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Setup a ZFS pool for your LXC containers with LXD

There are different storage types for LXC containers, from a basic storage directory to LVM volumes and more complex file systems like Ceph, Btrfs, or ZFS.

In this post, we're gonna setup a ZFS pool for our LXC containers, via LXD.

Why ZFS?

ZFS is an awesome file system. It's a 128 bits file system meaning that we can store a nearly unlimited amount of data (no one will never attain its limit). It replaces RAID arrays by much simpler, safer and faster "pools", and had very good performance by using compression, copy-on-write, dynamic block size, dynamic stripping, and an extensive use of RAM cache.
The latter means it uses quite an amount of RAM, so I don't recommend to use it on small devices.

See this page for for details on these features.

Install ZFS

On Ubuntu

ZFS should be installed by default on Ubuntu Server. If it's not the case, install the zfsutils-linux package:

apt install zfsutils-linux

On Debian

ZFS is available trough the contrib repository on Debian.

For Stretch, make sure you have contrib on for the main repo in /etc/apt/sources.list, e.g.:

deb http://deb.debian.org/debian stretch main contrib

For Jessie, it's available in the contrib backports:

deb http://deb.debian.org/debian jessie-backports main contrib

First, install the kernel headers. They will allow us to compile and install kernel modules.

apt install linux-headers-$(uname -r)

Then install ZFS and its DKMS module:

apt install zfs-dkms zfsutils-linux

The installation can take quite some time because it will build the ZFS kernel module, with DKMS.

When it's done, you will need to load the module:

modprobe zfs

By default you will have to do this after each reboot. To load the module automatically, add it to /etc/modules :

echo "zfs" >> /etc/modules

You should reboot to make sure all the ZFS services are running.

Setup the ZFS pool with LXD

Creating and using a ZFS pool with LXD is super easy. Just run the lxd init command and choose to configure a new storage pool.

root@host:~# lxd init
Do you want to configure a new storage pool (yes/no) [default=yes]? 
Name of the new storage pool [default=default]: zfs_lxd
Name of the storage backend to use (dir, btrfs, ceph, lvm, zfs) [default=zfs]: 
Create a new ZFS pool (yes/no) [default=yes]? 
Would you like to use an existing block device (yes/no) [default=no]? 
Size in GB of the new loop device (1GB minimum) [default=15GB]: 20

If it's your first time running lxd init, you may want to setup a network bridge afterwards. Otherwise, just skip it:

Would you like to create a new network bridge (yes/no) [default=yes]? n
LXD has been successfully configured.

Use a pool on a real device

Note that by default it will create a loop device for you ZFS pool, which means we're using ZFS over our existing filesystem.
This works, but it is not ideal so you may want to create a pool on a partition, a whole disk, or even mulitple disks.

To do that, select yes for Would you like to use an existing block device during lxd-init. You may then write the name of your drive (/dev/sdX) or partiton (/dev/sdaX). This will erase data on the selected device

You can also create the pool manually with this command:

zpool create zpool_name /dev/sdX

Then select it:

root@root:~# lxd init
Do you want to configure a new storage pool (yes/no) [default=yes]? 
Name of the new storage pool [default=default]: lxd_zfs
Name of the storage backend to use (dir, btrfs, ceph, lvm, zfs) [default=zfs]: 
Create a new ZFS pool (yes/no) [default=yes]? n
Name of the existing ZFS pool or dataset: zpool_name

Using the ZFS pool

To check our newly created pool, run:

root@host:~# zpool list
NAME      SIZE  ALLOC   FREE  EXPANDSZ   FRAG    CAP  DEDUP  HEALTH  ALTROOT
zfs_lxd  19.9G   267K  19.9G         -     0%     0%  1.00x  ONLINE  -

You can also use:

root@host:~# zpool status
  pool: zfs_lxd
 state: ONLINE
  scan: none requested
config:

        NAME                                          STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
        zfs_lxd                                       ONLINE       0     0     0
          /var/snap/lxd/common/lxd/disks/zfs_lxd.img  ONLINE       0     0     0

errors: No known data errors

Here, the whole ZFS filesystem is stored in /var/snap/lxd/common/lxd/disks/zfs_lxd.img. If you're running the pool on a drive, it'll look like this:

root@host:~# zpool status
  pool: zfs_lxd
 state: ONLINE
  scan: none requested
config:

        NAME        STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
        zfs_lxd     ONLINE       0     0     0
          sdb      ONLINE       0     0     0

errors: No known data errors

The default profile is set automatically by lxd-init to use the ZFS pool:

root@host:~# lxc profile show default
config: {}
description: Default LXD profile
devices:
  eth0:
    nictype: bridged
    parent: lxdbr0
    type: nic
  root:
    path: /
    pool: zfs_lxd
    type: disk
name: default

We can test it by creating a new CT:

root@host:~# lxc launch images:debian/9 c1
Creating c1
Starting c1

We can see it uses some space in our pool:

root@host:~# zpool list
NAME      SIZE  ALLOC   FREE  EXPANDSZ   FRAG    CAP  DEDUP  HEALTH  ALTROOT
zfs_lxd  19.9G   174M  19.7G         -     0%     0%  1.00x  ONLINE  -

Experience the magic of COW. 🐄

root@host:~# lxc launch images:debian/9 c2
Creating c2
Starting c2
root@host:~# zpool list
NAME      SIZE  ALLOC   FREE  EXPANDSZ   FRAG    CAP  DEDUP  HEALTH  ALTROOT
zfs_lxd  19.9G   176M  19.7G         -     0%     0%  1.00x  ONLINE  -

Awesome, isn't it?

Enjoy!

You now have a high-performance ZFS pool for you LXC containers. ZFS has a lot of features that I didn't use here as this is supposed to be more like a quick start guide for LXD + ZFS, but just using the defaults gives a lot of benefits!

Sources:

Angristan

Angristan

I'm an 18 years old French sysadmin studying at a IT school and working for a web hosting company.

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