zfs

Introducing Sparse Encrypted ZFS Pools

Sparse ZFS Pools

Ever since I've been using a Mac, I enjoy using Sparse Encrypted Disk Images for a variety of tasks, for instance securely storing data that can be backed up somewhere else, say on a hosting server.

In fact, most of my project/personal data on my Mac sits on sparse encrypted disk images that are regularly rsynced to an external storage service, Strato's in particular.

The beauty of this solution lies in it simplicity:

Sparse encrypted disk images show up just like any other hard drive. But on the back end, they translate into a bunch of flat files that store all the data in an encrypted manner. By rsyncing the backing store, sparse encrypted disk images can be easily backed up across the net, while ensuring privacy and convenience.

Here's how to do similar things with Solaris and ZFS, including some extra data integrity magic:

Join the Solaris 11 Launch Party!

Solaris_11_Road.jpg

In about a week, on November 9th, 2011, the long-awaited final version of Solaris 11 will be launched. If you happen to be near New York that day (and assuming there'll be no power outages), you're invited to join the official Solaris 11 launch party!

Solaris 11 has been in the making since 2005, when Solaris 10 was launched. In fact, every major Solaris release is just a fork of the ongoing Solaris development train, so the very first uber-pre-release of Solaris 11 was actually generated only weeks after Solaris 10 hit the shelves.

Since then, Solaris 11 (or: Project Nevada as it was called) has seen a lot of OS history: An open source adolescence called OpenSolaris, growing adoption and community work, a broad range of ground-braking new features, long overdue re-writes, brand new concepts, controversial discussions, a major acquisition, rules changed and rules kept, siblings and offsprings, lots of investments, entire companies built on top of its source code, generations of processors and hardware, lots of systems in production, the Cloud and what not.

And all that before it was even born. Quite an achievment, eh?

ZFS: To Dedupe or not to Dedupe...

dedupecost.jpg

...that is the question.

Ever since the introduction of deduplication into ZFS, users have been divided into two camps: One side enthusiastically adopted deduplication as a way to save storage space, while the other remained skeptical, pointing out that dedupe has a cost, and that it may not be always the best option.

Let's look a little deeper into the benefits of ZFS deduplication as well as the cost, because ultimately it boils down to running a cost/benefit analysis of ZFS deduplication. It's that simple.

The Solaris Eco-System is Expanding

illumosopenindiana.jpg

More than a while ago, I wrote about the birth of Illumos, a project that aims at substituting the last non-open-source bits from the OpenSolaris kernel with replacements, in order to create a 100% open source Solaris kernel.

On May 20th, I had the opportunity to attend the Nexenta European User Conference 2011 in Amsterdam, where Solaris and storage enthusiasts from all over the world met to discuss their favorite technology: ZFS. Of course there was also a lot of talk about Illumos and related projects.

Now I've given a lot of Solaris presentations to customers, always highlighting the big, growing and powerful community behind the Solaris OS. But this conference added a new dimension to the Solaris Eco-System for me!

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:

Frequently Asked Questions About Flash Memory (SSDs) and ZFS

ZFS SSD FAQ Illustration

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me a couple of questions about SSDs and ZFS, hinting that this might be a good topic to write a blog post about.

Sure enough, just last week, a couple of similar questions came up, this time from a customer and a colleague at work.

Well, if that's not a sign from heaven, I don't know what is, so here's a collection of frequently asked questions about flash memory (also known as solid state disks, or SSDs) and ZFS, with answers and some useful links, and an index, too.

How to Save the World with ZFS and 12 USB sticks: 4th Anniversary Video Re-Release Edition

Screenshot from the video

About 4 years ago, a few colleagues and myself got together and we created a short video about the coolness of two of the most innovative products from Sun of the last decade: ZFS and the X4500 Server.

Today, nearly 4 years later, the video has been downloaded more than 100,000 times (across the original German and the English dubbed version, plus the full resolution downloadable files) and shown to a lot more people during tradeshows, customer demos, etc.

Now YouTube and Google Video (remember?) don't allow for highest video quality and the old Sun Mediacast server, where we hosted the original MP4 file, no longer exists. Instead, Vimeo has emerged as my video hoster of choice for a variety of projects (check out my video collection on Vimeo) and so it was time to give this video a new home.