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Solaris ZFS, Synchronous Writes and the ZIL Explained

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When talking to customers, partners and colleagues about Oracle Solaris ZFS performance, one topic almost always seems to pop up: Synchronous writes and the ZIL.

In fact, most ZFS performance problems I see are related to synchronous writes, how they are handled by ZFS through the ZIL and how they impact IOPS load on the pool's disks.

Many people blame the ZIL for bad performance, and they even try to turn it off, but that's not good. Actually, the opposite is true: The ZIL is there to help you.

In this article, we'll learn what synchronous writes are, how they're processed by ZFS, what the ZIL is, how it works, how to measure ZIL activity and how to accelerate synchronous write performance, which is at the root of many, if not the majority of ZFS performance problems.