In a previous post, I’ve explained how to boot EL6 from memory without having / needing a physical disk.
A bright reader, Jeff, came up with an alternative method. This alternative method does not involve dd’ing the image into a loop device, but instead copying the contents of the disk image directly into tmpfs. The result is higher write/read performance and generally lower memory requirements. The latter because unused disk space does not consume memory, which is important to consider when choosing the method to use in production systems.
I got a lot of questions by e-mail on the previous posts regarding the subject and how to actually getting it to work, so this time I’ve created a complete set of files to get you going with Jeff’s method:
dmsquash-live-root. You won’t need this, but I added it as a reference.
dmsquash-live-root. You might need to look at this to understand what is going on.
$ sudo yum install livecd-tools $ sudo livecd-creator --config=centos64-pxe.ks --fslabel=centos64-pxe $ sudo livecd-iso-to-pxeboot centos64-pxe.iso
The last command will output
initrd0.img. Put these on your webserver, http://example.com/.
Boot it using DHCP, iPXE and the following iPXE script:
#!ipxe initrd http://example.com/initrd0.img kernel http://example.com/vmlinuz0 initrd=/initrd0.img root=/centos64-pxe.iso rootfstype=auto rw liveimg toram size=4096 boot
Note the size boot parameter. The patch will set the tmpfs size (in MB) according to this parameter. If the parameter is not set, 2048 is used as a default. The size can be changed runtime using mount, for example:
$ sudo mount -o remount,size=10G,rw /dev/root
The files in the file system in our example will consume around 1 GB of disk space. When booting with a file system (tmpfs) size of 4 GB, the memory usage is quite different between the previous and this (Jeff’s) method:
The important thing to notice here is that the file system already have allocated 4 GB of memory. This is because the file system already is consuming the amount of memory equivalent to the given size of the file system, independently on the actual disk space being consumed by the files currently in the file system.
[root@lab-e ~]# free -m total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 7956 4272 3683 0 6 4135
One can argue that this is a waste of memory. On the other (conservative) side, one can argue that it is safest to pre-allocate the memory to reserve / ensure enough available memory to the file system should the system need it later. It depend on the use case, I guess.
The memory footprint of the file system is equivalent of the size of the current files in the file system, which means that free disk space does not consume memory. In some scenarios, this may be a far better approach in terms of resource cost. You may however very well overbook too much, so be careful to leave sufficient memory available for new files to be added. If the file system tries to use more memory than what’s currently available, your system will crash.
total used free shared buffers cached Mem: 7956 1179 6777 0 0 1001
The following measurements are far from being scientifically valid.
[root@lab-a ~]# time dd if=/dev/zero of=/foobar bs=1M count=2000 ; time sync 2000+0 records in 2000+0 records out 2097152000 bytes (2.1 GB) copied, 2.45832 s, 853 MB/s real 0m2.480s user 0m0.003s sys 0m2.002s real 0m0.245s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.037s
[root@lab-e ~]# time dd if=/dev/zero of=/foobar bs=1M count=2000 ; time sync 2000+0 records in 2000+0 records out 2097152000 bytes (2.1 GB) copied, 0.823305 s, 2.5 GB/s real 0m0.825s user 0m0.002s sys 0m0.821s real 0m0.001s user 0m0.000s sys 0m0.002s