ZFS on Linux

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ZFS is a combined file system and logical volume manager designed by Sun Microsystems. Starting with Proxmox VE 3.4, the native Linux kernel port of the ZFS file system is introduced as optional file system and also as an additional selection for the root file system. There is no need for manually compile ZFS modules - all packages are included.

By using ZFS, its possible to achieve maximum enterprise features with low budget hardware, but also high performance systems by leveraging SSD caching or even SSD only setups. ZFS can replace cost intense hardware raid cards by moderate CPU and memory load combined with easy management.

General ZFS advantages
  • Easy configuration and management with Proxmox VE GUI and CLI.

  • Reliable

  • Protection against data corruption

  • Data compression on file system level

  • Snapshots

  • Copy-on-write clone

  • Various raid levels: RAID0, RAID1, RAID10, RAIDZ-1, RAIDZ-2 and RAIDZ-3

  • Can use SSD for cache

  • Self healing

  • Continuous integrity checking

  • Designed for high storage capacities

  • Protection against data corruption

  • Asynchronous replication over network

  • Open Source

  • Encryption


ZFS depends heavily on memory, so you need at least 8GB to start. In practice, use as much you can get for your hardware/budget. To prevent data corruption, we recommend the use of high quality ECC RAM.

If you use a dedicated cache and/or log disk, you should use an enterprise class SSD (e.g. Intel SSD DC S3700 Series). This can increase the overall performance significantly.

Important Do not use ZFS on top of hardware controller which has its own cache management. ZFS needs to directly communicate with disks. An HBA adapter is the way to go, or something like LSI controller flashed in “IT” mode.

If you are experimenting with an installation of Proxmox VE inside a VM (Nested Virtualization), don’t use virtio for disks of that VM, since they are not supported by ZFS. Use IDE or SCSI instead (works also with virtio SCSI controller type).

Installation as Root File System

When you install using the Proxmox VE installer, you can choose ZFS for the root file system. You need to select the RAID type at installation time:


Also called “striping”. The capacity of such volume is the sum of the capacities of all disks. But RAID0 does not add any redundancy, so the failure of a single drive makes the volume unusable.


Also called “mirroring”. Data is written identically to all disks. This mode requires at least 2 disks with the same size. The resulting capacity is that of a single disk.


A combination of RAID0 and RAID1. Requires at least 4 disks.


A variation on RAID-5, single parity. Requires at least 3 disks.


A variation on RAID-5, double parity. Requires at least 4 disks.


A variation on RAID-5, triple parity. Requires at least 5 disks.

The installer automatically partitions the disks, creates a ZFS pool called rpool, and installs the root file system on the ZFS subvolume rpool/ROOT/pve-1.

Another subvolume called rpool/data is created to store VM images. In order to use that with the Proxmox VE tools, the installer creates the following configuration entry in /etc/pve/storage.cfg:

zfspool: local-zfs
        pool rpool/data
        content images,rootdir

After installation, you can view your ZFS pool status using the zpool command:

# zpool status
  pool: rpool
 state: ONLINE
  scan: none requested

        NAME        STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM
        rpool       ONLINE       0     0     0
          mirror-0  ONLINE       0     0     0
            sda2    ONLINE       0     0     0
            sdb2    ONLINE       0     0     0
          mirror-1  ONLINE       0     0     0
            sdc     ONLINE       0     0     0
            sdd     ONLINE       0     0     0

errors: No known data errors

The zfs command is used configure and manage your ZFS file systems. The following command lists all file systems after installation:

# zfs list
rpool             4.94G  7.68T    96K  /rpool
rpool/ROOT         702M  7.68T    96K  /rpool/ROOT
rpool/ROOT/pve-1   702M  7.68T   702M  /
rpool/data          96K  7.68T    96K  /rpool/data
rpool/swap        4.25G  7.69T    64K  -


The default ZFS disk partitioning scheme does not use the first 2048 sectors. This gives enough room to install a GRUB boot partition. The Proxmox VE installer automatically allocates that space, and installs the GRUB boot loader there. If you use a redundant RAID setup, it installs the boot loader on all disk required for booting. So you can boot even if some disks fail.

Note It is not possible to use ZFS as root file system with UEFI boot.

ZFS Administration

This section gives you some usage examples for common tasks. ZFS itself is really powerful and provides many options. The main commands to manage ZFS are zfs and zpool. Both commands come with great manual pages, which can be read with:

# man zpool
# man zfs
Create a new zpool

To create a new pool, at least one disk is needed. The ashift should have the same sector-size (2 power of ashift) or larger as the underlying disk.

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> <device>

To activate compression

zfs set compression=lz4 <pool>
Create a new pool with RAID-0

Minimum 1 Disk

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> <device1> <device2>
Create a new pool with RAID-1

Minimum 2 Disks

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> mirror <device1> <device2>
Create a new pool with RAID-10

Minimum 4 Disks

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> mirror <device1> <device2> mirror <device3> <device4>
Create a new pool with RAIDZ-1

Minimum 3 Disks

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> raidz1 <device1> <device2> <device3>
Create a new pool with RAIDZ-2

Minimum 4 Disks

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> raidz2 <device1> <device2> <device3> <device4>
Create a new pool with cache (L2ARC)

It is possible to use a dedicated cache drive partition to increase the performance (use SSD).

As <device> it is possible to use more devices, like it’s shown in "Create a new pool with RAID*".

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> <device> cache <cache_device>
Create a new pool with log (ZIL)

It is possible to use a dedicated cache drive partition to increase the performance(SSD).

As <device> it is possible to use more devices, like it’s shown in "Create a new pool with RAID*".

zpool create -f -o ashift=12 <pool> <device> log <log_device>
Add cache and log to an existing pool

If you have an pool without cache and log. First partition the SSD in 2 partition with parted or gdisk

Important Always use GPT partition tables.

The maximum size of a log device should be about half the size of physical memory, so this is usually quite small. The rest of the SSD can be used as cache.

zpool add -f <pool> log <device-part1> cache <device-part2>
Changing a failed device
zpool replace -f <pool> <old device> <new-device>

Activate E-Mail Notification

ZFS comes with an event daemon, which monitors events generated by the ZFS kernel module. The daemon can also send emails on ZFS events like pool errors. Newer ZFS packages ships the daemon in a sparate package, and you can install it using apt-get:

# apt-get install zfs-zed

To activate the daemon it is necessary to edit /etc/zfs/zed.d/zed.rc with your favourite editor, and uncomment the ZED_EMAIL_ADDR setting:


Please note Proxmox VE forwards mails to root to the email address configured for the root user.

Important The only setting that is required is ZED_EMAIL_ADDR. All other settings are optional.

Limit ZFS Memory Usage

It is good to use at most 50 percent (which is the default) of the system memory for ZFS ARC to prevent performance shortage of the host. Use your preferred editor to change the configuration in /etc/modprobe.d/zfs.conf and insert:

options zfs zfs_arc_max=8589934592

This example setting limits the usage to 8GB.


If your root file system is ZFS you must update your initramfs every time this value changes:

update-initramfs -u

SWAP on ZFS on Linux may generate some troubles, like blocking the server or generating a high IO load, often seen when starting a Backup to an external Storage.

We strongly recommend to use enough memory, so that you normally do not run into low memory situations. Additionally, you can lower the “swappiness” value. A good value for servers is 10:

sysctl -w vm.swappiness=10

To make the swappiness persistent, open /etc/sysctl.conf with an editor of your choice and add the following line:

vm.swappiness = 10
Table 1. Linux kernel swappiness parameter values
Value Strategy

vm.swappiness = 0

The kernel will swap only to avoid an out of memory condition

vm.swappiness = 1

Minimum amount of swapping without disabling it entirely.

vm.swappiness = 10

This value is sometimes recommended to improve performance when sufficient memory exists in a system.

vm.swappiness = 60

The default value.

vm.swappiness = 100

The kernel will swap aggressively.