Exploring File Systems for Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

Exploring File Systems for Hyperconverged Infrastructure

When it comes to managing data on our systems, one fundamental aspect to consider is the file system. It's the backbone of how data is stored, accessed, and managed on our storage devices. Among the plethora of file systems available, two prominent categories stand out: Copy on Write (COW) and In Place File Systems. Let's delve into their characteristics, advantages, and use cases.

Copy on Write (COW) vs. In-Place File Systems

At the core of the distinction lies the mechanism of handling write operations:

  • Copy on Write (COW): In a COW file system, modifications are executed by creating entirely new blocks. These modifications are then linked to the metadata pointers, ensuring atomic writes. This approach is write-intensive but mitigates the risk of corrupted blocks while taking snapshots. We can take snapshots at any point in time without freezing I/O.

  • In Place File Systems: Conversely, in an In Place File System, modifications occur by updating existing blocks. These changes are recorded in a journal, facilitating recovery in the event of data corruption due to unforeseen disasters. While less write-intensive, in-place filesystems are not consistent at every point in time. So, to take snapshots of in-place file systems we have to freeze I/O to ensure the snapshot data is not corrupted.

Examples: Notable COW file systems include ZFS and BTRFS, while XFS and EXT4 represent In Place File Systems.

ZFS: Renowned for its advanced features, ZFS encrypts data on write and offers capabilities like storage pooling, scalability, encryption, snapshot backups, and compression. However, these features demand higher CPU and RAM resources.

BTRFS: Although not as mature as ZFS, BTRFS shares similar characteristics and drawbacks. Its snapshot functionality isn't as robust as ZFS's.

EXT4: As one of the most mature and fastest file systems, EXT4 is widely used but lacks the advanced features of its counterparts.

XFS: Preferred by industry leaders like RedHat, XFS is fast, scalable up to exabytes, and suitable for enterprise environments.

Selecting the optimal file system depends on specific use cases and requirements. If you prioritize performance over. In our use case, we opted for the XFS file system. The decision to opt for XFS over ZFS or BTRFS was driven by the requirements of setting up an HCI (Hyperconverged Infrastructure) where CEPH serves as the primary storage option. With CEPH providing all the advanced features of ZFS and BTRFS, the focus shifted towards a faster and more stable file system, making XFS the ideal choice for the task at hand.

In Conclusion

Understanding the nuances between Copy on Write and in-place File Systems empowers us to make informed decisions regarding data management strategies. Whether prioritizing performance, scalability, or disaster recovery, the choice of file system plays a pivotal role in shaping the efficiency and resilience of our storage infrastructure.

Did you find this article valuable?

Support Aadarsha Dhakal by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!