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SubjectRe: [PATCH v1 00/30] Ext4 snapshots
On Thu, 9 Jun 2011, Amir G. wrote:

> On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 11:46 AM, Lukas Czerner <> wrote:
> > On Thu, 9 Jun 2011, Amir G. wrote:
> >
> >> On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 9:50 AM, Lukas Czerner <> wrote:
> >> > On Thu, 9 Jun 2011, Yongqiang Yang wrote:
> >> >
> >> >> On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 11:18 AM, Amir G. <> wrote:
> >> >> > On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 4:59 AM, Yongqiang Yang <> wrote:
> >> >> >>> But I do understand the difference. And also, when it comes to fs level
> >> >> >>> snapshotting I would suspect that it would do something we can not do
> >> >> >>> with the current solutions, for example per-file or per-directory snapshots,
> >> >> >>> cat ext4 snapshots do that ?
> >> >> >> Hi Lukas,
> >> >> >>
> >> >> >> I noticed that there is no answer to this question in the thread.  I
> >> >> >
> >> >> > I think I answered this question with No it can't ;-)
> >> >> I think this can be implemented easily by chattr and adding check in
> >> >> should_snapshot() or should_move_data().
> >> >>
> >> >> And I thought Lukas are focusing on if ext4-snapshots can do this
> >> >> easily.  So i said YES:-)
> >> >
> >> > Cool, finally something interesting :). So, how it'll work ? Does that
> >> > require any format changes again:) ? Can you exclude the whole root and
> >> > then selectively pick the directories or files you are interested in ?
> >>
> >> The design is actually very simple and not as powerful as you
> >> probably desire.
> >> I hate to get into the design of future features, when we haven't
> >> even ACKed the current feature yet, but since you're the only one
> >> did any review, I owe you that much ;-)
> >
> > Thanks Amir!
> >
> > You have to understand that I am still not convinced that ext4 snapshot
> > in its current state is really what we want to have in ext4. Especially
> > given the very basic features it provides, without any knowledge on how
> > it can be extended (but you're slowly providing that information, so
> > thanks for that). And especially facing the new dm-multisnap, I really
> > wonder if it is worth it.
> Did you not see my post on LVM vs. Ext4 snapshots?
> dm-multisnap is much better than dm-snap, but it's not perfect.
> And ext4 snapshots aren't perfect either, but they do bring some
> new interesting options for sys admins.
> >
> > If we want filesystem level snapshotting we can try to do it right with
> > all the benefits that snapshots on that level brings. But what I see
> > now, is not even remotely the case. And I have the feeling that all the
> > features that might be interesting for snapshotting at file system
> > level, are just a hack and not inherent from the design. But that is
> > probably because your goal was to snapshot the whole filesystem for the
> > backup purposes, but that's not what I would expect from fs level
> > snapshots. I really hope you understand my point.
> >
> I think I understand the point. The reason that ext4 snapshots are
> less powerful then, say, btrfs snapshots, is not because of my design,
> it is because I was building on top a 20 year old on-disk format (ext2), which
> was extended 2 times already, but remained mostly backwards compatible.
> There is only so much you can do without block reference counts and this
> is all that I was trying to do.

And I can imagine it works well enough. But given that we have better,
more generic solution, which does not require hacking stable filesystem
I am becoming more and more against ext4 snapshots to be merged. And if
anyone wishes to have some fancy fs level snapshoting features (which
ext4 snapshots can no provide from the resons you have pointed out), you
can always turn to btrfs, which has been designed that way unlike ext4.

> >>
> >> To exclude a file from snapshot it needs to have the NOCOW_FL flag.
> >> Ironically, btrfs have already added that flag in parallel to me (for the
> >> same purpose) so the flag it is already reserved in the code :-)
> >>
> >> To avoid some transition issues and keep it really simple,
> >> I disallow changing the NOCOW_FL
> >> for regular file and only allow to change it for directories.
> >> The NOCOW_FL is inherited from the parent directory,
> >> so setting/clearing the flag on a directory means:
> >> "All files/subdirs will be created excluded/not-excluded from now on".
> >>
> >> Inside the snapshot image, excluded directories, which are not really
> >> excluded, show normally, but excluded files are shown with zero length,
> >> because making the files disappear is hard, but their blocks may have already
> >> been reused, so we cannot allow access to them.
> >>
> >> >
> >> > How does rollback work with ext4 snapshots ? Can you selectively roll
> >> > back one file, or the whole directory subtree even when you're
> >> > snapshotting more ?
> >>
> >> So there is actually no inherent "rollback" feature, not for a file/dir
> >> and not for the entire fs.
> >> It's a drawback of ext4 snapshots, but hey, cp/rsync from snapshot
> >> still works for file/dir ;-)
> >> As for full "fs" rollback. A revert tool has been developed (by students),
> >> which requires an external storage to export the "revert patch".
> >> This tool is going to be enhanced to use LVM snapshot storage
> >> and LVM --merge option to implement ext4 "revert to snapshot" with Yum.
> >
> > And that is the problem. Because at this level you should be able to do
> > it without very much trouble, because being at file system level you
> > should have all the information. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying
> > that this is easy, but is should be "from design". Exporting the
> > "revert patch" to the external storage, or exporting snapshot to LVM
> > format to be able to merge it...that is all just hacks, because the
> > design itself does not count with that possibility.
> >
> The design makes a conscious choice to keep snapshots *inside*
> the filesystem.
> This is both an advantage (no need to change on-disk format and checking tools)
> and disadvantage (you cannot mount a snapshot without mounting the fs first).

And thats where ext4 snapshots loose. With dm you do not need to change
on-disk format, tools or filesystem itself, and you can mount the snapshot
without also mounting the origin.

> >>
> >> >
> >> > You see, when it comes to the full fs snapshots I am not convinced that
> >> > it is *very* useful, yes it might have some users, but you can alway
> >> > take the safe way and do lvm snapshots (or better use the new multisnap)
> >> > for backup, without need to modify stable filesystem code.
> >> >
> >>
> >> You think like a developer. Try talking to some sys admins.
> >> Especially ones that worked with Solaris/ZFS or NetApp.
> >> See what they think about snapshots and about the LVM alternative...
> >> Snapshots have addictive qualities. Ones you've used them, you can't
> >> go back to not having them.
> >> Imagine how people used to live before the 'Undo' button and imagine
> >> that your employer forced you to use an editor without an Undo button.
> >> This is the kind of feedback I got from sys admins that moved from Solaris
> >> to Linux.
> >
> > Exactly, so if we want fs level snapshots, it should use that
> > privilege no hack its way to do things like roll back, or
> > excludes+includes. Ext4 was not meant to work that way, nor was your
> > snapshots designed to work that way. If we are considering backups only,
> > because that is what you ext4 snaphosts can provide now, I would prefer
> > to use LVM. But yes, we all need to know how the new multisnap works
> > out.
> >
> Why do you keep saying 'backup only'?
> There is a huge difference between having long lived snapshots,
> like CTERA products have, and temporary snapshot for backup
> purpose (for which LVM is adequate).

dm's multisnapshots are designed to be long lived and can be used as

> >>
> >>
> >> > Also, I do not buy the whole argument of "not have to create separate disk
> >> > space for snapshot". It is actually better for sysadmins, because you
> >> > have perfect control on what is going on, how much space is used for
> >> > your snapshots and how much is used by your data. You can always easily
> >> > extend the snapshot volume, or let it die silently when it is too old
> >> > and too big.
> >> >
> >>
> >> Seriously, Lukas, talk to sys admins.
> >> Letting the snapshot die silently is the worst possible thing that a snapshots
> >> implementation can do (for long lived snapshots).
> >
> > Oh, no you misunderstood. Even with your snapshots you'll have to delete
> > old snapshots someday, because otherwise you'll run out of space. With
> > LVM however, you have prereserved space for it, so even if your snapshot
> > volume gets full, it does not affect your filesystem what so ever. And,
> > as a administrator, you can decide whether to extend the snapshot volume
> > to let it live longer, or just let it be and it will die eventually.
> >
> > And, as far as I know, the new multisnap will notify the admin when the
> > snapshot volume approaches the watermark the same way that for example
> > thinly provisioned storage would do. But again, with your snapshots it
> > will give you ENOSPC when the snapshot grow too big, and at the end
> > of the day, you need to create data to be able to backup it:), so having
> > snapshots separate from your fs volume makes sense.
> >
> Yes, one day you will run out of space and will be getting a warning
> before that, if you are using a CTERA product.
> You won't be getting the warning from the kernel snapshots code, but from
> disk space monitoring daemon.
> And when you get the warning (or ENOSPC if you ignored the warnings)
> you will have 2 options:
> 1. add disks and resize the fs
> 2. delete some snapshots
> When using a CTERA product, you not have to pre-partition your disk
> space between fs and snapshots - they are thinly provisioned, which
> is a big advantage for a product which does not require being an IT expert to
> operate it.

dm multisnapshot code is using thin provisioning, you just have to pick
the volume and that's it.

> >>
> >>
> >> > How does it actually work on ext4 snapshots ? When you're going to
> >> > rewrite a file, you will never know how much disk space it'll take in
> >> > advance, am I right ? Is the filesystem accounting for the snapshot size
> >> > as well ? or is it hidden ?
> >>
> >> It's not hidden, it's accounted for as a regular file (usually owned by root).
> >> You need a bit of scripting to gather the disk space used by snapshots (du).
> >>
> >> In ANY snapshots implementation, you can get ENOSPC on operations,
> >> which traditionally could not produce this error.
> >> This statement is also true for thin provisioning implementations.
> >> The question is how the implementation handles these situations.
> >>
> >> What I came to realize on LSF, is that my implementation is the only
> >> one (of LVM and btrfs) that tries to deal with the ENOSPC issue and
> >> does a good job most of the time.
> >>
> >> I deal with it by reserving space for metadata COW on snapshot
> >> take, so if a future ENOSPC during metadata COW is possible,
> >> snapshot take will fail with ENOSPC.
> >>
> >> As for ENOSPC during regular file rewrite, that's not such a big problem.
> >> The application simply gets ENOSPC as if the file was sparse to begin
> >> with. It may not be pleasant if the application have fallocated the space
> >> and used mmap/close without msync...
> >> The only way I see around this issue is reserving space on mmap time
> >> (and returning ENOSPC at that time), but again, this issue is shared
> >> with btrfs, but is easier to fix (I think) with ext4 snapshots.
> >
> > Yes, I do understand that ext4 snaphosts are doing well in that aspect,
> > but as I said, having snapshots separate from your file system gives
> > you advantage of not running into ENOSPC on your file system until you
> > really fill it with data.
> It should be, as David wrote, a choice to the sys admin.
> Because ext4 snapshots are thinly provisioned, you can always say
> "use 10% for snapshots and 90% for data" (like you would with LVM),
> But you cannot say "reserve 10% for snapshots 50% for data and the
> rest to either" when you administer LVM snapshots.

I am not sure how can this be managed with multisnap target, but I do
not see a reason why it can not be done, given that both data and
snapshots can be allocated from within the same pool.

> You are confusing user functionality with functionality provided by the kernel.
> LVM happens to check water marks in the kernel because of it's design.
> That doesn't mean that the same thing cannot be accomplished for ext4
> snapshots by user tools.

That was not my point, I was simply saying that it is not ext4 snapshots

> >
> > Granted, I have to take a look at the multisnap code, to see what it can
> > do and compare it with ext4 snapshots, because really, if it is good
> > enough and you will be able to do snapshotting backups as you do with
> > your approach, I do not see the reason why to complicate our life in
> > ext4.
> >
> I don't know how you intend to determine if dm-multisnap is 'good enough'.
> I don't claim to have the capability myself to determine if ext4 snapshots
> are 'good enough'.
> I just try to present the technical differences between the 3 solutions
> (LVM,ext4,btrfs) and claim that each have their advantages and disadvantages
> over others.
> I wish more sys admins and end users would provide feedback, though I don't
> know how many of them are following LKML.

I do. When it can do long lived snapshots without any obvious headaches
it is good enough. Your only contra argument was that lvm snapshotting
is slow, which is not that big argument now when we have multisnap
almost ready. I am not even talking about features, because clearly
mutlisnap has superset of the features that ext4 does - no I am not
counting per-file or per-directory snapshotting because clearly those
are just hacks and it was not designed that way.

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