra Verma, a development manager on the Windows Storage and File System team.

According to Microsoft, key goals of ReFS are:

- Maintain a high degree of compatibility with a subset of NTFS features that are widely adopted while deprecating others that provide limited value at the cost of system complexity and footprint.
- Verify and auto-correct data. Data can get corrupted due to a number of reasons and therefore must be verified and, when possible, corrected automatically. Metadata must not be written in place to avoid the possibility of "torn writes."
- Optimize for extreme scale. Use scalable structures for everything. Don?t assume that disk-checking algorithms, in particular, can scale to the size of the entire file system.
- Never take the file system offline. Assume that in the event of corruptions, it is advantageous to isolate the fault while allowing access to the rest of the volume. This is done while salvaging the maximum amount of data possible, all done live.
- Provide a full end-to-end resiliency architecture when used in conjunction with the Storage Spaces feature, which was co-designed and built in conjunction with ReFS.

The key features of ReFS are as follows:

- Metadata integrity with checksums
- Integrity streams providing optional user data integrity
- Allocate on write transactional model for robust disk updates (also known as copy on write)
- Large volume, file and directory sizes
- Storage pooling and virtualization makes file system creation and management easy
- Data striping for performance (bandwidth can be managed) and redundancy for fault tolerance
- Disk scrubbing for protection against latent disk errors
- Resiliency to corruptions with "salvage" for maximum volume availability in all cases
- Shared storage pools across machines for additional failure tolerance and load balancing

In addition, ReFS inherits the features and semantics from NTFS including BitLocker encryption, access-control lists for security, USN journal, change notifications, symbolic links, junction points, mount points, reparse points, volume snapshots, file IDs, and oplocks.

And of course, data stored on ReFS is accessible through the same file access APIs on clients that are used on any operating system that can access today?s NTFS volumes.

ReFS will maintain backward compatibility with NTFS, but adds new features. For instance, the new file system won't require mandatory periodic checkdisk operations. It can also be repaired without taking the entire system offline. The new file system can autocorrect data that has been written incorrectly to disk.

NTFS's Object IDs, short names, compression, file level encryption, hard-links, extended attributes and quotas won't be supported in ReFS.

Microsoft's blog post offers more details on the new and promising file system

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