As disks become larger, and disk arrays present ever larger logical devices to Solaris systems, users need to be able to subdivide disks or logical volumes into more than eight partitions, often to create manageable file systems or partition sizes. Solaris Volume Manager's soft partition feature addresses this need.
Solaris Volume Manager can support up to 8192 logical volumes per disk set (including the local, or unspecified, disk set), but is configured for 128 (d0–d127) by default. To increase the number of logical volumes, see Changing Solaris Volume Manager Defaults.
Do not increase the number of possible logical volumes far beyond the number that you will actually use. Solaris Volume Manager creates a device node (/dev/dsk/md/*) and associated data structures for every logical volume that is permitted by the maximum value. These additional possible volumes can result in a substantial performance impact.
You use soft partitions to divide a disk slice or logical volume into as many partitions as needed. You must provide a name for each division or soft partition, just like you do for other storage volumes, such as stripes or mirrors. A soft partition, once named, can be accessed by applications, including file systems, as long as the soft partition is not included in another volume. Once included in a volume, the soft partition should no longer be directly accessed.
Soft partitions can be placed directly above a disk slice, or on top of a mirror, stripe or RAID 5 volume. A soft partition may not be both above and below other volumes. For example, a soft partition built on a stripe with a mirror built on the soft partition is not allowed.
A soft partition appears to file systems and other applications to be a single contiguous logical volume. However, the soft partition actually comprises a series of extents that could be located at arbitrary locations on the underlying media. In addition to the soft partitions, extent headers (also called system recovery data areas) on disk record information about the soft partitions to facilitate recovery in the event of a catastrophic system failure.