uninterruptible power supply suspend2ramsuspend2disk

23 nov 2009


Using software raids on linux ‘mdadm’ is problematic if you hit a ‘power outage’. Using a single device without a ‘software raid’ is not a problem since it uses a journal - ext3++/xfs for instance are quite stable in this regard. This is probably also true when using LVM - the ‘logical volume manager’ (but don’t quote me there, my LVM ‘use case’ might differ from yours).


Using the same filesystems with a software raid **makes the ‘journal’ useless, see [1] and [2]. Let’s quote [2]:

Power Loss and Ensuing Data Corruption Many beginners think that they can test RAID by starting a disk-access intensive job, and then unplugging the power while it is running. This is usually guaranteed to cause some kind of data corruption, and RAID does nothing to prevent it or to recover the resulting lost data. This kind of data corruption/loss can be avoided by using a journaling file system, and/or a journaling database server (to avoid data loss in a running SQL server when the system goes down). In discussions of journaling, there are typically two types of protection that can be offered: journaled meta-data, and journaled (user’s) data. The term “meta-data” refers to the file name, the file owner, creation date, permissions, etc., whereas “data” is that actual contents of the file. By journaling the meta-data, a journaling file system can guarantee fast system boot times, by avoiding long integrity checks during boot. However, journaling the meta-data does not prevent the contents of the file from getting scrambled. Note that most journaling file systems journal only the meta-data, and not the data. (Ext3fs can be made to journal data, but at a tremendous performance loss). Note that databases have their own unique ways of guaranteeing data integrity in the face of power loss or system crash.

new ideas

Normally one would use a ‘UPS’ to shut down the system properly. But looking at my two c2c intel archs and my 32bit intel laptop, I wonder how long this scenario will remain to be a ‘default’.

I’d expect suspend2ram or suspend2disk becoming a new way doing things better. Say the power outage is just 3minutes. Your suspend2ram takes 5secs, resume 7secs some users might not even notice your system was down.

But if the power outage was say 1-3hours and the system consumes 3W of power you would need no powerful system. Say you use suspend2disk by default you can completely shutdown the system. A battery would have to stand the peak power usage of 130W for about 7 secs (this is just a guess, say c2c processor, several network cards, 4 3,5” harddrives (10W) each.

I have two low power gentoo fileservers, both need less than 35W and both use a different technology.

  • VIA board with a VIA Nehemiah processor (tested using 2.6.24-tuxonice-r4)
  • Intel board with Intel(R) Atom(TM) (untested)

The VIA board was already tested for support of suspend2ram/suspend2disk with great success(and I don’t mean standby). I did not test the Intel board, but I’d expect it to work as well. You might wonder why I tested suspend2disk in the first place - this was not to check for power outage capabilities! I usually have no screen attached to the computer and it is located in a very uncomfortable location. When something goes wrong - for example I shut down the network by fault and I don’t want to shut down the system I can suspend2disk this machine pressing the power button. Next I pick that box up and put it on a desk and resume it with a screen attached. This works fine - trust me on that.

On the other hand I don’t use a ‘software raid’ in these systems so ‘a power fail is not a problem at all’. I just wanted to bring up the idea - maybe someone already uses this the way I proposed?!

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