My train to Pilsen had about 300+ people onboard and apparently super-modern ultra-fast WiFi technology can’t handle that many people. At least when administrator sets C class IPv4 network. People have cell phones, tablets and laptops. It’s no surprise that the DHCP server ran out of resources since I see like 500+ devices around.

Hey, Leo Express, I am looking at you!

Luckily, not being able to connect to the internet I started hacking discovery image. I was doing little research on image-based deployment. I already created a small patch exposing all block devices via netcat. But since OpenStack guys do deployments via iSCSI, I was wondering if I can do the same.

But first of all, let’s test how raw image copy (via dd) compares to exposed block device (iSCSI/NBD). Instead of iSCSI, I will test Network Block Device, which is easier to configure and it is present in all Linux distributions, including Fedora and RHEL (the client is actually in the kernel itself).

Target setup with NBD is very easy:

dst# mkdir /etc/nbd-server/; cat >/etc/nbd-server/config <<EOF
exportname = /dev/XYZ
readonly = false
multifile = false
copyonwrite = false

dst# nbd-server -d

src# sudo modprobe nbd
src# sudo nbd-client dst-server -N vdb /dev/nbd1

Initial testing in the train involved testing on KVM instance. Direct transfer of 1GB image with CirrOS (created with a command below) with block size of 1kB was the fastest method indeed:

src# time sudo dd if=/tmp/cirros.img of=/dev/nbd1 bs=1k
real    0m0.882s

Compressing the data speeds up things, lzop seems to be the fastest of course:

dst# nc -l 1234 > /dev/vdb
src# time sudo cat /tmp/cirros.img | ncat dst-server 1234
real    0m9.871s

dst# nc -l 1234 | gunzip > /dev/vdb
src# time sudo cat /tmp/cirros.img | gzip -1 | ncat dst-server 1234
real    0m5.917s

dst# nc -l 1234 | lzop -d > /dev/vdb
src# time sudo cat /tmp/cirros.img | lzop | ncat dst-server 1234
real    0m2.358s

Note that KVM/virtio is a special case, usually lzop is faster than raw data. Now the remote block device approach:

src# time sudo virt-builder cirros-0.3.1 --output /tmp/cirros.img --size 1G
real    0m20.352s

The same size, but over the (virtual) network:

src# time sudo virt-builder cirros-0.3.1 --output /dev/nbd1
real    0m20.867s

I was surprised that the transfer was almost the same speed as local storage (I was using virtio driver). I was expecting it to be little more slower. That looks promising!

At home, I was able to do real testing on remote RHEL7 server over 1gig LAN connection. For the record, I had to disable IPv6 to get nbd-server running due to some bugs. For comparison, I created 10GB image. First, test the fastest possible stream method:

dst# nc -l 1234 | lzop -d > /dev/XYZ
src# time sudo cat /tmp/cirros.img | lzop | ncat dst-server 1234
real    1m32.336s

Now, that is a difference. Let’s test attached block storage. Locally first:

src# time sudo virt-builder cirros-0.3.1 --output cirros.img --size 10240000000b
real    0m33.030s

The same size, but over the (gigabit) network:

src# time sudo virt-builder cirros-0.3.1 --output /dev/nbd1
real    0m29.926s

I was scratching my head for few seconds until I realized why the attached physical storage is actually faster. The local test was on my T430s laptop with HDD in DVD bay while the server was Dell Precision T5400 with end-consumer SATA drive. Still faster than the two inch laptop one.

Anyway, it looks like NBD performs well enough. I think this is a go to implement this in foreman-discovery-image. Exporting volumes via NBD is an easy task, the only work needs to be done on smart-proxy side to implement new virt-builder plugin which will do the deployment.