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DRBD Heartbeat and NFS on Debian HowTo

kindly provided by John R. Shearer, PUREmail, Inc.  <>
edited by Lars Ellenberg
Last updated: 2005-08-22


Providing NFS service in High Availability cluster presents several specific problems. This document is intended to provide the reader with enough information to successfully implement HA file service. Due to various distribution-specific issues only Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 "Sarge" is discussed here, though most information is applicable to other Un*x and Linux variants. Where possible I have included information for other distributions.

See Also: HaNFS


To properly install the proposed environment the following hardware will be required:

  • Two computers that are connected to a common switch or hub.
  • The two computers should also be connected by a Null Modem serial cable to provide the 'heartbeat' system an alternate means of communication.
  • Each system must independantly have sufficient disk space to provide file service.


For the purposes of this document the hosts will be named and have IP addresses as follows:



  1. Download, compile and install the DRBD modules on both hosts.

    Alternatively, just apt-get it, see ../InstallDebianPackages07 . Precompiled packages for other distributions (rpms) can be found at

    # apt-get install drbd0.7-module-source
    # apt-get install drbd0.7-utils
    # apt-get install dpatch
    # cd /usr/src
    # tar -zxf drbd0.7.tar.gz
    # cd /usr/src/modules/drbd
    # module-assistant prepare
    # module-assistant automatic-install drbd0.7-module-source
       Navigate the module package creation procedure as logically as
       possible; details for this procedure are not provided.
    # cd /usr/src
    # dpkg -i drbd0.7-module-2.4.27-2-k7_0.7.10-3+2.4.27-8_i386.deb
  2. Configure and start DRBD
    1. Configure /etc/drbd.conf identically on both hosts; a sample configuration is as follows:
      resource drbd-resource-0 {
        protocol C;
        incon-degr-cmd "halt -f"; # killall heartbeat would be a good alternative :->
        disk {
          on-io-error panic;
        syncer {
          rate 10M; # Note: 'M' is MegaBytes, not MegaBits
        on host-a {
          device    /dev/drbd0;
          disk      /dev/hda8;
          meta-disk  internal;
        on host-b {
          device    /dev/drbd0;
          disk      /dev/hda8;
          meta-disk  internal;
    2. Start DRBD on both hosts:
      # /etc/init.d/drbd start
    3. Declare one of the hosts to be a "Primary" node:
      host-a: # drbdadm primary all
      You may have to force the issue by running:
      host-a: # drbdsetup /dev/drbd0 primary --do-what-I-say
  3. Create and mount your filesystem on the newly created DRBD virtual block device on the primary host:
    host-a: # mkreiserfs /dev/drbd0  (or mke2fs, or whatever filesystem you
    host-a: # mkdir /share
    host-a: # mkdir /share/spool0
    host-a: # mount /dev/drbd0 /share/spool0
    Now create a subdirectory that will be shared out via NFS:
    host-a: # mkdir /share/spool0/data
  4. Install and configure NFS on both hosts
    1. Install the Kernel NFS Server Debian package:
      # apt-get install nfs-kernel-server
    2. ..and stop the NFS server:
      # /etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server stop
    3. Add the directory in the filesystem which was just created to the list of directories to serve via NFS by running this on both hosts:
      # echo "/share/spool0/data,sync)" >> /etc/exports
    4. NFS will be serving a directory that resides in a filesystem that runs atop a DRBD volume. That filesystem can only be mounted by one node at a time to prevent filesystem corruption. We must give heartbeat complete control over DRBD, the filesystem and NFS, therefore we must prevent the NFS service from starting by itself on both hosts:
      # update-rc.d -f nfs-kernel-server remove
      (for non-Debian systems you can probably just delete /etc/init.d/
      nfs or /etc/init.d/nfs-server)
    5. NFS typically stores its lock management data in /var/lib/nfs. That lock management data needs to be on the DRBD volume so that it will be available to the active node after a fail-over. To put NFS lock management files on the DRBD volume execute the following (since the primary host host-a is the only one with the filesystem mounted this step can only be executed on that host):
      host-a: # mv /var/lib/nfs /share/spool0/varlibnfs
      host-a: # ln -s /share/spool0/varlibnfs /var/lib/nfs
      Note that although this procedure is often recommended it is contested by Peter Kruse at The author of this document makes no claim to its necesitity.

    6. The NFS statd daemon associates the hostname with certain state information. Since we will not have the same hostname when we fail over, we must tell statd to use our cluster name (any static name will do) instead of our hostname. In Debian this accomplished by defining the variable STATDOPTS in /etc/default/nfs-common. The following must be executed on both hosts:
      # echo 'STATDOPTS="-n my_clusters_name"' >> /etc/default/nfs-common
      In Redhat/Fedora the procedure is something like...
      # echo 'STATD_HOSTNAME=my_clusters_name' >> /etc/sysconfig/network
      (Anyone: please verify this)
      For other distributions you will probably have to insert

      rpc.statd -m my_clusters_name into the NFS startup/shutdown script. For a better description of why this modification is required see an excellent post by Ragnar Kjørstad at

  5. Install and configure 'heartbeat'
    1. Install the heartbeat package on both hosts:
      # apt-get install heartbeat
    2. Configure the heartbeat package on both hosts. Here are sample heartbeat configuration files:

      /etc/ha.d/authkeys for both hosts:

      auth 2
      1 crc
      2 sha1 ThisIsASampleKeyAnythingAlphaNumericIsGoodHere
      3 md5 ThisIsASampleKeyAnythingAlphaNumericIsGoodHere

      /etc/ha.d/ for node-a (node-b would have the same configuration but with "ucast eth0" instead of

      keepalive 1
      deadtime 10
      warntime 5
      initdead 60
      udpport 694
      baud 19200
      serial /dev/ttyS0
      ucast eth0
      auto_failback off
      watchdog /dev/watchdog
      node node-a
      node node-b
      Note that auto_failback is off; we should not fail back unless a human has confirmed that the DRBD state is consistent.
    3. We use the Delay script to create a brief pause during failover operations. It was proposed by Jens Dreger in a post at to resolve a problem getting the error "Stale NFS file handle" during failovers. This may be a Debian specific problem and it may even have been resolved; consider omitting it during your testing. If anyone has any advice on this step please let me know. I'd suggest reading the HaNFS page - those directions work fine without Delay...

    4. Create a second "heartbeat resource" script that kills any NFS daemons that may have survived being shut down gracefully...
      # echo 'killall -9 nfsd ; exit 0' > /etc/heartbeat/resource.d/killnfsd
      # chmod 755 /etc/heartbeat/resource.d/killnfsd

      It seems that the Debian nfs-kernel-server RC script often fails to stop all of the running nfsd processes. This can result in clients getting "Stale NFS file handle" errors when attempting to failover gracefully. This script seems to solve the problem. This procedure was inspired by Jens Dreger's post above. This is fixed in newer versions of NFS - and is also documented and explained on the HaNFS page.

    5. Setup heartbeat to make the currently active node the DRBD primary, mount the filesystem, kill any running NFS daemons, start NFS services, pause for a few seconds and take over the shared IP address. Here is a sample


      host-a  drbddisk::drbd-resource-0 \
              Filesystem::/dev/drbd0::/share/spool0/data::reiserfs \
              killnfsd \
              nfs-common \
              nfs-kernel-server \
              Delay::3::0 \
  6. Configure clients to mount from your new HA file server:
    client-a: # mkdir /mnt/hafs
    client-a: # echo "fs-cluster:/share/spool0/data /mnt/hafs nfs defaults 0 0" >> /etc/fstab
    client-a: # mount -a
    Note that fs-cluster must resolve to, the shared IP address of our new cluster.

Additional Enhancements

In the above examples the two hosts are connected to the network, and therefore to their NFS client hosts, by a single Ethernet interface. Should that interface, cable or hub/switch fail then the hosts will be unreachable and, moreover, they will be unable to replicate. Using the Ethernet bonding driver we can set up hosts that have multiple interfaces which operate in fail-over mode.

To improve file service availability during a full DRBD synchronization the two file servers can be connected together by cross-over cable on a separate Ethernet interface. This will reduce replication times, increase general throughput (when using DRBD protocol C), and prevent replication from interfering with file service.

These two enhancements can be combined. A server with four interfaces, two that provide network connectivity and two that provide host-to-host connectivity, gives the ultimate in throughput and reliability.