Linux creator Linus Torvalds has drawn ire for advising people not to use the ZFS file system until Oracle, which inherited the technology when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2009, changes the licensing used to cover the project's codebase.
Torvalds made his remarks on the Real World Technologies forum on January 6. Phoronix (opens in new tab) was the first to report on the comment, and Ars Technica (opens in new tab) followed up on Tuesday to criticize Torvalds's argument, saying in the article's subhed that "Linus should avoid authoritative statements about projects he's unfamiliar with."
A back-and-forth led to Torvalds's comment. At issue was a change to the Linux kernel made in January 2019 that prohibited the export of certain kernel signs to non-GPL modules. That didn't prevent the modules from working, but it did force them to build an alternative tool.
Here's the bit from Torvalds's comment (opens in new tab) this month that reignited this year-old controversy:
"Don't use ZFS. It's that simple. It was always more of a buzzword than anything else, I feel, and the licensing issues just make it a non-starter for me. ... The benchmarks I've seen do not make ZFS look all that great. And as far as I can tell, it has no real maintenance behind it either any more. So from a long-term stability standpoint, why would you ever want to use it in the first place?"
The problem was that both Oracle ZFS and OpenZFS have been actively developed for some time. (Some also took issue with his claim about the benchmarks, although that appears to be a more nuanced discussion.)
When asked why he called ZFS a buzzword, though, Torvalds clarified his thinking in a comment (opens in new tab) posted January 10:
"I'm talking about small details like the fact that Oracle owns the copyrights but turned things closed-source, so the 'other' ZFS project is a fork of an old code base.
"If you are talking about ZFS, you're talking about the Oracle version. Do you think it has a lot of development going on? I don't know.
"And if you're talking about OpenZFS, then yes, there's clearly maintenance there, but it has all the questions about what happens if Oracle ever decides - again - that 'copyright' means something different than anybody else thinks it means."
Does this directly affect most Linux users? Not quite, but it does offer a peek inside the mind of the kernel's creator and primary maintainer. We'd probably see the same articles if Bill Gates decided to spend the day responding to questions on forums and made similarly provocative statements while doing so.