As part of a planned disk migration, I decided to move my Ubuntu installation from a traditional ext4 setup to ZFS. I did a lot of preparation and research, but things went much smoother than I had previously anticipated. I did not even have to consult IPMI for any recovery.

Existing partition layout:

# fdisk -l /dev/nvme1n1
Device             Start        End    Sectors  Size Type
/dev/nvme1n1p1      2048    1050623    1048576  512M EFI System
/dev/nvme1n1p2   1050624  269486079  268435456  128G Linux filesystem
/dev/nvme1n1p3 269486080 3907029134 3637543055  1.7T Solaris /usr & Apple ZFS

Since I already have /home running on ZFS pool0, there’s not much to prepare. All I need to move is the rootfs itself, which has around 20 GB of data.

Start by installing anything necessary:

apt install zfs-initramfs arch-install-scripts

Then create the dataset layout:

# pool0 already has xattr=sa
zfs create \
  -o canmount=off \
  -o mountpoint=none \
  -o acltype=posix \
zfs create -o mountpoint=/mnt/new pool0/ROOT/ubuntu

rsync -avSHAXx --delete / /mnt/new/

Now there’s a little deviation from common setup. I don’t trust GRUB’s ZFS support, so I’m going to merge /boot into the EFI partition (which has a decent 512 MB of capacity). This is a decision made after surveying my friends’ setup.

# Merge data
rsync -ax /boot/ /boot/efi/ # Ignore any errors
umount /boot/efi
vim /etc/fstab
# Change /boot/efi to /boot
# Also remove the current rootfs entry
systemctl daemon-reload
mount /boot

Now prepare GRUB:

zpool set bootfs=pool0/ROOT/ubuntu pool0
mount -o bind /boot /mnt/new/boot
arch-chroot /mnt/new
# grub-install
Installing for x86_64-efi platform.
grub-install: error: cannot find EFI directory.

Well, if only grub-install didn’t hard-code /boot/efi (which is against the FHS standard anyways). Fortunately, I recall a small detail that could make this work in another convenient way:

dpkg-reconfigure grub-efi-amd64

Also regenerate GRUB configuration:

zfs set mountpoint=/ pool0/ROOT/ubuntu

Now double-check the GRUB configuration at /boot/grub/grub.cfg and make sure there are lines like this:

linux /vmlinuz [...] root=ZFS=pool0/ROOT/ubuntu [...]

After verifying paths to the kernel and the initrd image are correct, reboot:


In just a minute, I noticed my server came back up. Time to confirm everything is working as expected:

# mount
pool0/ROOT/ubuntu on / type zfs (rw,relatime,xattr,posixacl,casesensitive)

# df -h /
Filesystem         Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
pool0/ROOT/ubuntu  1.2T   11G  1.1T   1% /

# zfs get compressratio pool0/ROOT
pool0/ROOT  compressratio  2.02x  -

The last thing is to rewrite my rootfs backup script to take snapshots directly, instead of rsync-ing to another ZFS pool before taking a snapshot there. After taking a snapshot, I can also send it away as a “backup against disk failure”.

A slightly revised version of my snapshotting script, sans the sending part:


set -e

DATE=$(date +%Y%m%d)

NOW="$(($(date +%s) - 3600))"
if [ "$(zfs list -Hpo name "$SNAPSHOT")" = "$SNAPSHOT" ]; then
  echo "Snapshot exists: $SNAPSHOT"
  zfs snapshot -ro ibug:retention="$RETENTION" "$SNAPSHOT"

zfs list -Hpt snapshot -o name,creation,ibug:retention "$DATASET" |
  while read -r zNAME zCREATION zRETENTION; do
  if [ "$zRETENTION" = "-" ]; then
    # assume default value
    zRETENTION="$((7 * 86400))"
  UNTIL_DATE="$(date -d "@$UNTIL" "+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S")"
  echo "$zNAME: $UNTIL_DATE"
  if [ "$NOW" -ge "$UNTIL" ]; then
    zfs destroy -rv "$zNAME"
# crontab
15 4 * * 1,5     /root/ 30
15 4 * * 0,2-4,6 /root/  7

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