Why Any Business Should Consider ZFS Cluster Software

OpenZFS is a reliable and key component for enterprise storage as it:

  • Has been proven in demanding enterprise environments for nearly two decades
  • Has almost unlimited scalable capacity
  • Is self-healing
  • Includes many advanced enterprise storage features
  • Has a mature and growing open-source community continuing developments
  • Has a wealth of commercial buy-in
  • Is very cost-effective compared to closed proprietary offerings
  • Is compatible with the latest and greatest storage technologies and components (e.g. flash, NVMe, Infiniband)
  • Is being deployed widely in all storage tiers across all vertical markets
Illustration highlighting the features of ZFS

In addition, OpenZFS can be deployed on a wide range of generic commodity hardware from a myriad of suppliers on the Operating System platform of your choice. Open source, open architecture, commodity hardware, hugely flexible topologies and many hardware options and vendors mean ZFS is enterprise ready.

Bringing High Availability to ZFS Storage

Being more than just a filesystem and incorporating advanced logical volume management capability, ZFS has a number of revolutionary built-in features that customers would normally pay large additional license fees for elsewhere. For example, thin provisioning, iSCSI and Fibre Channel support, NFS & CIFS, unlimited snapshots, replication and so on.

Whilst ZFS has built-in data verification and integrity checking, what ZFS isn't however, is a clustered filesystem meaning that ZFS pools can only be served by a single server head at a time; a clear single-point-of-failure. If the server fails, even though the data may be safe, the ZFS storage and associated file and block services become inaccessible when a server goes offline.

ZFS in the Enterprise

For enterprise use, businesses demand high availability to ensure business continuity in the event of system breakdown or disaster, and no matter how reliable the hardware, there is no guarantee of maintaining service availability in the event of failure or error of a single hardware component, whether storage device or server head.

Adding a second server head to improve storage availability in the event of a single server failure can be achieved using simple active/passive high availability and failover technologies. However, bringing enterprise-grade high availability features to ZFS based storage appliances is significantly more complicated than simply failing over ZFS pools from one server head to another.

Due to its inherent design and the inventors' foresight to know that physical disk drives gradually wear out over time, ZFS does an incredible job of protecting against data corruption as well as continuous integrity checking and automatic repair. It is reasonably easy however to inadvertently corrupt entire ZFS pools in clustered configurations if attempts are made to import pools on two or more storage server nodes simultaneously.

Although ZFS pools can be made available to any number of other storage nodes, there is no concept in ZFS for pools to be accessed by more than one node at a time, and there is no inherent protection against multi-import catastrophic data corruption scenarios. Whilst storage high availability is vital to ensure services are always up, securing and protecting the data foremost is absolutely critical.