Linux systems include several filesystems by default: XFS, JFS, Ext3, Ext4, reiserfs3. These filesystems have certain characteristics, with some known to be better at small file handling (reiserfs3), others at big files handling (XFS), or featuring annoying quirks (long filesystem verification time on Ext3).

I tend to prefer XFS because the Ext2/Ext3 verification times (fsck) can take a very long time to verify (this is just unacceptable on production environments). After seeing XFS performing poorly on a file server (extremely long file deletes), I have decided to take actual measures to make myself an informed opinion.

The scenarios below represent typical operations on servers running on a build farm: file writes (building the software), file deletes (clean builds), and file system verification (unexpected shutdowns).

The numbers have been obtained on an Ubuntu 12.10 workstation freshly installed (Quantal Quetzal) having two mechanical hard drives. A large build folder of 55GB containing source code and build artifacts was used in the tests below (350000 files spread in 19000 folders). The data was first copied to a freshly created filesystem, then the filesystem was unmounted and verified (fsck -f where applicable), and then all the files were removed from the filesystem. The very large fileset was essential to get relevant data, and best times of 2 runs were recorded.

File writes

This test represents the time to copy all the files to the initially empty filesystem from a separate hard drive:

Filesystem verification

A weak point of Ext3 on servers is that verifying the filesystem can take a long time. This verification can happen if the system was not switched off properly, and can cause unwanted downtimes. I was suspecting that Ext4 would take a verification time too, but I was pleasantly surprised:

File removal

File removal has been a weak point of XFS for a long time. Removing a few terabytes of data can take such a long time that I sometimes consider replacing rm by mkfs. I was hoping that the version of XFS in the kernel 3.2 would perform much better due to the recent optimizations. The following represents the time to remove the directory copied previously:


For build servers and related fileservers, it makes sense to prefer Ext4 to other filesystem types. XFS was a good solution against Ext3, but this is not the case anymore.