In this article I will describe how you can setup a webserver environment with Highly Available (HA) storage, provided by GlusterFS. We will be setting up a simple environment in which storage between two webservers needs to be replicated.

GlusterFS is a scalable network filesystem suitable for data-intensive tasks. It is free and open source software and can utilize common off-the-shelf hardware. To learn more, please see the Gluster project home page.


You will need two servers available, each with a dedicated disk for storage, such as /dev/vdb or /dev/sdb. I will be using Fedora 24, which of writing is the latest version.

The following needs to be installed on both servers:

$ dnf install -y glusterfs-server xfsprogs

This includes the server component for the distributed filesystem, and the tools needed to format the disk we will use to store the files. Gluster recommends to use XFS as the filesystem.

We will assume for this article, that the machines will be running Apache. If this is not installed already, you can do the following:

$ dnf install -y httpd


Make sure the hostnames and IP addresses of the servers are known to each other. For this, check the content of /etc/hosts

/etc/hosts server01-public server01-public server01-private server02-private

Note: these servers have two interfaces, Although this is not necessary, it is strongly recommended to separate the traffic from the web and what you use for the storage network. In our case, the web-facing IP addresses have not been load-balanced yet. This is a topic for future articles.

Prepare disks

Since Gluster relies on extended file attributes (xattr), we will need to increase the inode size when formatting the disks.

Perform on the following on both the servers

$ mkfs.xfs -i size=512 /dev/vdb
meta-data=/dev/vdb               isize=512    agcount=4, agsize=3276800 blks
         =                       sectsz=512   attr=2, projid32bit=1
         =                       crc=1        finobt=1, sparse=0
data     =                       bsize=4096   blocks=13107200, imaxpct=25
         =                       sunit=0      swidth=0 blks
naming   =version 2              bsize=4096   ascii-ci=0 ftype=1
log      =internal log           bsize=4096   blocks=6400, version=2
         =                       sectsz=512   sunit=0 blks, lazy-count=1
realtime =none                   extsz=4096   blocks=0, rtextents=0

Now we need to create a mountpoint for the filesystem. We will use /data/var-www/brick01 on server01:

$ mkdir -p /data/var-www/brick01
$ echo '/dev/vdb /data/var-www/brick01 xfs defaults 1 2' >> /etc/fstab
$ mount -a 

and /data/var-www/brick02 on server02:

$ mkdir -p /data/var-www/brick02
$ echo '/dev/vdb /data/var-www/brick02 xfs defaults 1 2' >> /etc/fstab
$ mount -a 

Setup Gluster

You will now create a cluster of Gluster servers, which means that we will create a trust between the two nodes. But before we can do this, we need to make sure the Gluster daemon is running on the nodes. Perform the following commands on both of the nodes:

$ systemctl enable glusterd
$ systemctl start glusterd
$ systemctl status glusterd

Now we need to create the trusted connection. The following commands will only need to be used on one of the nodes. In my case, this will be server01:

$ gluster peer probe server02-private
peer probe: success.

Note: the hostname here refers to the private IP address. This is not the same range as the public network. For security purposes you will likely separate the traffic.

You can verify is the trust exists by running:

$ gluster peer status
Number of Peers: 1

Hostname: server02-private
Uuid: af523e9b-4257-485d-aa45-ebd24f115c42
State: Peer in Cluster (Connected)

If you would run this command also on server02, you would get a similar result:

Number of Peers: 1

Hostname: server01-private
Uuid: 74c77082-b62c-4cc4-b33f-02de36083990
State: Peer in Cluster (Connected)

Create Gluster volume

In case of a failure, we do not want our data to be unavailable. Therefore we need to have two copies of our data, and we do this by creating a replicated volume.

This command will only need to be run on one node, as Gluster will take care of the related nodes.

$ gluster volume create var-www replica 2 \
          server01-private:/data/var-www/brick01/volume \
volume create: var-www: success: please start the volume to access data
$ gluster volume start var-www
volume start: var-www: success
$ gluster volume info
Volume Name: var-www
Type: Replicate
Volume ID: e91014ca-f98c-42e5-8e75-de4d2e65f569
Status: Started
Number of Bricks: 1 x 2 = 2
Transport-type: tcp
Brick1: server01-private:/data/var-www/brick01/volume
Brick2: server02-private:/data/var-www/brick02/volume
Options Reconfigured:
transport.address-family: inet
performance.readdir-ahead: on
nfs.disable: on

Mount Gluster volume

Before you can mount the volume on /var/www to share the webpages, we need to move the original /var/www out of the way and create a new directory to mount. Perform the following commands on both the servers:

$ systemctl stop httpd
$ mv /var/www{,.orig}
$ mkdir /var/www

Now that we have the mountpoint, we can add an entry to fstab to deal with mounting of our volume. On server01 you need to do the following:

$ echo 'server01-private:/var-www /var/www glusterfs defaults,_netdev,fetch-attempts=3 0 0' >> /etc/fstab
$ mount -a

And on server02:

$ echo 'server02-private:/var-www /var/www glusterfs defaults,_netdev,fetch-attempts=3 0 0' >> /etc/fstab
$ mount -a

Now the volume has been mounted and replication is available. We use _netdev because network needs to be up before we can use this filesystem, and fetch_attempts will deal with the volume information in case of a failure. Since we have multiple IP address, this is a suggested setting.

Test replication

On server01 you can do the following:

$ mkdir -p /var/www/html
$ echo 'Hello, World!' > /var/www/html/index.html
$ systemctl start httpd

If you would now open the web facing IP address, you should see the message: Hello, World!.

Note: if you have issues opening the page, or the default Fedora test page gets returned, you might have SELinux enabled. In this case, you need to turn on the following boolean:

$ setsebool -P httpd_use_fusefs 1

which will allow Apache to use the FUSE filesystem mount as used by GlusterFS.

Now, on server02 you can check the content of the folder:

$ ls /var/www/html

and you would see an index.html file. Now start Apache and you will see that the content is also served from this server.

$ systemctl start httpd


Using GlusterFS it is easy to setup an environment that can handle issues with storage availability. You now have a replicate volume that is available on two servers. Actions we take on each of these servers, will be replicated to the other server.

In this case we have setup the servers to handle both the storage and act as a client to read these files. More advanced are available and are described in the documentation.

Next step

Now that we have implemented replicated storage for our webservers, we need to provide a HA solution to deal with the traffic on the webfacing IP addresses. In an OpenStack environment you could use Neutron to setup a loadbalancer and health monitor for the two servers. How to set this up in described in the following article. However, you can also do so with HAProxy and a failover mechanism, which will be the topic of a future article.

If you have questions please let me know on Twitter at @gbraad or by email.


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