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Creating ZFS pools on NetBSD

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Mar 16, 2022, 1:57:53 PM3/16/22
■ ZFS & NetBSD

ZFS support got mature and stable enough in NetBSD-9 to be implemented
safely in everyday usage. There have been, nevertheless, non-negligible
fixes since 9.0_RELEASE (see the CHANGES files at
<>), so if you
plan on using ZFS you should at least run 9.2 (even better 9_STABLE or HEAD).

Given the limited number of active users reporting bugs, it's reasonable
to avoid ZFS on NetBSD in production, at least for the moment.

Current branch has initial support for ZFS root, if you want to
experiment with that. The boot sequence involves loading an initial
ramdisk and mounting the pool on /altroot, similarly to CGD disks. This
is in my todo list, so you may (or may not) see a 'ZFS root' post
popping up here in the future.

■ ZFS for storage

I needed some additional storage for my RPi4 server, so I bought a 2Tb
Western Digital HDD for a very affordable price. The disk hits a 100
Mb/s write speed though the USB 3.0 bus, which is more than enough
compared to my expectations.

I wanted to format the disk as a ZFS pool, have it automatically mounted
at /zfs upon boot, and create task-specific datasets inside it.
Turns out this is perfectly feasible.

■ Preparing the disk

First of all, it's advisable to delete any partition(s) and MBR/GPT
table present on the disk, thus to start from scratch for full compatibility.
If you attempt to write a ZFS pool on a different kind of partition,
you'll end up with a screwed up disk layout either way.

Most (All?) external HDDs nowadays are sold as GPT disks with a single
NTFS partition. After pluggin-in the disk `gpt show sd0` will identify
the underlying filesystem as 'MS Basic Data'. Refer to gpt_uuid.h under
src/sbin/gpt for more information on NetBSD's partition UUIDs.

In such scenario, all we have to do to prepare the disk is:

$ gpt remove -i 1 sd0
$ gpt destroy sd0

'1' is the number of the partition to remove in the index, as shown by
`gpt show`. The gpt(8) man page is a fine piece of writing: I recommend
always keeping it at hand when messing with partitions on GPT disk.

In case you wanted to use a MBR disk, after deleting partitions, do:

$ gpt migrate sd0

And now we're ready to create our ZFS disk.

$ gpt create sd0
$ gpt add -a 2m -t zfs -l "zfs-data" sd0
$ gpt show sd0

start size index contents
0 1 PMBR
1 1 Pri GPT header
2 32 Pri GPT table
34 4062 Unused
4096 3906957312 1 GPT part - ZFS
3906961408 2015 Unused
3906963423 32 Sec GPT table
3906963455 1 Sec GPT heade

'2m' is the partition alignment and 'zfs-data' the designed label to use.

The kernel has assigned dk2 wedge devnode to our zfs-data partition, as revealed by dmesg:

[ 1.825546] sd0 at scsibus0 target 0 lun 0: <WD, Elements 2621, 1026> disk fixed
[ 1.835547] sd0: fabricating a geometry
[ 1.835547] sd0: 1862 GB, 1907697 cyl, 64 head, 32 sec, 512 bytes/sect x 3906963456 sectors
[ 1.845547] sd0: fabricating a geometry
[ 1.845547] sd0: GPT GUID: 397a8a3f-c526-47d6-9f41-54010cfb4a01
[ 1.845547] dk2 at sd0: "zfs-data", 3906957312 blocks at 4096, type: zfs

■ Enabling ZFS support

First load the driver and make it a default module to load at boot:

$ modload zfs
$ echo zfs >> /etc/modules.conf

Enable the service:

$ echo zfs=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
$ service zfs start

■ Create a ZFS pool


$ zpool create zfs /dev/dk2

Shall create a zfs pool and mount it under /zfs. The mountpoint
corresponds to the zpool label (in our example 'zfs').

$ zpool status

pool: zfs
state: ONLINE
scan: scrub in progress since Wed Mar 16 12:06:00 2022
10.8G scanned out of 115G at 36.1M/s, 0h49m to go
0 repaired, 9.42% done

zfs ONLINE 0 0 0
dk2 ONLINE 0 0 0

errors: No known data errors

■ Create a dataset

zfs create -o mountpoint=/zfs/data zfs/data

Will create a ZFS 'data' dataset at the specified mountpoint.

In my case, I now have

$ zfs list

zfs 115G 1.64T 23K /zfs
zfs/data 5.23G 1.64T 5.23G /zfs/data
zfs/p2p 107G 1.64T 107G /zfs/p2p
zfs/snap 7.81G 1.64T 7.81G /zfs/snap

$ mount | grep zfs
zfs on /zfs type zfs (local)
zfs/data on /zfs/data type zfs (local)
zfs/p2p on /zfs/p2p type zfs (local)
zfs/snap on /zfs/snap type zfs (local

So, we're finally ready to write files to your zfs dataset.
The zfs rc.d service will automatically mount the pool and the dataset
at the usual mount point at each boot. No need to deal with fstab.

■ Dataset tunables

There are several tunable options to play with. Refer to zfs(8). For a
dataset foreseeably hosting large amounts of sensitive files, we could
add some redundancy and enable gzip compression and deduplication:

$ zfs set compression=gzip zfs/data
$ zfs set dedup=on zfs/data
$ zfs set copies=2 zfs/data

I won't go into adding flash devices as ZFS Log (LOG vdev) and L2ARC Cache
(CACHE vdev) for the moment. Maybe next time :)

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