23.4. Stacking I/O Parameters

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All layers of the Linux I/O stack have been engineered to propagate the various I/O parameters up the stack. When a layer consumes an attribute or aggregates many devices, the layer must expose appropriate I/O parameters so that upper-layer devices or tools will have an accurate view of the storage as it transformed. Some practical examples are:
  • Only one layer in the I/O stack should adjust for a non-zero alignment_offset; once a layer adjusts accordingly, it will export a device with an alignment_offset of zero.
  • A striped Device Mapper (DM) device created with LVM must export a minimum_io_size and optimal_io_size relative to the stripe count (number of disks) and user-provided chunk size.
In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Device Mapper and Software Raid (MD) device drivers can be used to arbitrarily combine devices with different I/O parameters. The kernel's block layer will attempt to reasonably combine the I/O parameters of the individual devices. The kernel will not prevent combining heterogeneous devices; however, be aware of the risks associated with doing so.
For instance, a 512-byte device and a 4K device may be combined into a single logical DM device, which would have a logical_block_size of 4K. File systems layered on such a hybrid device assume that 4K will be written atomically, but in reality it will span 8 logical block addresses when issued to the 512-byte device. Using a 4K logical_block_size for the higher-level DM device increases potential for a partial write to the 512-byte device if there is a system crash.
If combining the I/O parameters of multiple devices results in a conflict, the block layer may issue a warning that the device is susceptible to partial writes and/or is misaligned.
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