Extent (file systems)
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An extent is a contiguous area of storage reserved for a file in a file system, represented as a range of block numbers. A file can consist of zero or more extents; one file fragment requires one extent. The direct benefit is in storing each range compactly as two numbers, instead of canonically storing every block number in the range. Also, extent allocation results in less file fragmentation.
Extent-based file systems can also eliminate most of the metadata overhead of large files that would traditionally be taken up by the block-allocation tree. But because the savings are small compared to the amount of stored data (for all file sizes in general) but make up a large portion of the metadata (for large files), the overall benefits in storage efficiency and performance are slight.
In order to resist fragmentation, several extent-based file systems do allocate-on-flush. Many modern fault-tolerant file systems also do copy-on-write, although that increases fragmentation. As a similar design, the CP/M file system uses extents as well, but those do not correspond to the definition given above. CP/M's extents appear contiguously as a single block in the combined directory/allocation table, and they do not necessarily correspond to a contiguous data area on disk.
The systems supporting filesystem extents include the following:
- APFS – Apple File System
- ASM – Automatic Storage Management – Oracle's database-oriented filesystem
- BFS – BeOS, Zeta and Haiku operating systems
- Btrfs – Extent-based copy-on-write (COW) file system for Linux
- Ext4 – Linux filesystem (when the configuration enables extents – the default in Linux since version 2.6.23)
- Files-11 – Digital Equipment Corporation (subsequently Hewlett-Packard) OpenVMS filesystem.
- HFS and HFS Plus – Hierarchical File System – Apple Macintosh filesystems
- High Performance File System (HPFS) – on OS/2 and eComStation
- IceFS – IceFileSystem – optional file system for MorphOS
- JFS – Journaled File System – used by AIX, OS/2/eComStation and Linux operating systems
- ISO 9660 – Extent-based file system for optical disc media
- Microsoft SQL Server – versions 2000–2008 support extents of up to 64 KB
- Multi-Programming Executive – a filesystem by Hewlett-Packard
- OCFS2 – Oracle Cluster File System – a shared-disk file system for Linux
- Reiser4 – Linux filesystem (in "extents" mode)
- SINTRAN III – file system used by early computer company Norsk Data
- UDF – Universal Disk Format – standard for optical media
- VERITAS File System – enabled via the pre-allocation API and CLI
- XFS – SGI's second-generation file system for Irix and Linux
- "Understanding Ext4 (part1): Extents". 2010-12-20. Retrieved 2015-02-02.
What's really a departure for EXT4 however, is the use of extents rather than the old, inefficient indirect block mechanism used by earlier Unix file systems (e.g. EXT2 and EXT3) for tracking file content. Extents are similar to cluster runs in the NTFS file system; essentially, they specify an initial block address and the number of blocks that make up the extent. A file that is fragmented will have multiple extents, but EXT4 tries very hard to keep files contiguous.
- "Ext4 Disk Layout". 2015-01-26. Retrieved 2015-02-02.
If flex_bg is enabled, it is possible to allocate very large files with a single extent, at a considerable reduction in metadata block use, and some improvement in disk efficiency.
- "Understanding Pages and Extents". msdn.microsoft.com. Retrieved 2014-08-14.
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- Getting to know the Solaris filesystem, Part 1: Allocation and storage strategy – a comparison of block-based and extent-based allocation