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Re: [dm-devel] Re: [PATCH] Implement barrier support for single device DM devices

Michael Tokarev wrote:
Ric Wheeler wrote:
Alasdair G Kergon wrote:
On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 03:20:10PM +0100, Andi Kleen wrote:
On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 04:07:54PM +0300, Michael Tokarev wrote:
I wonder if it's worth the effort to try to implement this.
My personal view (which seems to be in the minority) is that it's a
waste of our development time *except* in the (rare?) cases similar to
the ones Andi is talking about.
Using working barriers is important for normal users when you really
care about data loss and have normal drives in a box. We do power fail
testing on boxes (with reiserfs and ext3) and can definitely see a lot
of file system corruption eliminated over power failures when barriers
are enabled properly.

It is not unreasonable for some machines to disable barriers to get a
performance boost, but I would not do that when you are storing things
you really need back.

The talk here is about something different - about supporting barriers
on md/dm devices, i.e., on pseudo-devices which uses multiple real devices
as components (software RAIDs etc).  In this "world" it's nearly impossible
to support barriers if there are more than one underlying component device,
barriers only works if there's only one component.  And the talk is about
supporting barriers only in "minority" of cases - mostly for simplest
device-mapper case only, NOT covering any raid1 or other "fancy" configurations.

I understand that. Most of the time, dm or md devices are composed of uniform components which will uniformly support (or not) the cache flush commands used by barriers.

Of course, you don't need barriers when you either disable the write
cache on the drives or use a battery backed RAID array which gives you a
write cache that will survive power outages...

Two things here.

First, I still don't understand why in God's sake barriers are "working"
while regular cache flushes are not.  Almost no consumer-grade hard drive
supports write barriers, but they all support regular cache flushes, and
the latter should be enough (while not the most speed-optimal) to ensure
data safety.  Why to require write cache disable (like in XFS FAQ) instead
of going the flush-cache-when-appropriate (as opposed to write-barrier-
when-appropriate) way?

Barriers have different flavors, but can be composed of "cache" flushes which are supported on all drives that I have seen (S-ATA and ATA) for many years now. That is the flavor of barriers that we test with S-ATA & ATA drives.

The issue is that without flushing/invalidating (or other way of controlling the behavior of your storage), the file system has no way to make sure that all data is on persistent & non-volatile media.

And second, "surprisingly", battery-backed RAID write caches tends to fail
too, sometimes... ;)  Usually, such a battery is enough to keep the data
in memory for several hours only (sine many RAID controllers uses regular
RAM for memory caches, which requires some power to keep its state), --
I come across this issue the hard way, and realized that only very few
persons around me who manages raid systems even knows about this problem -
that the battery-backed cache is only for some time...  For example,
power failed at evening, and by tomorrow morning, batteries are empty
already.  Or, with better batteries, think about a weekend... ;)
(I've seen some vendors now uses flash-based backing store for caches
instead, which should ensure far better results here).


That is why you need to get a good array, not just a simple controller ;-)

Most arrays do not use batteries to hold up the write cache, they use the batteries to move any cached data to non-volatile media in the time that the batteries hold up.

You could certainly get this kind of behavior from the flash scheme you describe above as well...


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