This text deals with specific ZFS configuration questions for Ansible-NAS. If you are new to ZFS and are looking for the big picture, please read the ZFS overview introduction first.
Just so there is no misunderstanding
Unlike other NAS variants, Ansible-NAS does not install, configure or manage the disks or file systems for you. It doesn't care which file system you use - ZFS, Btrfs, XFS or EXT4, take your pick. Nor does it provides a mechanism for snapshots or disk monitoring. As Tony Stark said to Loki in Avengers: It's all on you.
However, Ansible-NAS has traditionally been used with the powerful ZFS filesystem. Since out of the box support for ZFS on Linux with Ubuntu is comparatively new, this text shows how to set up a simple storage configuration. To paraphrase Nick Fury from Winter Soldier: We do share. We're nice like that.
Using ZFS for Docker containers is currently not covered by this document. See the official Docker ZFS documentation instead.
The obligatory warning
We take no responsibility for any bad thing that might happen if you follow this guide. We strongly suggest you test these procedures in a virtual machine first. Always, always, always backup your data.
The basic setup
For this example, we're assuming two identical spinning rust hard drives for Ansible-NAS storage. These two drives will be mirrored to provide redundancy. The actual Ubuntu system will be on a different drive and is not our concern.
Root on ZFS is still a hassle for Ubuntu. If that changes, this document might be updated accordingly. Until then, don't ask us about it.
The Ubuntu kernel is already ready for ZFS. We only need the utility package
which we install with
sudo apt install zfsutils.
Creating a pool
We assume you don't mind totally destroying whatever data might be on your two
storage drives, have used a tool such as
gparted to remove any existing
partitions, and have installed a new GPT partition table on each drive. To
create our ZFS pool, we will use a command in this form:
sudo zpool create -o ashift=<ASHIFT> <NAME> mirror <DRIVE1> <DRIVE2>
The options from simple to complex are:
NAME: ZFS pools traditionally take their names from characters in the The
Matrix. The two most common
dozer. Whatever you use, it should be short - think
DRIVES: The Linux command
lsblk will give you a quick overview of the
hard drives in the system. However, we don't pass the drive specification in the
/dev/sde because this is not persistent. Instead,
the output of
ls /dev/disk/by-id/ to find the drives' IDs.
ASHIFT: This is required to pass the sector size of the drive to ZFS for optimal performance. You might have to do this by hand because some drives lie: Whereas modern drives have 4k sector sizes (or 8k for many SSDs), they will report 512 bytes because Windows XP can't handle 4k sectors. ZFS tries to catch the liars and use the correct value. However, this sometimes fails, and you have to add it by hand.
ashift value is a power of two, so we have 9 for 512 bytes, 12 for
4k, and 13 for 8k. You can create a pool without this parameter and then use
zdb -C | grep ashift to see what ZFS generated automatically. If it isn't what
you think, destroy the pool again and add it manually.
In our pretend case, we use two 3 TB WD Red drives. Listing all drives by ID gives us something like this, but with real serial numbers:
WD Reds have a 4k sector size. The actual command to create the pool would then be:
sudo zpool create -o ashift=12 tank mirror ata-WDC_WD30EFRX-68EUZN0_WD-WCCFAKESN01 ata-WDC_WD30EFRX-68EUZN0_WD-WCCFAKESN02
Our new pool is named
tank and is mirrored. To see information about it, use
zpool status tank (no
sudo necessary). If you screwed up (usually with
sudo zpool destroy tank and start over now before it's too
Pool and filesystem properties
Pools have properties that apply either to the pool itself or to filesystems
created in the pool. You can use the command
zpool get all tank to see the
pool properties and
zfs get all tank to see the filesystem properties. Most
default values are perfecly sensible, some you'll want to
defaults makes life easier when we create our filesystems.
sudo zpool set autoexpand=on tank sudo zfs set atime=off tank sudo zfs set compression=lz4 tank
autoexpand=on lets the pool grow when you add larger hard drives.
means that your system won't update a time stamp every time a file is accessed,
something which would use a lot of resources. Usually, you don't care.
Compression is a no-brainer on modern CPUs and should be on by default (we will
discuss exceptions for compressed media files later).
To actually store the data, we need filesystems (also known as "datasets"). For
our very simple default Ansible-NAS setup, we will create two: One filesystem
for movies (
all.yml) and one for downloads
Movies (and other large, pre-compressed files)
We first create the basic filesystem:
sudo zfs create tank/movies
Movie files are usually rather large, already in a compressed format and for security reasons, the files stored there shouldn't be executable. We change the properties of the filesystem accordingly:
sudo zfs set recordsize=1M tank/movies sudo zfs set compression=off tank/movies sudo zfs set exec=off tank/movies
The recordsize here is set to the currently largest possible value to
increase performance and save
storage. Recall that we used
ashift during the creation of the pool to match
the ZFS block size with the drives' sector size. Records are created out of
these blocks. Having larger records reduces the amount of metadata that is
required, because various parts of ZFS such as caching and checksums work on
Compression is unnecessary for movie files because they are usually in a compressed format anyway. ZFS is good about recognizing this, and so if you happen to leave compression on as the default for the pool, it won't make much of a difference.
By default, ZFS
stores pools directly under the root directory. Also, the filesystems don't have
to be listed in
/etc/fstab to be mounted. This means that our filesystem will
/tank/movies if you don't change anything. We need to change the
You can also set a traditional mount point if you wish with the
property. Setting this to
none prevents the file system from being
automatically mounted at all.
The filesystems for TV shows, music files and podcasts - all large, pre-compressed files - should probably take the exact same parameters.
For downloads, we can leave most of the default parameters the way they are.
sudo zfs create tank/downloads sudo zfs set exec=off tank/downloads
The recordsize stays the 128 KB default. In
all.yml, the new line is
Setting up scrubs
On Ubuntu, scrubs are configured out of the box to run on the second Sunday of
every month. See
/etc/cron.d/zfsutils-linux to change this.
ZED_EMAIL_ADDR=<YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS_HERE> ZED_NOTIFY_INTERVAL_SECS=3600 ZED_NOTIFY_VERBOSE=1
zed is not enabled, you might have to run
systemctl enable zed. You can
test the setup by manually starting a scrub with
sudo zpool scrub tank.
Snapshots create a "frozen" version of a filesystem, providing a safe copy of the contents. Correctly configured, they provide good protection against accidental deletion and certain types of attacks such as ransomware. On copy-on-write (COW) filesystems such as ZFS, they are cheap and fast to create. It is very rare that you won't want snapshots.
Snapshots do not replace the need for backups. Nothing replaces the need for backups except more backups.
Managing snapshots by hand
If you have data in a filesystem that never or very rarely changes, it might be
easiest to just take a snapshot by hand after every major change. Use the
snapshot command with the name of the filesystem combined with an identifier
separated by the
@ sign. Traditionally, this somehow includes the date of the
snapshot, usually in some variant of the ISO
zfs snapshot tank/[email protected]
To see the list of snapshots in the system, run
zfs list -t snapshot
To revert ("roll back") to the previous snapshot, use the
zfs rollback tank/[email protected]
By default, you can only roll back to the most recent snapshot. Anything before
then requires trickery outside the scope of this document. Finally, to get rid
of a snapshot, use the
zfs destroy command.
zfs destroy tank/[email protected]
Be very careful with
destroy. If you leave out the snapshot identifier and only list the filesystem - in our example,
tank/movies- the filesystem itself will immediately be destroyed. There will be no confirmation prompt, because ZFS doesn't believe in that sort of thing.
Managing snapshots with Sanoid
Usually, you'll want the process of creating new and deleting old snapshots to
be automatic, especially on filesystems that change frequently. One tool for
this is sanoid. There are various
instructions for setting it up, the following is based on notes from
SvennD. For this
example, we'll assume we have a single dataset
tank/movies that holds, ah,
First, we install sanoid to the
/opt directory. This assumes that Perl itself
is already installed.
sudo apt install libconfig-inifiles-perl libcapture-tiny-perl cd /opt sudo git clone https://github.com/jimsalterjrs/sanoid
It is probably easiest to link sanoid to
sudo ln /opt/sanoid/sanoid /usr/sbin/
Then we need to setup the configuration files.
sudo mkdir /etc/sanoid sudo cp /opt/sanoid/sanoid.conf /etc/sanoid/sanoid.conf sudo cp /opt/sanoid/sanoid.defaults.conf /etc/sanoid/sanoid.defaults.conf
We don't change the defaults file, but it has to be copied to the folder anyway.
Next, we edit the
/etc/sanoid/sanoid.conf configuration file in two steps: We
design the "templates" and then tell sanoid which filesystems to use it on.
The configuration file included with sanoid contains a "production" template for filesystems that change frequently. For media files, we assume that there is not going to be that much change from day-to-day, and especially there will be very few deletions. We use snapshots because this provides protection against cryptolocker attacks and against accidental deletions.
Again, snapshots, even lots of snapshots, do not replace backups.
For our example, we configure for two hourly snapshots (against "oh crap" deletions), 31 daily, one monthly and one yearly snapshot.
[template_media] frequently = 0 hourly = 2 daily = 31 monthly = 1 yearly = 1 autosnap = yes autoprune = yes
That might seem like a bunch of daily snapshots, but remember, if nothing has changed, a ZFS snapshot is basically free.
Once we have an entry for the template, we assign it to the filesystem.
[tank/movies] use_template = media
Finally, we edit
/etc/crontab to run sanoid every five minutes:
*/5 * * * * root /usr/sbin/sanoid --cron
After five minutes, you should see the first snapshots (use
zfs list -t
snapshot again). The list will look something like this mock example:
NAME USED AVAIL REFER MOUNTPOINT tank/[email protected]_2019-05-17_13:55:01_yearly 0B - 1,53G - tank/[email protected]_2019-05-17_13:55:01_monthly 0B - 1,53G - tank/[email protected]_2019-05-17_13:55:01_daily 0B - 1,53G -
Note that the snapshots use no storage, because we haven't changed anything.
This is a very simple use of sanoid. Other functions include running scripts before and after snapshots, and setups to help with backups. See the included configuration files for examples.