Some interesting insights on the gluster replicated volume replica value

While playing around with gluster, I had an interesting finding about the way gluster handles replicated volumes. The gluster volume I am using for testing is a replicated volume with a replica factor of 2 (the replica factor determines how many copies of your data will be made). I wanted to add a third replica to my volume, and thought it would be as simple as using the “add-brick” option:

$ gluster volume add-brick glustervol01**
Incorrect number of bricks supplied 1 for type REPLICATE with count 2

Hmmmm – no go. At first I thought this was no big deal, I figured there was an option or setting I needed to change to increase my replica count. I couldn’t find an option in the official documentation, and after reading through a number of mailing list postings I came across a horrific finding. From what I have been able to gather so far you cannot add a third replica to a volume that was created with a replica count of 2. Erf!

Being somewhat curious, I was wondering if I could work around this limitation by creating a volume with a replica value higher than the number of bricks that were specified on the command line. This would allow me to grow the number of replicated bricks as needed, giving me some buffer room down the road. Well – this doesn’t work either:

$ gluster volume create glustervol01 replica 3 transport tcp \ \**
number of bricks is not a multiple of replica count
Usage: volume create <new-volname> [stripe <count>] [replica <count>]
[transport <tcp|rdma|tcp,rdma>] <new-brick> ...

So this leaves me with the following options to change my volume lay out:

  1. Replace a brick with the “replace-brick” option.
  2. Remove a brick with the “remove-brick” option and then add a new brick with the “add-brick” option.
  3. Destroy my volume and re-create it with a replica factor of 3.
  4. Add replica count bricks with the “add-brick” option.

So you may be asking why don’t you do #4 and add two more bricks to the volume to make gluster happy? There are two reasons:

  1. I only have one node to add at this time (hardware doesn’t grow on trees).
  2. Adding two more bricks with “add-brick” would create a distributed replicated volume. This doesn’t increase the replica factor for my data, it adds two more replicated bricks to the volume (see this post for additional detail).

As with ALL storage-related solutions, you need to do your homework prior to deploying gluster. Make sure you take into account how things will need to look down the road, and design your gluster solution around this vision (and make sure you have a good backup and recovery solution in place in case you need to make drastic changes). Also make sure to test out your vision to ensure it works as you expect it to. I’m a huge fan of beating the heck out of technology in a lab and learning as much as I can in a non-production environment. I don’t like getting bitten once something goes live and my users depend on it.

If someone is aware of a way to add a third replica to a volume please leave me a comment (as well as a link to documentation that talks about it) and I’ll update the blog entry. I’ve searched and searched and searched and have yet to come up with anything. If there truly is no way to expand the number of replicas in a volume I would consider this a serious limitation of gluster. With disk sizes growing like mad, I could definitely see it being useful to expand the replica factor for an existing volume. It won’t be too long before you can install a 10TB disk drive in your PC, and when those are $80 a pop a replica value of three doesn’t seem that unrealistic (just ask Adam Leventhal).

This article was posted by Matty on 2011-11-27 10:05:00 -0400 -0400