Sunday Jan 15, 2012

Simplified administration with ZFS

The simplest case in system administration can often be just about one's ability to, inexpensively, move an OS image with as minimal effort as possible.  I recently acquired an old used Sun Ultra 40 system, and this being a long weekend (in the US), decided to allocate time to make it my primary desktop system.  Well, turns out I didn't need a weekend -- all I needed was 1 hour, a screwdriver and Scorpions to keep me company -- a thought-provoking combination.

Your mileage may vary, of course, based on what you already have in place, i.e. what your starting point and destination points are. In my case, I was looking at migrating from an older HP Pavilion desktop model a1150y, that I previously outfitted with 4GB of RAM (for $60 from Amazon) and 2 mirrored 1.5TB SATA drives (for $100 or so, each, prior to the flooding in Thailand that has since caused a spike in hard disk pricing). I'd been running a version of Oracle Solaris 11 Express that I have been updating to SRUs (Support Repository Updates) as they were being released by Oracle. Since the disks were mirrored when installed on the HP system, I simply broke the mirror by disconnecting one of the disks (no advance zfs commands were necessary), and plopped the 1.5TB disk into the Ultra 40.  At the time when Ultra 40's were being sold by Sun, the largest SATA disks that were sold by Sun for this model (if my memory serves me right) had been of 750GB capacity. Taking off the hard disk brackets from original disks in the Ultra 40, and attaching them to the bigger disk took the most time in this exercise (that, and proofreading this blog entry). As soon as the system was powered-on, the 4 year old Phoenix BIOS had no issues detecting the ZFS submirror and the GRUB menu simply came up -- showing all of the Boot Environments (why they're important) that had been created over the lifespan of the OS installation from when it'd been on the HP desktop.

All Boot Environments are shown below:

isaac@HPensolaris:~# beadm list
BE             Active Mountpoint Space   Policy Created         
--             ------ ---------- -----   ------ -------         
151a-july11    -      -          12.29M  static 2011-07-18 12:54
151a-july11-1  -      -          15.34M  static 2011-09-19 15:12
S11EwithSRU11  NR     /          8.63G   static 2011-10-10 09:18
before_168     -      -          87.91M  static 2011-07-02 18:46
snv_150        -      -          49.48M  static 2010-10-17 11:05
snv_150-bkup   -      -          6.85M   static 2011-03-17 00:58
snv_150-bkup-1 -      -          356.53M static 2011-07-02 18:47
snv_151a_ga    -      -          10.59M  static 2011-03-17 11:57

It would probably be unfair to hint at the performance improvement being seen on this machine, without mentioning that there's now 16GB of RAM addressable by Solaris, vs. 4GB. The processing power of 2 socket dual-core AMD CPUs at 3.2GHz is gargantuan compared to the 3GHz single socket dual-core Pentium 4 in the older HP machine.  This is just an artifact and a reality -- I did not perform any benchmarking activities on these two machines -- that's not the aim here.  One of the other reasons why I wanted to make the switch away from that HP desktop model was because the HP desktop's fan had always been working extra hard and generated noise that became almost unbearable to deal with.  Looking into it further had been something I'd planned on doing but never gotten around to doing. Now it can be a system used for Solaris 11 Automated Installation (and related) testing.

Yeah, the fact that the ZFS dataset submirror just worked, in a different system, albeit of the same architecture (after being moved) is slick! (ZFS is the only root file system available on Solaris 11 for a number of reasons, one of which is our reliance on conducting system updates by leveraging the benefits and features of ZFS such as snapshots and clones). No fsck, and firefox/thunderbird/office productivity (read: youtube) are all much faster now.

The next thing to do here is to add the 2nd disk from that HP machine, to correct the following condition being tracked automatically by the Solaris Fault Management subsystem.

isaac@HPensolaris:~# zpool status
  pool: rpool
 state: DEGRADED
status: One or more devices could not be opened.  Sufficient replicas exist for
    the pool to continue functioning in a degraded state.
action: Attach the missing device and online it using 'zpool online'.
 scan: resilvered 10.8G in 0h8m with 0 errors on Mon Oct 18 08:06:03 2010

    rpool          DEGRADED     0     0     0
      mirror-0     DEGRADED     0     0     0
        c13t0d0s0  ONLINE       0     0     0
        c9d0s0     UNAVAIL      0     0     0  cannot open

errors: No known data errors

isaac@HPensolaris:~# fmdump -v|tail -10
          Location: -

Jan 15 19:20:03.5998 f6f64adc-b226-cbd7-9829-eedc74efdfd5 ZFS-8000-D3 Diagnosed
  100%  fault.fs.zfs.device

        Problem in: zfs://pool=rpool/vdev=fb5057fa88f00c2f
           Affects: zfs://pool=rpool/vdev=fb5057fa88f00c2f
               FRU: -
          Location: -

Saturday Jan 12, 2008

Sharing The Wealth (as an atomic operation)

Knowledge wealth is not a measure of material quantity; it is a relative measure of metadata's meaning, begging to be set free.

I often feel that people can be much more successful and productive if they share the information they know - openly.  So to do my part, I gladly welcomed an opportunity to participate in Sun's Tech Days 2008 WorldTour (details) and traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, this week, to present on some of Sun's very cool technologies (our Solaris operating environment and ZFS - two of which have recently been recognized as the Best Server OS and Best Filesystem (respectively) by InfoWorld in their annual technology review

While there, I had joined a dozen other Sun engineers, collegues and partners in a 2-day event focusing on OpenSolaris, Solaris and Sun's developer-centric technologies and tools (and we've got quite a community). The entire event took place at the Cobb Galleria Center; and the agenda was packed!

If you're a developer, an existing customer or a prospect, please do take the time to participate in these free events when they come to your town.  There were hundreds of attendees in Atlanta (I don't have the actual numbers yet) - and they all came to hear about cool Sun technologies: development tools, operating system features and services - and most improtantly, (I think), to interact and hear directly from Sun engineers involved in development of (and day-to-day activities with) these technologies. 

Speakers included (in random order) Jeet Kaul, Ian Murdock, Michael Ingrassia, Valerie Fenwick, Sowmini Varadhan, Scott Dickson, Don Deal and many others whose sessions I did not get a chance to attend. You can see the entire list of speakers and presentations from the OpenSolaris day.  I lead a session on OpenSolaris (A Definition) and on ZFS (with a focus on why developers should think of using it). Would love to hear your thoughts about these technologies and what creative uses you've come up with to entrust your business to them.

I also dived into examples of what I've dubbed Solaris Multiplicity -  a practice  of using various Solaris technologies jointly to come up with an economically malleable index representative of deriving increased levels of value for your enterprise,  rather then partially using subsets of these technologies and come up short of the full potential.

More on this soon...

1/2/2010 Update - I organized my thoughts on this further into a slide set forming a presentation.  Whilst with examples, it takes about 1.5 hours to go through the entire deck.  I had presented it at Immersion Week (a Sun conference) in 2008. If <PG DOWN> is your key of the day, it is conceivable that you might be able to go through the slides much faster ... Your thoughts are welcomed!


Isaac Rozenfeld has been a Principal Product Manager for Oracle Solaris; responsibilities have included bettering the portfolio of networking and installation technologies - all with a focus on easing application deployments

You can follow Isaac on Twitter @izfromsun


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