This topic has a weight of 8 points and contains the following objectives:
Candidates should be able to configure and implement software RAID. This objective includes using and configuring RAID 0, 1 and 5.
Candidates should be able to configure kernel options to support various drives. This objective includes software tools to view and modify hard disk settings.
Candidates should be able to create and remove logical volumes and physical volumes. This objective includes snapshots, and resizing logical volumes.
Candidates should be able to configure and implement software RAID. This objective includes using and configuring RAID 0, 1, and 5.
RAID stands for “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks” .
The basic idea behind RAID is to combine multiple small, inexpensive disk drives into an array which yields performance exceeding that of one large and expensive drive. This array of drives will appear to the computer as a single logical storage unit or drive.
Some of the concepts used in this chapter are important factors in deciding which level of RAID to use in a particular situation. Parity is a concept used to add redundancy to storage. A parity bit is a binary digit which is added to ensure that the number of bits with value of one in a given set of bits is always even or odd. By using part of the capacity of the RAID for storing parity bits in a clever way, single disk failures can happen without data-loss since the missing bit can be recalculated using the parity bit. I/O transactions are movements of data to or from a RAID device or its members. Each I/O transaction consists of one or more blocks of data. A single disc can handle a maximum random number of transactions per second, since the mechanism has a seek time before data can be read or written. Depending on the configuration of the RAID, a single I/O transaction to the RAID can trigger multiple I/O transactions to its members. This affects the performance of the RAID device in terms of maximum number of I/O transactions and data transfer rate. Data transfer rate is the amount of data a single disk or RAID device can handle per second. This value usually varies for read and write actions, random or sequential access etc.
RAID is a method by which information is spread across several disks, using techniques such as disk striping (RAID Level 0), disk mirroring (RAID level 1), and striping with distributed parity (RAID Level 5), to achieve redundancy, lower latency and/or higher bandwidth for reading and/or writing to disk, and maximize recoverability from hard-disk crashes.
The underlying concept in RAID is that data may be distributed across each drive in the array in a consistent manner. To do this, the data must first be broken into consistently-sized chunks (often 32K or 64K in size, although different sizes can be used). Each chunk is then written to each drive in turn. When the data is to be read, the process is reversed, giving the illusion that multiple drives are actually one large drive. Primary reasons to use RAID include:
enhanced transfer speed
enhanced number of transactions per second
increased single block device capacity
greater efficiency in recovering from a single disk failure
There are a number of different ways to configure a RAID subsystem - some maximize performance, others maximize availability, while others provide a mixture of both. For the LPIC-2 exam the following are relevant:
Level 0. RAID level 0, often called “striping”, is a performance-oriented striped data mapping technique. This means the data being written to the array is broken down into strips and written across the member disks of the array. This allows high I/O performance at low inherent cost but provides no redundancy. Storage capacity of the array is equal to the sum of the capacity of the member disks. As a result, RAID 0 is primarily used in applications that require high performance and are able to tolerate lower reliability.
Level 1. RAID level 1, or “mirroring”, has been used longer than any other form of RAID. Level 1 provides redundancy by writing identical data to each member disk of the array, leaving a mirrored copy on each disk. Mirroring remains popular due to its simplicity and high level of data availability. Level 1 operates with two or more disks that may use parallel access for high data-transfer rates when reading, but more commonly operate independently to provide high I/O transaction rates. Level 1 provides very good data reliability and improves performance for read-intensive applications but at a relatively high cost. Array capacity is equal to the capacity of the smallest member disk.
Level 4. RAID level 4 uses parity concentrated on a single disk drive to protect data. It is better suited to transaction I/O rather than large file transfers. Because the dedicated parity disk represents an inherent bottleneck, level 4 is seldom used without accompanying technologies such as write-back caching. Array capacity is equal to the capacity of member disks, minus the capacity of one member disk.
Level 5. The most common type of RAID is level 5 RAID. By distributing parity across some or all of the member disk drives of an array, RAID level 5 eliminates the write bottleneck inherent in level 4. The only bottleneck is the parity calculation process. Because the widespread use of modern CPUs and software RAID that is not really an issue anymore. As with level 4, the result is asymmetrical performance, with reads substantially outperforming writes. Level 5 is often used with write-back caching to reduce the asymmetry. The capacity of the array is equal to the total capacity of all member disks, minus the capacity of one member disk. Upon failure of a single member disk, subsequent reads can be calculated from the distributed parity such that no data is lost. RAID 5 requires at least three disks.
Linear RAID. Linear RAID is a simple grouping of drives to create a larger virtual drive. In linear RAID the chunks are allocated sequentially from one member drive, going to the next drive only when the first is completely filled. The difference with “striping” is that there is no performance gain for single process applications, mostly everything is written to one and the same disk. The disk(partition)s can have different sizes whereas “striping” requires them to be roughly the same size. If you have a larger number of mostly used disks in a linear RAID setup, multiple processes may benefit during reads as each process may access a different drive. Linear RAID also offers no redundancy, and in fact decreases reliability – if any one member drive fails, the entire array cannot be used. The capacity is the total of all member disks.
RAID can be implemented either in hardware or in software; both scenarios are explained below.
A typical hardware RAID device might connect to a SCSI controller and present the RAID array(s) as a single SCSI drive. An external RAID system moves all RAID handling intelligence into a controller located in the external disk subsystem.
RAID controllers also come in the form of cards that act like a SCSI controller to the operating system, but handle all of the actual drive communications themselves. In these cases, you plug the drives into the RAID controller just as you would a SCSI controller, but then you add them to the RAID controller's configuration, and the operating system never knows the difference.
Software RAID implements the various RAID levels in the kernel disk (block device) code. It also offers the cheapest possible solution: Expensive disk controller cards or hot-swap chassis are not required, and software RAID works with cheaper SATA disks as well as SCSI disks. With today's fast CPUs, software RAID performance can excel in comparison with hardware RAID.
Software RAID allows you to dramatically increase Linux disk I/O performance and reliability without having to buy expensive hardware RAID controllers or enclosures. The MD driver in the Linux kernel is an example of a RAID solution that is completely hardware independent. The performance of a software-based array is dependent on the server CPU performance and load. Also, the implementation and setup of the software RAID solution can significantly influence performance.
The concept behind software RAID is simple - it
allows you to combine two (three, at least, for RAID5)
or more block devices (usually disk partitions) into a single RAID
device. So if you have three empty partitions (for example:
hdc3), using Software
RAID you can combine these partitions and address them
as a single RAID device,
/dev/md0 can then be formatted to contain a
filesystem and be used like any other partition.
Detecting hardware raid on a Linux system can be tricky and there is not one sure way to do this. Since hardware RAID tries to present itself to the operating system as a single block device, it often shows up as a single SCSI disc when querying the system. Often special vendor software or physical access to the equipment is required to adequately detect and identify hardware RAID equipment. Software raid can be easily identified by the name of the block device (/dev/mdn) and its major number 9.
Configuring software RAID using
mdadm (Multiple Devices Admin) requires only
that the md driver be configured into the kernel, or loaded as a
kernel module. The optional
may be used to direct mdadm in the
simplification of common tasks, such as defining multiple
arrays, and defining the devices used by them. The
mdadm.conf has a number of possible
options, described later in this document, but generally, the
file details arrays and devices. It should be noted that,
although not required, the
greatly reduces the burden on administrators to
“remember” the desired array configuration when
launching. The mdadm is used (as its acronym
suggests) to configure and manage multiple devices.
Multiple is key here. In order for
RAID to provide any kind of redundancy to
logical disks, there must obviously be at the very least two
physical block devices (three for RAID5) in
the array to establish redundancy, ergo protection. Since
mdadm manages multiple devices, its application
is not limited solely to RAID implementations,
but may be also be used to establish multi-pathing.
mdadm has a number of modes, listed below
|Assemble “Rebuilds” a pre existing array. Typically used when migrating arrays to new hosts, but more often used from system startup to launch a pre existing array.|
Build Does not create array superblocks,
and therefore does not destroy any pre existing data. May be
useful when attempting to recover or access stale data. (can
not be used in combination with |
|Create Creates an array from scratch, using pre-existing block devices, and activates the array.|
|Grow Used to modify a existing array, for example adding, or removing devices. Capability is expected to be extended during the development lifecycle of the 2.6 kernel.|
|Misc Used for performing various loosely bundled housekeeping tasks. Can be used to generate the initial mdadm.conf file for an existing array, setting the array into read only, and read/write modes, and for checking the status of array devices. The more typical uses are described in more detail later on in this section.|
/etc/rc.d/rc.local (or equivalent). The Linux
kernel provides a special driver,
access separate disk partitions as a logical RAID unit. These partitions
under RAID do not actually need to be
different disks, but in order to eliminate risks it is better to use different disks.
mdadm may also be used to establish multipathing,
also over filesystem devices (since multipathing is established at the block level).
However, as with establishing RAID over multiple filesystems
on the same physical disk, multipathing on the same physical disk provides only the
vague illusion of redundancy, and its use should probably be restricted to test purposes
only or out of pure curiosity.
Follow these steps to set up software RAID in Linux:
Configure the RAID driver
Initialise the RAID drive
Check the replication using
Automate RAID activation after reboot
Mount the filesystem on the RAID drive
Each of these steps is now described in detail:
Initialize partitions to be used in the RAID setup. Create partitions using any disk partitioning tool.
Configure the driver.
A driver file for each independant array will be automatically
created when mdadm creates the array, and will
follow the convention
/dev/md[n] for each
increment. It may also be manually created using
mknod and building a block device file, with
a major number 9 (md device driver found in
Initialize RAID drive. Here is an example of the sequence of commands needed to create and format a RAID drive (mdadm):
Prepare the partition for auto RAID detection using fdisk
In order for a partition to be automatically recognised as part of a RAID set, it must first have its partition type set to “fd”. This may be achieved by using the fdisk command menu, and using the t option to change the setting. Available settings may be listed by using the l menu option. The description may vary accross implementations, but should clearly show the type to be a Linux auto raid. Once set, the settings must be saved back to the partition table using the w option.
In working practice, it may be that a physical disk containing the chosen partition for use in a RAID set also contains partitions for local filesystems which are not intended for inclusion within the RAID set. In order for fdisk to write back the changed partition table, all of the partitions on the physical disk must not be in use. For this reason, RAID build planning should take into account factors which may not allow the action to be performed truly online (i.e will require downtime).
create the array raidset using mdadm
To create an array for the first time, we need to have identified the partitions that will be used to form the RAIDset, and verify with fdisk -l that the fd partition type has been set. Once this has been achieved, the array may be created as follows. mdadm -C /dev/md0 -l raid5 -n 3 /dev/partition1 /dev/partition2 /dev/partition3
This would create, and activate a raid5 array called
md0,containing three devices, named /dev/partition1
/dev/partition2, and /dev/partiton3. Once created and
running, the status of the array may be checked by
Create filesystems on the newly created raidset
The newly created RAID set may then be
addressed as a single device using the
/dev/md0 device file, and formatted and
mounted as normal. For example: mkfs.ext3
/etc/mdadm.conf using the
/etc/mdadm.conf file is
pleasantly simple, requiring only that mdadm
be called with the
and its standard output redirected. It may therefore also be
used as a handy tool for determining any changes on the array
simply by diff'ing the current and stored
output. Create as follows:
mdadm --detail --scan --verbose >
Create mount points and edit
Care must be taken that any recycled partitions used in the
RAID set be removed from the
/etc/fstab if they still exist.
Mount filesystems using mount
If the array has been created online, and a reboot has not been executed, then the file systems will need to be manually mounted, either manually using the mount command, or simply using mount -a
Check the replication using
/proc/mdstat file shows the state of the kernels
Automate RAID activation after reboot.
--assemble in one of the
startup files (e.g.
/etc/init.d/rcS) When called with the
-s option (scan) to mdadm
--assemble, instructs mdadm to use
/etc/mdadm.conf if it exists, and
otherwise to fallback to
missing information. A typical system startup entry could be for
mount the filesystem on the RAID drive.
/etc/fstab to automatically mount the
filesystem on the RAID drive. The entry in
/etc/fstab is identical to normal block
devices containing file systems.
Manual RAID activation and mounting. Run mdadm --assemble for each RAID block device you want to start manually. After starting the RAID device you can mount any filesystem present on the device using mount with the appropriate options.
Instead of managing RAID via mdadm,
it can be configured via
/etc/raidtab and controlled
via the mkraid, raidstart, and
Here's an example
# # Sample /etc/raidtab configuration file # raiddev /dev/md0 raid-level 0 nr-raid-disks 2 persistent-superblock 0 chunk-size 8 device /dev/hda1 raid-disk 0 device /dev/hdb1 raid-disk 1 raiddev /dev/md1 raid-level 5 nr-raid-disks 3 nr-spare-disks 1 persistent-superblock 1 parity-algorithm left-symmetric device /dev/sda1 raid-disk 0 device /dev/sdb1 raid-disk 1 device /dev/sdc1 raid-disk 2 device /dev/sdd1 spare-disk 0
The mkraid, raidstart, and raidstop utilities all use this file as input and respectively configure, activate (start) and unconfigure (stop) RAID devices. All of these tools work similiarly. If -a (or --all) is specified, the specified operation is performed on all of the RAID devices mentioned in the configuration file. Otherwise, one or more RAID devices must be specified on the command line.
Refer to the manual pages for raidtab(8), mdstart(8) and raidstart, raidstop(8) for details.
 A number of people insists that the “I” stands for “Independent”