Approved: Fedora 33 Desktop Variants Defaulting To Btrfs File-System

Written by Michael Larabel in Fedora on 15 July 2020 at 08:42 PM EDT. 212 Comments
The Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee formally signed off today on allowing Fedora 33 desktop variants to default to using the Btrfs file-system rather than the existing EXT4 default or other alternatives.

About a decade after the Btrfs default for Fedora was originally proposed for multiple release cycles, with the Fedora 33 release due out this autumn is when that milestone may finally be realized. Of course, if issues come up with the Btrfs usage of Fedora, the change could still be reverted, but FESCo gave the go-ahead. As stated, this default change just affects desktop variants of Fedora 33 like Fedora Workstation.

Last week there was enough votes in favor by the Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee, but a voting snafu led them to re-cast the ballots at today's virtual meeting. Per the issue ticket, "Approved (+8,0,-1) in today's meeting."

The change calls for desktop variants (including the likes of laptops and workstations) to use Btrfs for experiencing modern file-system features in a "transparent fashion" and "We want to add new features, while reducing the amount of expertise needed to deal with situations like running out of disk space. Btrfs is well adapted to this role by design philosophy, let's make it the default."

Btrfs offers CoW snapshots, transparent file-system compression, SSD storage optimizations, native RAID capabilities, and a variety of other modern features not offered by EXT4. Some of the other "benefits" to Fedora that have been expressed include better low disk space handling, Btrfs' extensive checksumming, proper I/O isolation via cgroups2, online shrink/grow capabilities, and simpler setups of complex storage arrays.

Red Hat meanwhile has still been developing Stratis storage built atop XFS as their next-gen storage play after deprecating Btrfs in RHEL. Red Hat's prior deprecating of Btrfs support puts them in a bit of an awkward position now and will be interesting to see if Btrfs is a success on Fedora whether they revisit their Btrfs status for RHEL 9.

This move does put Fedora alongside openSUSE/SUSE as one of the few other Linux distributions embracing Btrfs in a default capacity. Besides Red Hat's Stratis + XFS play, Ubuntu continues to have hope for OpenZFS/ZoL while EXT4 remains their default file-system of choice. Most other Linux distributions in 2020 are defaulting to EXT4.

Pushing along this change were some Fedora developers as well as engineers from Facebook and other Btrfs stakeholders.

Fedora developers are still evaluating possible transparent file-system compression and other features that could get flipped on for Fedora 33.

So as it stands now desktop variants of Fedora 33 are positioned to be using Btrfs by default now that FESCo has formally granted approval but we'll see if any issues come up between now and the anticipated October F33 release.
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