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One of the main design princples of ZFS is merging the management of physical volumes with individual filesystems. Instead of relying on an underlying volume manager, ZFS manages disks directly and aggregates them into pools from which individual filesystems are allocated. Storage servers using ZFS typically configure two pools: one pool onto which the system’s root filesystem is installed, and a second for the data to be managed by that system.
At Joyent we’ve taken a different approach and discarded the root pool in favor of a single system-wide pool. Not only does this approach free up an additional two drives to be used for main storage, it also provides us flexibility in upgrading system software, higher customer multitenancy, and ease of deploying new machines. In this talk, I’ll describe our overall architecture, talk about challenges we faced in constructing such an architecture, and characterize our experiences having deployed this model in production over the last 18 months.