Re: [patch] ext2/3: document conditions when reliable operation ispossible

From: Ric Wheeler
Date: Wed Aug 26 2009 - 09:37:30 EST

On 08/25/2009 10:55 PM, Theodore Tso wrote:
On Wed, Aug 26, 2009 at 03:16:06AM +0200, Pavel Machek wrote:

3) Does that mean that you shouldn't use ext3 on RAID drives? Of
course not! First of all, Ext3 still saves you against kernel panics
and hangs caused by device driver bugs or other kernel hangs. You
will lose less data, and avoid needing to run a long and painful fsck
after a forced reboot, compared to if you used ext2. You are making

Actually... ext3 + MD RAID5 will still have a problem on kernel
panic. MD RAID5 is implemented in software, so if kernel panics, you
can still get inconsistent data in your array.

Only if the MD RAID array is running in degraded mode (and again, if
the system is in this state for a long time, the bug is in the system
administrator). And even then, it depends on how the kernel dies. If
the system hangs due to some deadlock, or we get an OOPS that kills a
process while still holding some locks, and that leads to a deadlock,
it's likely the low-level MD driver can still complete the stripe
write, and no data will be lost. If the kernel ties itself in knots
due to running out of memory, and the OOM handler is invoked, someone
hitting the reset button to force a reboot will also be fine.

If the RAID array is degraded, and we get an oops in interrupt
handler, such that the system is immediately halted --- then yes, data
could get lost. But there are many system crashes where the software
RAID's ability to complete a stripe write would not be compromised.

- Ted

Just to add some real world data, Bianca Schroeder published a really good paper that looks at failures in national labs which has actual measured disk failures:

Her numbers showed various rates of failures, but depending on the box, drive type, etc, they lost between 1-6% of the install drives each year.

There is also a good paper from Google:

Both of the above are largely linux boxes.

And several other FAST papers on failures in commercial RAID boxes, most notably by NetApp.

If reading papers is not at the top of your list of things to do, just skim through and look for the tables on disk failures, etc. which have great measurements of what really failed in these systems...


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