Appendix: Booting From Local Storage CacheΒΆ

Cluster designers sometimes include storage on compute nodes as scratch space or to fulfill the requirements of other cluster technologies such as caching in high speed storage systems. If a cluster administrator is able to partition off some of that space, ClusterWare can be configured to take advantage of this local storage. This can free up RAM that would otherwise be used to store the operating system and libraries, and in some circumstances of a very large node count may decrease boot-time network load for nodes which have local storage.

When a node boots using the disked boot_style, it checks two other attributes: _disk_cache and _disk_root. Each attribute should be set to a value that can be passed as a device to the mount command. This includes explicit partition paths such as /dev/sda2 or /dev/nvme0n1p4 as well as LABEL=X or UUID=Y aliases. Because UUIDs are randomly generated during partitioning or file system creation, they are less suitable for cluster use since every node would require a different value. Similarly, a heterogeneous cluster may have different physical disk configurations requiring a cluster administrator to specify different partition paths for different classes of nodes. For these reasons we encourage cluster administrators to label the target partitions using a tool appropriate to the file system, e.g. e2label. Because the _disk_cache and _disk_root attributes are ignored by other boot styles, setting nodes to the disked style can be used as a flag to enable and disable booting from local storage without otherwise altering the node's boot configuration.

Early in the boot process a disked node will attempt to mount the partition specified by the _disk_cache attribute. If this attribute does not exist or if the partition specified cannot be mounted, an error will be logged and booting will continue without local caching. Shortly after the cache is mounted, the mount_rootfs script will attempt to mount the specified _disk_root partition. If this partition is not provided or cannot be mounted, an error is logged and booting continues in a rwram or roram style depending on the type of disk image downloaded. Log messages from this early boot process can be found in /var/log/messages on the node, and ClusterWare-specific early boot messages are also captured in the /opt/scyld/clusterware-node/atboot/cw-dracut.log file.

If the disk cache is successfully mounted, then prior to downloading any image the compute node will check if the image is already present in the cache. If the image is present, then the mount_rootfs script will compare the local file size and checksum to values provided by the head node. If both match, then the image download is skipped and the local copy will be used. Alternatively, if the image is not present in the cache or there is a size or checksum mismatch, then any local copy will be deleted and a fresh copy of the image will be downloaded into the cache partition.

During subsequent boots the booting node will confirm the cached image is valid and use the local copy whenever possible. Note that if the cache partition is large enough to hold several compressed images, then the local cache can provide a somewhat faster means to switch between images on consecutive boots. If the cache ever fills, thereby causing an image download to fail, then the cache will be cleared and the node will reboot to try again.


Please note that a cache partition must be large enough to hold at least the compressed compute node image plus a few megabytes, though ideally should be sized to hold a handful of compressed images.

If the disk root is successfully mounted, then when the image would usually be unpacked into RAM, the mount_rootfs script will instead delete the contents of the disk root and unpack the image into the now empty partition. Booting will then continue with that partition as the system root. Note that any changes made to the contents of this partition are intentionally discarded during the next disked boot. This is done to prevent cluster administrators from inadvertently creating a heterogeneous cluster with unexpected and unpredictable behavior.


Root partitions must be large enough to hold the uncompressed image in addition to files that may be installed after boot. A rough minimum estimate is to provide 2.5 times the space required by the compressed image. We encourage administrators to err on the side of providing excess space, as storage is usually inexpensive.

In order to reduce the chances of automating destructive mistakes, ClusterWare does not provide tools to automatically partition compute node disks based on node attributes. Cluster administrators can manually partition disks in individual nodes for very small clusters and should research parallel management tools such as ansible when managing disk partitions on larger clusters: