3.3.7. Thinly-Provisioned Snapshot Volumes

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The Red Hat Enterprise Linux release 6.4 version of LVM provides support for thinly-provisioned snapshot volumes. Thin snapshot volumes allow many virtual devices to be stored on the same data volume. This simplifies administration and allows for the sharing of data between snapshot volumes.
As for all LVM snapshot volumes, as well as all thin volumes, thin snapshot volumes are not supported across the nodes in a cluster. The snapshot volume must be exclusively activated on only one cluster node.
Thin snapshot volumes provide the following benefits:
  • A thin snapshot volume can reduce disk usage when there are multiple snapshots of the same origin volume.
  • If there are multiple snapshots of the same origin, then a write to the origin will cause one COW operation to preserve the data. Increasing the number of snapshots of the origin should yield no major slowdown.
  • Thin snapshot volumes can be used as a logical volume origin for another snapshot. This allows for an arbitrary depth of recursive snapshots (snapshots of snapshots of snapshots...).
  • A snapshot of a thin logical volume also creates a thin logical volume. This consumes no data space until a COW operation is required, or until the snapshot itself is written.
  • A thin snapshot volume does not need to be activated with its origin, so a user may have only the origin active while there are many inactive snapshot volumes of the origin.
  • When you delete the origin of a thinly-provisioned snapshot volume, each snapshot of that origin volume becomes an independent thinly-provisioned volume. This means that instead of merging a snapshot with its origin volume, you may choose to delete the origin volume and then create a new thinly-provisioned snapshot using that independent volume as the origin volume for the new snapshot.
Although there are many advantages to using thin snapshot volumes, there are some use cases for which the older LVM snapshot volume feature may be more appropriate to your needs:
  • You cannot change the chunk size of a thin pool. If the thin pool has a large chunk size (for example, 1MB) and you require a short-living snapshot for which a chunk size that large is not efficient, you may elect to use the older snapshot feature.
  • You cannot limit the size of a thin snapshot volume; the snapshot will use all of the space in the thin pool, if necessary. This may not be appropriate for your needs.
In general, you should consider the specific requirements of your site when deciding which snapshot format to use.
For information on configuring thin snapshot volumes, see Section 5.4.6, “Creating Thinly-Provisioned Snapshot Volumes”.
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