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9.5 Block Devices (Are Gone)

Other UNIX® systems may support a second type of disk device known as block devices. Block devices are disk devices for which the kernel provides caching. This caching makes block-devices almost unusable, or at least dangerously unreliable. The caching will reorder the sequence of write operations, depriving the application of the ability to know the exact disk contents at any one instant in time. This makes predictable and reliable crash recovery of on-disk data structures (filesystems, databases etc.) impossible. Since writes may be delayed, there is no way the kernel can report to the application which particular write operation encountered a write error, this further compounds the consistency problem. For this reason, no serious applications rely on block devices, and in fact, almost all applications which access disks directly take great pains to specify that character (or “raw”) devices should always be used. Because the implementation of the aliasing of each disk (partition) to two devices with different semantics significantly complicated the relevant kernel code FreeBSD dropped support for cached disk devices as part of the modernization of the disk I/O infrastructure.

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