Containerize Everything with LINSTOR

LINBIT and its Software-Defined Storage (SDS) solution LINSTOR has provided integration with Linux containers for quite some time. These range from a Docker volume plugin, to a Flexvolume plugin, and recently, a CSI plugin for Kubernetes. While we always provided excellent integration to the container world, most of our software itself was not available as a container/base image. Containerizing our services is a non-trivial task. As you probably know, the core of the DRBD software consists of a Linux kernel module and user space utilities that interact via netlink with this kernel module. Additionally, our software needs to create LVM devices and DRBD block devices within a container. These tasks are interesting and challenging to put into containers. For this article, we assume 3 nodes, one node that acts as a LINSTOR controller, and two that act as satellites. We tested this with recent Centos7 machines and with a current version of Docker.


In this article, we assume access to our Docker registry hosted on On all hosts you should run the following commands:

docker login
Username: YourUserName
Password: YourPassword
Login Succeeded

Installing the DRBD kernel modules

We need the DRBD kernel module and its dependencies on the LINSTOR satellites (the controller does not need access to DRBD). For that we provide a solution for the most common platforms, namely Centos7/RHEL7 and Ubuntu Bionic.

docker run --privileged -it --rm \
  -v /lib/modules:/lib/modules
DRBD modul sucessfully loaded 

What this does is check which kernel is actually executed on the host, then found it the most appropriate package in the container and installed it. We ship the same, unmodified rpm/deb packages in the container as we provide in our customer repositories. If you are using Ubuntu Bionic, you should use the container.

Running a LINSTOR controller

docker run -d --name=linstor-controller \
  -p 3376:3376 -p 3377:3377

The controller does not have any special requirements, it just needs to be accessible to the client via TCP/IP. Please note that in this configuration the controller’s database is not persisted. One possibility is to bind-mount the directory used for the controller’s database by adding
-v /some/dir:/var/lib/linstor .

Running a LINSTOR satellite

docker run -d --name=linstor-satellite --net=host \

The satellite is the component that creates actual block devices. On one hand the backing devices (usually LVM) and the actual DRBD block devices. Therefore this container needs access to/dev, and it needs to share the host networking. Host networking is required for the communication between drbdsetup and the actual kernel module.

Configuring the Cluster

We have to set up LINSTOR as usual, which fortunately, is an easy task and has to be done only once. In the spirit of this blog post, let’s use a containerized LINSTOR client as well. As the client obviously has to talk to the controller, we need to tell the client in the container where to find the controller. This is done by setting the environment variable LS_CONTROLLERS.

docker run -it --rm -e LS_CONTROLLERS=ControllerIP \
- volume-definition (vd)
LINSTOR ==> node create Satellite1
LINSTOR ==> node create Satellite2
LINSTOR ==> storage-pool-definition create drbdpool
LINSTOR ==> storage-pool create lvm Satellite1 drbdpool drbdpool
LINSTOR ==> storage-pool create lvm Satellite2 drbdpool drbdpool 

Creating a replicated DRBD resource

So far we loaded the kernel module on the satellites, started the controller and satellite containers and configured the LINSTOR cluster. Now it is time to actually create resources.

docker run -it --rm -e LS_CONTROLLERS=Controller \ interactive
- volume-definition (vd)
 LINSTOR ==> resource-definition create demo
 LINSTOR ==> volume-definition create demo 1G
 LINSTOR ==> resource create demo --storage-pool drbdpool --auto-place 2 

If you have drbd-utils installed on the host, you can now see the DRBD resource as usual viadrbdsetup status. But we can also use a container to do that. On one of the satellites you can run a throw-away linstor-satellite container which contains drbd-utils:

docker run -it --rm --net=host --privileged \
$ drbdsetup status
$ lvs

Note that by default you will not see the symbolic links for the backing devices created by LVM/udev in the LINSTOR satellite container. That is expected. In the container you will see something like /dev/drbdpool/demo_00000, while on the host you will only see/dev/dm-X, and  lvs will not show the LVs. If you really want to see the LVs on the host, you could execute  lvscan -a --cache, but there is no actual reason for that. One might also map the lvmetad socket to the container.


As you can see, LINBIT’s container story is now complete. It is now possible to deploy the whole stack via containers. This ranges from the lowest level of providing the kernel modules to the highest level of LINSTOR SDS including the client, the controller, and satellites.

Roland Kammerer
Software Engineer at Linbit
Roland Kammerer studied technical computer science at the Vienna University of Technology and graduated with distinction. Currently, he is a PhD candidate with a research focus on time-triggered realtime-systems and works for LINBIT in the DRBD development team.

How LINBIT Improved the DRBD Sync-Rate Logic

About nine years ago, LINBIT introduced the dynamic sync-rate controller in DRBD 8.3.9. The goal behind this was to tune the amount of resync traffic so as to not interfere or compete with application IO to the DRBD device. We did this by examining the current state of the resync, application IO, and network, ten times a second and then deciding on how many resync requests to generate.

We knew from experimentation that we could achieve higher resync throughput if we were to poll the situation during a resync more than ten times a second. However, we didn’t want to shorten this interval by default as this would uselessly consume CPU cycles for the DRBD installations on slower hardware. With DRBD 9.0.17, we now have some additional logic. The resync-rate controller will poll the situation both at 100ms AND when all resync requests are complete, even before the 100ms timer expires.

We estimate that these improvements will only be beneficial to storage and networks that are capable of going faster than 800MiB/s. For our benchmarks, I used two identical systems running CentOS 7.6.1810. Both are equipped with 3x Samsung 960 Pro M.2 NVMe drives. The drives are configured up in RAID0 via the Linux software RAID. My initial baseline test found that in this configuration, the disk can achieve a throughput around 3.1GiB/s (4k sequential writes). For the replication network, we have dual port 40Gb/s Mellanox ConnectX-5 devices. They’re configured as a bonded interface using mode 2 (Balance XOR). This crossover network was benchmarked at 37.7Gb/s (4.3GiB/s) using iperf3. These are actually the same systems used in my NVMe-oF vs. iSER test here.

Then, I ran through multiple resyncs as I found out how best to tune the DRBD configuration for this environment. It was no surprise that DRBD 9.0.17 looked to be the clear winner. However, this was fully-tuned. I wanted to find out what would happen if we scaled back the tuning slightly. I then decided to test while also using the default values for sndbuf-size and rcvbuf-size. The results were fairly similar, but surprisingly 9.0.16 did a little better. For my “fully tuned” test, my configuration was the default except for the following tuning:

net {
max-buffers 80k;
sndbuf-size 10M;
rcvbuf-size 10M;
disk {
resync-rate 3123M; # bytes/second, default
c-plan-ahead 20; # 1/10 seconds, default
c-delay-target 10; # 1/10 seconds, default
c-fill-target 1M; # bytes, default
c-max-rate 3123M; # bytes/second, default
c-min-rate 250k; # bytes/second, default

Three tests were ran. All tests were done with a 500GiB LVM volume using the /dev/md0 device as the physical volume. A blkdiscard was run against the LVM between each test. The first test was with no application IO to the /dev/drbd0 device and without the sndbuf-size and rcvbuf-size. The second was with no application IO, and fully-tuned as per the configuration above. The third test was again fully-tuned with the configuration above. However, immediately after the resource was promoted to primary, I began a loop that used ‘dd’ to write 1M chunks of zeros to the disk sequentially.

From the graph above, we can see that – when idle – DRBD 9.0.17 can resync at the speeds the physical disk will allow, where as 9.0.16 seems to top out around 2000MiB/s. DRBD 8.4.11 can’t seem to push past 1500MiB/s. However, when we introduce IO to the DRBD virtual disk, both DRBD 9 versions scale back the resync speeds to roughly the same speeds. Surprisingly, DRBD 8.4 doesn’t throttle down as much and hovers around 700MiB/s. This is most likely due to an increase in IO lockout granularity between versions 8 and 9. However, faster here is not necessarily desired. It is usually favorable to have the resync speeds throttled down in order to “step aside” and allow application IO to take priority.

Have questions? Submit them below. We’re happy to help!

Devin Vance on Linkedin
Devin Vance
First introduced to Linux back in 1996, and using Linux almost exclusively by 2005, Devin has years of Linux administration and systems engineering under his belt. He has been deploying and improving clusters with LINBIT since 2011. When not at the keyboard, you can usually find Devin wrenching on an american motorcycle or down at one of the local bowling alleys.
NFS Ansible Playbook

Request Your Highly Availability NFS Ansible Playbook!

LINBIT wants to make your testing of our software easy! We’ve started creating Ansible playbooks that automate the deployment of our most commonly clustered software stacks.

The HA NFS playbook will automate the deployment of a HA NFS Cluster, using DRBD9 for replicated storage and Pacemaker as the cluster resource manager; quicker than you can brew a pot of coffee.

Email us for your free trial!

Be sure to write “Ansible” in the subject line.

Build an HA NFS Cluster using Ansible with packages from LINBIT.

System requirements:

  • An account at (contact [email protected]).
  • Deployment environment must have Ansible 2.7.0+ and python-netaddr.
  • All target systems must have passwordless SSH access.
  • All hostnames used in inventory file are resolvable (better to use IP addresses).
  • Target systems are CentOS/RHEL 7.

More information is available: LINBIT Ansible NFS Cluster on GitHub.

Linbeat - band, linux

A new star is born: LIN:BEAT – The Band

LINBIT is opening up a new division to specifically address our community’s desire to turn the music up to 11! As you all know, LINBIT is famous for its DRBD, Software-Defined Storage (SDS) and Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions. In a paradigm-shifting turn of events by management, LINBIT has decided to expand into the music industry. Since there is so much business potential in playing live concerts, LINBIT has transformed five of their employees into LIN:BEAT – The Band. These concerts are of course made highly-available by utilizing LINBIT’s own DRBD software.

Linbeat - band, linux

The Band will be touring all Cloud and Linux events around the globe in 2019. Band members use self-written code to produce their unique sound design, reminiscent of drum and bass and heavily influenced by folk punk. The urge to portray all the advantages of DRBD and LINSTOR is so strong they had to send a message to the world: Their songs tell the world about the ups and downs of administrators who handle big storage clusters. LIN:BEAT offers a variety of styles in their musical oeuvre: While “LINSTOR” is a heavy-driven rock song and “Snapshots” speaks to funk-loving people, even “Disaster Recovery,” a love ballad, made it into their repertoire. Lead singer, Phil Reisner, sings sotto voce about his lost love — a RAID rack called “SDS”. Reisner told the reporters, “Administrators are such underrated people. This is sadly unfortunate. We strive to give all administrators a voice. Even if it’s a musical one!”

Crowds will be jumping up and down in excitement when LIN:BEAT comes to town! Be there and code fair!

An Excerpt of the song “My first love is DRBD” written by Phil Reisner:

My first love is DRBD,

there has never been a fee

instead it serves proudly as open source

your replication has changed the course

It’s the crucial key for Linux’s destiny