October 12, 2006 5:30 PM PDT

Novell makes file storage software shift

Novell is changing the file system software used by default in its Suse Linux operating system, aligning with rival Red Hat and moving away from a project whose future has become entangled with the fate of a murder suspect.

Novell said Thursday that new versions of Suse Linux Enterprise will use ext3 as the default file system, important foundational software that manages how data is stored on hard drives. The change demotes the current default, ReiserFS, to a secondary, though still supported, option.

ReiserFS has been under the control of Hans Reiser, a programmer who this week was arrested on suspicion of murdering his estranged wife. Novell had been considering its decision well before that event, however.

"In response to customer demand, in the next version Novell will be changing the default file system in new installations from ReiserFS 3 to ext3," Novell said in a statement. "Novell will continue to support and improve ReiserFS version 3."

Reiser has been urging the move to version 4 of the software, called Reiser4, but it's not part of the mainstream Linux kernel, and Suse was still using version 3. Reiser's company, Namesys, charges money for ReiserFS support.

Novell engineers have been weighing their file system choices for some time.

"There are a number of problems with (ReiserFS), some purely technical, some more related to maintenance," Jeff Mahoney of Suse Labs said in a September letter. "ReiserFS has a small and shrinking development community," he said, and pointed to problems running on large servers and Reiser's preference for version 4, which still isn't stable, he said. Ext3, in contrast, is stable and likely will match ReiserFS's performance advantages "soon."

In a posting Wednesday to the Linux kernel mailing list, Reiser file system programmer Alexander Lyamin said the project will carry on, though the group has been rattled by the arrest.

"Yes, we are rather shaken and stressed at moment, although I cannot say we didn't see it coming," Lyamin said.

ReiserFS 3.6 is largely only being updated with bug fixes, but for Reiser4, the group is still "chunking out patches, fixing issues and generally cleaning the house," Lyamin said.

The Reiser4 programmers look for "existing business opportunities to get some funding" for their work in the next six months, he added. After that, "If it goes the way we hope it will go, we will do fine. If it goes bad, that is where it becomes tricky. We will try to appoint a proxy to run the Namesys business."

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Novell Inc., storage software, SuSE, file system, SuSE Linux


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