How to Set Up a ZFS Root Pool Mirror in Oracle Solaris 11 Express

Mirroring the root pool with ZFS

One of the first things to do when setting up a new system is to mirror your boot disk. This protects you against system disk failures: If one of the two mirrored boot disks fails, the system can continue running from the other disk without downtime. You can even boot from the surviving mirror half and continue using the system normally, until you have replaced the failed half.

At the currently low prices for boot drive sized disks, this is a no-brainer for increasing your system's availability, even for a home server system.

Unfortunately, the steps to complete until you're running off a mirrored ZFS root pool are not yet a no-brainer. While there is a piece of documentation entitled How to Configure a Mirrored Root Pool, it only covers how to add a second disk to your root pool, it does not cover how to prepare and layout a fresh disk so Solaris will accept it as a bootable second half of an rpool mirror.

Which, for historic reasons, is slightly more complicated than just saying zpool attach.

Over the weekend, I sat down and played a bit with the current Oracle Solaris 11 Express release in VirtualBox and tested, re-tested and investigated all currently necessary steps to get your root pool mirrored, including some common issues and variations.

Here's a complete, step-by-step guide with background information on how to mirror your ZFS root pool:

A Closer Look at ZFS, Vdevs and Performance


When looking at the mails and comments I get about my ZFS optimization
and my RAID-Greed posts, the same type of questions tend to pop up over and over again. Here's an example from a reader email:

"I was reading about ZFS on your blog and you mention that if I do a 6 drive array for example, and a single RAID-Z the speed of the slowest drive is the maximum I will be able to achieve, now I thought that ZFS would be better in terms of speed. Please let me know if there is a newer ZFS version that improved this or if it does not apply anymore."

This is just an example, but the basic theme is the same for much for the reactions I see: Many people think that RAID-Z will give them always good performance and are surprised that it doesn't, thinking it's a software, an OpenSolaris or a ZFS issue.

In reality, it's just pure logic and physics, and to understand that we should look a little closer at what vdevs are in ZFS and how they work.

Home Server: RAID-GREED and Why Mirroring is Still Best

Disks in a circle. How cute.

After moving my blog to its new home and getting my hands dirty with Drupal, it's time to continue my series of blog articles about setting up a home server. Remember? We talked about home server requirements, then I presented to you my small and energy-efficient, still ECC-protected and powerful AMD-based home server. Now it's time to explore some different ZFS disk pool RAID strategies.