Linux kernel 5.15: NTFS support has significantly improved

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A new NTFS patch for the Linux kernel is on its way, providing much-needed relief to Linux system administrators everywhere. Linus Torvalds had a few words to say about it.

For quite some time, the Linux kernel has included NTFS support. Working with NTFS filesystems on Linux, on the other hand, has been a bit of pain up until now. One of the most serious problems with NTFS support in the Linux kernel to date has been the lack of fully functional read/write support. The old captive NTFS driver hasn’t been updated in a long time, and Tuxera’s NTFS-3G driver is far too slow for practical use (especially for enterprise use cases). As a result, a new driver has been required for some time.

This is where Paragon enters the picture. The company has had a working NTFS driver for quite some time, but it was a proprietary product with a price tag.

What’s really interesting about this new change is how the Paragon driver ended up in the 5.15 kernel. This fully functional read/write driver is significant for Linux (particularly for administrators), making dealing with NTFS filesystems easier and more reliable.

So, what happened to cause this addition?

To begin, Microsoft joined the Open Invention Network to aid in protecting Linux and open-source technology. Following that, Linux has emerged as the single most widely used operating system in cloud deployments. With the massive rise of containers (which also rely on Linux), it became clear that NTFS would not continue to reign supreme as the filesystem king. In an increasingly diverse IT world, practically everything must interact with everything else.

The next issue that NTFS faces is that it is no longer the industry darling that it once was. With exFAT dominating the market, it was clear that maintaining an NTFS driver as a proprietary solution was becoming increasingly unprofitable.

Furthermore, Paragon had to keep this driver out of the tree for its customers before adding its NTFS driver to the mainline kernel. I guess that the effort required to maintain this (probably patching kernels on a customer-by-customer basis) was not profitable for Paragon.

But then comes the credibility the company gains by submitting the driver to the official Linux kernel. This move makes Paragon look almost like a hero to some, bringing much-needed relief to those who have to deal with NTFS filesystems with Linux. And, given how long Linux system administrators have struggled with NTFS, this new driver could be a game-changer.

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, had an important message for Paragon when he said, “The one other thing I do want when there are big new pieces like this being added is to ask you to make sure that everything is signed-off properly and that there is no internal confusion about the GPLv2 inside Paragon, and that any legal people, etc., are all aware of this all and onboard.” The last thing we want to see is a six-month-later “Oops, we didn’t mean to do that” saga. I doubt that will be an issue, given how public this has all been, but I just wanted to be clear about it.”

Torvalds appears to be throwing shade at Paragon, saying, “Make sure your entire company is on board with this move before you fully commit.”

Konstantin Komarov, founder and CEO of Paragon, told Torvalds, “We can confirm that we will continue with this implementation.” Also, for the time being, this is planned to be in fs/ntfs3—at least until the code and implementation become known and trusted within the community. Then we can talk about whether it should replace the fs/NTFS and when it would be most convenient to do so.”

Given that the company’s CEO is communicating about this driver, one might conclude that Torvalds’ concerns are unfounded. But this is Torvalds’ baby, and everyone in the Linux community knows how fiercely he defends the Linux kernel. So, kudos to him for crossing every I and dotting every T.

More information about the Paragon solution can be found on the official NTFS for Linux driver page. This is likely to change once the patch is officially merged into the mainline kernel (because the company will no longer have a reason to sell the product or will begin offering customer-proprietary solutions based on the driver).