Thursday Jun 26, 2008

ZFS and Mac OS X Time Machine: The Perfect Team

A few months ago, I wrote about "X4500 + Solaris ZFS + iSCSI = Perfect Video Editing Storage". And thanks to you, my readers, it became one of my most popular blog entries. Then I wrote about "VirtualBox and ZFS: The Perfect Team", which turned out to be another very popular blog article. Well, I'm glad to introduce you to another perfect team now: Solaris ZFS and Mac OS X Time Machine.

Actually, it began a long time ago: In December '06, Ben Rockwood wrote about the beauty of ZFS and iSCSI integration, and immediatley I thought "That's the perfect solution to back up my Mac OS X PowerBook!" No more strings attached, just back up over WLAN to a really good storage device that lives on Solaris ZFS, while still using the Mac OS X native file system peculiarities. But Apple didn't have an iSCSI initiator yet (they still don't have one now) and the only free iSCSI initiator I could find was buggy, unstable and didn't like Solaris targets at all.

Then, Apple announced their Time Machine technology. Many people thought that this was related to them supporting ZFS and in fact, it's easy to believe that Time Machine's travels back in time are supported by ZFS snapshots. But they aren't. In reality, it's just a clever use of hardlinks. And not a very efficient one, too: Whenever a file changes, the whole file gets backed up again, even if you just changed a little bit of it.

Last week, a colleague of mine told me that Studio Networks Solutions had updated their globalSAN iSCSI Initiator software for Mac OS X and that it now works well with Solaris iSCSI targets. I decided to give it another try. So, here are two ZFS ZVOLs sitting on my OpenSolaris 2008.05 home server:

Sun Microsystems Inc.   SunOS 5.11      snv_86  January 2008
-bash-3.2$ zfs list -rt volume 
NAME                             USED  AVAIL  REFER  MOUNTPOINT
santiago/volumes/aperturevault  6.50G   631G  6.50G  -
santiago/volumes/mbptm           193G   631G   193G  -
-bash-3.2$

They have both been shared as iSCSI targets through a single zfs set shareiscsi=on santiago/volumes command, thanks to ZFS' attribute inheritance:

-bash-3.2$ zfs get shareiscsi santiago/volumes
NAME              PROPERTY    VALUE             SOURCE
santiago/volumes  shareiscsi  on                local
-bash-3.2$ zfs get shareiscsi santiago/volumes/aperturevault
NAME                            PROPERTY    VALUE                           SOURCE
santiago/volumes/aperturevault  shareiscsi  on                              inherited from santiago/volumes
-bash-3.2$ zfs get shareiscsi santiago/volumes/mbptm
NAME                    PROPERTY    VALUE                   SOURCE
santiago/volumes/mbptm  shareiscsi  on                      inherited from santiago/volumes
-bash-3.2$ 

On the Mac side, they show up in the globalSAN GUI just nicely:

globalSAN iSCSI GUI

And Disk Utility can format them perfectly as if they were real disks:

Disk Utility with 2 iSCSI disks 

Time Machine happily accepted one of the iSCSI disks and synced more than 190GB to it just fine and as I type these lines, Aperture is busy syncing more than 40GB of photos to the other iSCSI disk (it wouldn't accept a network share). Sometimes, they're busy working simultaneously :).

Of course, iSCSI performance heavily depends on network performance, so for larger transfers, a cable connection is mandatory. But the occasional Time Machine or Aperture sync in the background runs just fine over WLAN.

So finally, Solaris and Mac fans can have a Time Machine based on ZFS, with real data integrity, redundancy, robustness, two different ways of travelling through time (ZVOLs can be snapshotted just like regular ZFS file systems) and much more.

Many thanks to Christiano for letting me know and to the guys at Studio Network Solutions for making this possible. And of course to the ZFS team for a wonderful piece of open storage software!

Thursday Nov 01, 2007

7 Tips for Enhancing Your Email Efficiency

This article helps you deal more efficiently with large amounts of email. It looks at client and server side features that are useful, then concentrates on the most crucial aspect of email efficiency: Email processing workflow. We'll develop 7 easy to follow rules that will enable us to reach 0 mails in our Inbox in a short time while still staying informed earlier, easier and more reliably.
[Read More]
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