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LVM device fault handling
This document is to serve as the definitive source for information
regarding the policies and procedures surrounding device failures
in LVM. It codifies LVM's responses to device failures as well as
the responsibilities of administrators.
Device failures can be permanent or transient. A permanent failure
is one where a device becomes inaccessible and will never be
revived. A transient failure is a failure that can be recovered
from (e.g. a power failure, intermittent network outage, block
relocation, etc). The policies for handling both types of failures
is described herein.
Users need to be aware that there are two implementations of RAID1 in LVM.
The first is defined by the "mirror" segment type. The second is defined by
the "raid1" segment type. The characteristics of each of these are defined
in lvm.conf under 'mirror_segtype_default' - the configuration setting used to
identify the default RAID1 implementation used for LVM operations.
Available Operations During a Device Failure
When there is a device failure, LVM behaves somewhat differently because
only a subset of the available devices will be found for the particular
volume group. The number of operations available to the administrator
is diminished. It is not possible to create new logical volumes while
PVs cannot be accessed, for example. Operations that create, convert, or
resize logical volumes are disallowed, such as:
- lvcreate
- lvresize
- lvreduce
- lvextend
- lvconvert (unless '--repair' is used)
Operations that activate, deactivate, remove, report, or repair logical
volumes are allowed, such as:
- lvremove
- vgremove (will remove all LVs, but not the VG until consistent)
- pvs
- vgs
- lvs
- lvchange -a [yn]
- vgchange -a [yn]
Operations specific to the handling of failed devices are allowed and
are as follows:
- 'vgreduce --removemissing <VG>': This action is designed to remove
the reference of a failed device from the LVM metadata stored on the
remaining devices. If there are (portions of) logical volumes on the
failed devices, the ability of the operation to proceed will depend
on the type of logical volumes found. If an image (i.e leg or side)
of a mirror is located on the device, that image/leg of the mirror
is eliminated along with the failed device. The result of such a
mirror reduction could be a no-longer-redundant linear device. If
a linear, stripe, or snapshot device is located on the failed device
the command will not proceed without a '--force' option. The result
of using the '--force' option is the entire removal and complete
loss of the non-redundant logical volume. If an image or metadata area
of a RAID logical volume is on the failed device, the sub-LV affected is
replace with an error target device - appearing as <unknown> in 'lvs'
output. RAID logical volumes cannot be completely repaired by vgreduce -
'lvconvert --repair' (listed below) must be used. Once this operation is
complete on volume groups not containing RAID logical volumes, the volume
group will again have a complete and consistent view of the devices it
contains. Thus, all operations will be permitted - including creation,
conversion, and resizing operations. It is currently the preferred method
to call 'lvconvert --repair' on the individual logical volumes to repair
them followed by 'vgreduce --removemissing' to extract the physical volume's
representation in the volume group.
- 'lvconvert --repair <VG/LV>': This action is designed specifically
to operate on individual logical volumes. If, for example, a failed
device happened to contain the images of four distinct mirrors, it would
be necessary to run 'lvconvert --repair' on each of them. The ultimate
result is to leave the faulty device in the volume group, but have no logical
volumes referencing it. (This allows for 'vgreduce --removemissing' to
removed the physical volumes cleanly.) In addition to removing mirror or
RAID images that reside on failed devices, 'lvconvert --repair' can also
replace the failed device if there are spare devices available in the
volume group. The user is prompted whether to simply remove the failed
portions of the mirror or to also allocate a replacement, if run from the
command-line. Optionally, the '--use-policies' flag can be specified which
will cause the operation not to prompt the user, but instead respect
the policies outlined in the LVM configuration file - usually,
/etc/lvm/lvm.conf. Once this operation is complete, the logical volumes
will be consistent. However, the volume group will still be inconsistent -
due to the refernced-but-missing device/PV - and operations will still be
restricted to the aformentioned actions until either the device is
restored or 'vgreduce --removemissing' is run.
Device Revival (transient failures):
During a device failure, the above section describes what limitations
a user can expect. However, if the device returns after a period of
time, what to expect will depend on what has happened during the time
period when the device was failed. If no automated actions (described
below) or user actions were necessary or performed, then no change in
operations or logical volume layout will occur. However, if an
automated action or one of the aforementioned repair commands was
manually run, the returning device will be perceived as having stale
LVM metadata. In this case, the user can expect to see a warning
concerning inconsistent metadata. The metadata on the returning
device will be automatically replaced with the latest copy of the
LVM metadata - restoring consistency. Note, while most LVM commands
will automatically update the metadata on a restored devices, the
following possible exceptions exist:
- pvs (when it does not read/update VG metadata)
Automated Target Response to Failures:
The only LVM target types (i.e. "personalities") that have an automated
response to failures are the mirror and RAID logical volumes. The other target
types (linear, stripe, snapshot, etc) will simply propagate the failure.
[A snapshot becomes invalid if its underlying device fails, but the
origin will remain valid - presuming the origin device has not failed.]
Starting with the "mirror" segment type, there are three types of errors that
a mirror can suffer - read, write, and resynchronization errors. Each is
described in depth below.
Mirror read failures:
If a mirror is 'in-sync' (i.e. all images have been initialized and
are identical), a read failure will only produce a warning. Data is
simply pulled from one of the other images and the fault is recorded.
Sometimes - like in the case of bad block relocation - read errors can
be recovered from by the storage hardware. Therefore, it is up to the
user to decide whether to reconfigure the mirror and remove the device
that caused the error. Managing the composition of a mirror is done with
'lvconvert' and removing a device from a volume group can be done with
If a mirror is not 'in-sync', a read failure will produce an I/O error.
This error will propagate all the way up to the applications above the
logical volume (e.g. the file system). No automatic intervention will
take place in this case either. It is up to the user to decide what
can be done/salvaged in this senario. If the user is confident that the
images of the mirror are the same (or they are willing to simply attempt
to retreive whatever data they can), 'lvconvert' can be used to eliminate
the failed image and proceed.
Mirror resynchronization errors:
A resynchronization error is one that occurs when trying to initialize
all mirror images to be the same. It can happen due to a failure to
read the primary image (the image considered to have the 'good' data), or
due to a failure to write the secondary images. This type of failure
only produces a warning, and it is up to the user to take action in this
case. If the error is transient, the user can simply reactivate the
mirrored logical volume to make another attempt at resynchronization.
If attempts to finish resynchronization fail, 'lvconvert' can be used to
remove the faulty device from the mirror.
Some sort of response to this type of error could be automated.
Since this document is the definitive source for how to handle device
failures, the process should be defined here. If the process is defined
but not implemented, it should be noted as such. One idea might be to
make a single attempt to suspend/resume the mirror in an attempt to
redo the sync operation that failed. On the other hand, if there is
a permanent failure, it may simply be best to wait for the user or the
automated response that is sure to follow from a write failure.
Mirror write failures:
When a write error occurs on a mirror constituent device, an attempt
to handle the failure is automatically made. This is done by calling
'lvconvert --repair --use-policies'. The policies implied by this
command are set in the LVM configuration file. They are:
- mirror_log_fault_policy: This defines what action should be taken
if the device containing the log fails. The available options are
"remove" and "allocate". Either of these options will cause the
faulty log device to be removed from the mirror. The "allocate"
policy will attempt the further action of trying to replace the
failed disk log by using space that might be available in the
volume group. If the allocation fails (or the "remove" policy
is specified), the mirror log will be maintained in memory. Should
the machine be rebooted or the logical volume deactivated, a
complete resynchronization of the mirror will be necessary upon
the follow activation - such is the nature of a mirror with a 'core'
log. The default policy for handling log failures is "allocate".
The service disruption incurred by replacing the failed log is
negligible, while the benefits of having persistent log is
- mirror_image_fault_policy: This defines what action should be taken
if a device containing an image fails. Again, the available options
are "remove" and "allocate". Both of these options will cause the
faulty image device to be removed - adjusting the logical volume
accordingly. For example, if one image of a 2-way mirror fails, the
mirror will be converted to a linear device. If one image of a
3-way mirror fails, the mirror will be converted to a 2-way mirror.
The "allocate" policy takes the further action of trying to replace
the failed image using space that is available in the volume group.
Replacing a failed mirror image will incure the cost of
resynchronizing - degrading the performance of the mirror. The
default policy for handling an image failure is "remove". This
allows the mirror to still function, but gives the administrator the
choice of when to incure the extra performance costs of replacing
the failed image.
RAID logical volume device failures are handled differently from the "mirror"
segment type. Discussion of this can be found in lvm2-raid.txt.