Oracle Solaris ZFS Administration Guide

Using Disks in a ZFS Storage Pool

The most basic element of a storage pool is physical storage. Physical storage can be any block device of at least 128 MB in size. Typically, this device is a hard drive that is visible to the system in the /dev/dsk directory.

A storage device can be a whole disk (c1t0d0) or an individual slice (c0t0d0s7). The recommended mode of operation is to use an entire disk, in which case the disk does not require special formatting. ZFS formats the disk using an EFI label to contain a single, large slice. When used in this way, the partition table that is displayed by the format command appears similar to the following:

Current partition table (original):
Total disk sectors available: 286722878 + 16384 (reserved sectors)

Part      Tag    Flag     First Sector         Size         Last Sector
  0        usr    wm                34      136.72GB          286722911    
  1 unassigned    wm                 0           0               0    
  2 unassigned    wm                 0           0               0    
  3 unassigned    wm                 0           0               0    
  4 unassigned    wm                 0           0               0    
  5 unassigned    wm                 0           0               0    
  6 unassigned    wm                 0           0               0    
  8   reserved    wm         286722912        8.00MB          286739295    

To use a whole disk, the disk must be named by using the /dev/dsk/cNtNdN naming convention. Some third-party drivers use a different naming convention or place disks in a location other than the /dev/dsk directory. To use these disks, you must manually label the disk and provide a slice to ZFS.

ZFS applies an EFI label when you create a storage pool with whole disks. For more information about EFI labels, see EFI Disk Label in System Administration Guide: Devices and File Systems.

A disk that is intended for a ZFS root pool must be created with an SMI label, not an EFI label. You can relabel a disk with an SMI label by using the format -e command.

Disks can be specified by using either the full path, such as /dev/dsk/c1t0d0, or a shorthand name that consists of the device name within the /dev/dsk directory, such as c1t0d0. For example, the following are valid disk names:

Using whole physical disks is the easiest way to create ZFS storage pools. ZFS configurations become progressively more complex, from management, reliability, and performance perspectives, when you build pools from disk slices, LUNs in hardware RAID arrays, or volumes presented by software-based volume managers. The following considerations might help you determine how to configure ZFS with other hardware or software storage solutions:

For additional information about storage pool recommendations, see the ZFS best practices site:

Disks are identified both by their path and by their device ID, if available. On systems where device ID information is available, this identification method allows devices to be reconfigured without updating ZFS. Because device ID generation and management can vary by system, export the pool first before moving devices, such as moving a disk from one controller to another controller. A system event, such as a firmware update or other hardware change, might change the device IDs in your ZFS storage pool, which can cause the devices to become unavailable.