Sun Cluster 3.1 Data Services Developer's Guide

Using Symbolic Links for Multihosted Data Placement

Occasionally an application has the path names of its data files hard-wired, with no mechanism for overriding the hard-wired path names. To avoid modifying the application code, you can sometimes use symbolic links.

For example, suppose the application names its data file with the hard-wired path name /etc/mydatafile. You can change that path from a file to a symbolic link that has its value pointing to a file in one of the logical host's file systems. For example, you can make it a symbolic link to /global/phys-schost-2/mydatafile.

A problem can occur with this use of symbolic links if the application, or one of its administrative procedures, modifies the data file name as well as its contents. For example, suppose that the application performs an update by first creating a new temporary file, /etc/ Then it renames the temporary file to have the real file name by using the rename(2) system call (or the mv(1) program). By creating the temporary file and then renaming it to the real file, the data service is attempting to ensure that its data file contents are always well formed.

Unfortunately, the rename(2) action destroys the symbolic link. The name /etc/mydatafile is now a regular file, and is in the same file system as the /etc directory, not in the cluster's global file system. Because the /etc file system is private to each host, the data is not available after a takeover or switchover.

The underlying problem in this situation is that the existing application is not aware of the symbolic link and was not written with symbolic links considered. To use symbolic links to redirect data access into the logical host's file systems, the application implementation must behave in a way that does not obliterate the symbolic links. So, symbolic links are not a complete remedy for the problem of placing data on the cluster's global file systems.