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Date:	Tue, 3 Jun 2008 10:17:19 -0500 (CDT)
From:	Thomas King <>
Subject: Re: Questions for article

> Andreas Dilger wrote:
>> On Jun 02, 2008  16:50 -0500, Thomas King wrote:
>>> I am writing an article for to answer Henry Newman's at Is
there anyone that can field a few questions on ext4?
>> It depends on what you are proposing to write...  Henry's comments are mostly
> But others are way off base IMHO, to the point where I don't put a lot of
stock in the article.  fsck only checks the log?  Hardly.  No linux filesystem
does proper geometry alignment?  XFS has for years.
> He seems to take ext3 weaknesses and extrapolate to all linux
> filesystems.   The fact that he suggests testing a 500T ext3 filesystem
indicates a ... lack of research.  Never mind that had he done that research
he'd have found that you, well... you can't do it.  :)  On the one hand it
proves his point about scalibility (of ext3) but on the other hand indicates
that he's not completely investigated the problem of linux filesystem
scalability, himself.
> Of the tests he proposes, he's clearly not bothered to do them himself.
>  A 100 million inode filesystem is not that uncommon on xfs, and some of
> the tests he proposes are probably in daily use at SGI customers.
> So writing an article about ext4 to refute all his arguments might be
premature, but dismissing all linux filesystems based on ext3
> shortcomings is also shortsighted.  He has some valid points but saying
"fscking a multi-terabyte fs is too slow on linux" without showing that it
actually *is* slow on linux, or that it *is* fast on $whatever_else, is just
hand-waving.  On the other hand  it's a very hard test for mere mortals to
run.  :)
> -Eric
>> There isn't even support for > 16TB filesystems in
>> e2fsprogs today, so I wouldn't go rushing into an email saying "ext4 can
support a single 100TB filesystem today".  It wouldn't be too hard to take a
100TB Lustre filesystem and run it on a single node, but I doubt anyone would
actually want to do that and it still doesn't meet the requirements of "a
single instance filesystem".
>> What is noteworthy is that the comments about IO not being aligned to RAID
boundaries is only partly correct.  This is actually done in ext4 with
mballoc (assuming you set these boundaries in the superblock manually), and
is also done by XFS automatically.  The RAID geometry detection code should
be added to mke2fs also, if someone would be interested.  The ext4/mballoc
code does NOT align the metadata to RAID boundaries, though this is being
worked on also.
>> The mballoc code also does efficient block allocations (multi-MB at a time),
BUT there is no userspace interface for this yet, except O_DIRECT. The
delayed allocation (delalloc) patches for ext4 are still in the unstable part
of the patch series...  What Henry is misunderstanding here is that the
filesystem blocksize isn't necessarily the maximum unit for space allocation.
 I agree we could do this more efficiently (e.g. allocate an entire 128MB
block group at a time for large files), but we haven't gotten there yet.
>> There are a large number of IO performance improvements in ext4 due to work
to improve IO server performance for Lustre (which Henry is of course
familiar with), and for Lustre at least we are able to get IO performance in
the 2GB/s range on 42 50MB/s disks with software RAID 0 (Sun x4500), but
these are with O_DIRECT.
>> For the fsck front, there have been performance improvements recently
(uninit_bg), and more arriving soon (flex_bg and block metadata clustering),
but that is still a far way from removing the need for e2fsck in case of
>> Similarly, Lustre (with ext3) can scale to a 10M file directory reasonably
(though not superbly) for a certain kind of workload.  On the other hand,
this can be really nasty with a "readdir+stat" kind of workload.  Lustre also
runs with filesystems > 250M files total, but I haven't heard of e2fsck
performance for such filesystems.
>> I'd personally tend to keep quiet until we CAN show that ext4
>> runs well on a 100TB filesystem, that e2fsck time isn't fatal, etc. Cheers,

He is fairly keen on XFS except for a couple of items. "The metadata areas are
not aligned with RAID strips and allocation units are FAR too small but better
than ext." However, some of his comments do hint that any current filesystem
technology wouldn't make him happy. ;)

Folks, thank you for suffering my questions and probing. I may post a few more
Tom King
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