Apple Announces APFS; An Upgrade To 18 Year Old File System For Storage On SSDs

Ramish Zafar
Posted Jun 13, 2016
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A lot of eyes were on Apple at this year’s WWDC, as Cupertino looked at software and services to counter the negative slump that the iPhone’s been experiencing this year. We not only saw critical overhauls to iOS, but Siri and Apple Pay made it to the Mac, with the company also looking to make serious moves into China with iMessage’s overhaul. However, while all of these were upgrades that were announced on stage at the keynote, Apple also quietly updated its File System today, moving forwards from the decades old HFS+ system, designed for Floppy Disks.

Apple Makes Critical Upgrades To HFS+ Via Efficient Block Utilization, Encryption And More

It’s been 18 years since Apple updated its File System, with the company launching the current HFS + before the burst of the DotCom bubble in 1998. Today’s upgrade to the Apple File System, APFS, comes in lieu of Flash and SSDs as the primary means of storage all around and is designed keeping encryption in mind, according to Apple.

With the APFS, developers will be getting a mixed set of upgrades which will require quite a few adjustments and also end up making things quite easy at the same time. For starters, APFS will be coming with increased indexing file numbers (Inodes), with the APFS’ to finally include support for 64 bit inodes, as compared to 64 bit on the HFS+.

The APFS will also be improving on the overall efficient writing of data on SSDs, given that Apple claims that its been designed specifically with them in mind. The system will be utilizing block allocation more effectively than its predecessor, with the relevant file allotments on large disks being based solely on performance efficiency.

APFS

It also boosts overall efficiency through asynchronous TRIM operations, which ensures that said operations are performed only on sectors which have been confirmed of consisting irrelevant or non-essential/removed data blocks. A unique copy-on-write metadata process on the APFS now allows for writes and commits to the file system to stay in motion even if the process itself is disrupted.

The most interesting feature of APFS is its encryption support. The file system now allows for variable levels of encryption, with the process now being supported natively by it. Encryption on APFS is now separated at three different levels, with separate file and sensitive metadata keys. It also allows for support for both AES-XTS and AES-OBC, based on hardware and should give developers and users plenty of room to play around with encryption.

Other features on APFS include Space sharing, which creates multiple volumes from the same storage space, fast directory sizing, Snapshots and Clones. However, the system is far from perfect right now and comes with its fair share of restrictions. For starters, APFS is case sensitive right now and can’t be used on a startup disk; which will give developers already used to working with HFS+ some trouble. You can view the complete list of changes introduced on the APFS in the link below. Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stay tuned for the latest.

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