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July 13th-16th, 2010
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Taking Linux Filesystems to the Space Age: Space Maps in Ext4

Saurabh Arun Kadekodi (

With the ever increasing filesystem sizes, there is a constant need for faster filesystem access. A vital requirement to achieve this is efficient filesystem metadata management.

The bitmap technique currently used to manage free space in Ext4 is faced by challenges owing to this exponential increase. This has led us to re-examine the available choices and explore a radically different design of managing free space called Space Maps.

This paper describes the design and implementation of Space Maps in Ext4. The paper also highlights the limitations of bitmaps and does a comparative study of how Space Maps fare against them. In Space Maps, free space is represented by extent based red-black trees and logs. This design makes the free space information of the filesystem extremely compact allowing it to be stored in memory at all times. This significantly reduces the long, random seeks on the disk that were required for updating the metadata. Since seeks are the bottleneck as far as filesystem performance is concerned, their extensive reduction leads to faster filesystem operations. Apart from the allocation/deallocation improvements, the log based design of Space Maps helps reduce fragmentation at the filesystem level itself. Space Maps uplift the performance of the filesystem and keep the metadata management in tune with the highly scalable Ext4.

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