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Why Did Apple Drop ZFS From Snow Leopard?

In 2008, Apple announced that we would see ZFS as part of Snow Leopard Server, but a year later our copies are shipping with ZFS nowhere to be found. What went wrong? And will we ever get ZFS?

Robin Harris, who has worked in the data storage field for as long as I’ve been alive, is discussing the mysterious absence of ZFS in Mac OS 10.6 over at his blog StorageMojo. He reconsiders his original stance, that there were migration or integration timeline issues, in favour of it being a battle between licensing preferences.

Harris speculates that Sun Microsystems, the folks behind ZFS, may have pushed for a Common Development and Distribution licence (CDDL) and patent indemnification which turned Apple off the deal. Harris emphasises that the incompatibility between CDDL and GPL was one of the issues for Apple, but certainly not the only one. (How could it be when there are CDDL elements such as DTrace in Snow Leopard already?)

Patent indemnification could play a larger role as the manner in which Sun might wave patent claims against Apple for the use of ZDF wouldn’t actually truly protect Apple from third-party claims, but that too is speculation.

What we do know is that Apple promised us ZDF a year ago and didn’t put out this month. Be it a lovers’ spat with Sun, licensing issues, or a larger legal picture, we’re still optimistic that we’ll see ZDF down the road, particularly with the changes going on as part of Sun being taken over by Oracle.

Check out Harris’ thoughts and tell us yours. Why did Apple go back on something they were so proud to announce? And when will this broken promise be made up to us? [Storage mojo]