This document describes sparse files, exposure due to sparse files, and the effects of certain commands on sparse files. This document applies to AIX 3.2.
Many applications, particularly databases, maintain data in sparse files. A sparse file is a file with empty space, or gaps, left open for future addition of data. If the empty spaces are filled with the ASCII null character and the spaces are large enough, the file will be sparse, and disk blocks will not be allocated to it.
This creates an exposure: a large file will be created, but the disk blocks will not be allocated. Then, as data is added to the file, the disk blocks will be allocated but there may not be enough free disk blocks in the file system. Then the file system will be full and writes to any file in the file system will fail.
You can prevent these problems by either assuring that you have no sparse files on your system or by planning to have enough free space in the file system for the future allocation of the blocks.
You also need to be aware of how you manipulate sparse or potentially sparse files because you can easily change them from sparse to not sparse or vice-versa.
An example sparse file can be created fairly easily. To do this, open the file, seek to a large address, and write some data. This can be demonstrated with the dd command, as follows:
date > notsparse ls -l
The output of the ls command will be similar to:
total 8 -rw-r--r-- 1 root sys 29 Dec 21 08:12 notsparse
(NOTE: BOS Extensions 1/Extended Commands [bosext1.extcmds.obj] must be installed to enable the fileplace commands or perfagent.tools for 4.1.)
The output for 3.2 will look similar to:
File: notsparse Size: 29 bytes Vol: /dev/lv03 (4096 byte blks) Logical blocks -------------- 00016 1 blk, 4 KB, 100.0%
(NOTE: BOS Extensions 1 [bosext1.extcmds.obj] must be installed to enable the fileplace command.)
The output for 4.1 will look similiar to:
File: notsparse Size: 29 bytes Vol: /dev/lv03 Blk Size: 4096 Frag size: 4096 Nfrags: 1 Compress: no Logical Fragment ---------------- 00716 1 frags 4096 bytes, 100.0%
(NOTE: Performance Analysis and Control Commands [perfagent.tools] must be installed to enable the fileplace command for 4.1.)
du -rs *
touch sparse.1 dd if=notsparse of=sparse.1 seek=100
dd: 0+1 records in. dd: 0+1 records out.
The dd command takes the data from the regular file and places it 100 512-byte blocks into the sparse.1 file. Note that nothing is written to the initial 99 512-byte blocks. The following steps show the characteristics of the resulting file.
total 16 -rw-r--r-- 1 root sys 29 Dec 21 08:12 notsparse -rw-r--r-- 1 root sys 51229 Dec 21 08:13 sparse.1
Example output for 3.2:
File: sparse.1 Size: 51229 bytes Vol: /dev/lv03 (4096 byte blks) Logical blocks -------------- unallocated 12 blks, 48 KB, 92.3% 00018 1 blk, 4 KB, 7.7%
Example output for 4.1
File: sparse.1 Size: 51229 bytes Vol: /dev/lv03 Blk Size: 4096 Frag Size: 4096 Nfrags: 1 Compress: no Logical Fragment ---------------- unallocated 12 frags 49152 Bytes, 0.0% 0000769 1 frags 4096 Bytes, 100.0%
du -rs *
8 notsparse 8 sparse.1
The restore command aggressively preserves sparseness. In fact, the restore command will unallocate any blocks filled with zeroes, thus making a file sparse.
Currently there is a defect in the restbynode command where inode backups do not preserve sparseness on the restore. The fix is ix50200, while the workaround calls for the use of a version of restbyinode with the sccs ID for tape.c at 22.214.171.124.
NOTE: Users with 4.1.3 or later will not need this fix, however, users with earlier versions of 4.1 will need ix50815.
The cp command does not preserve the sparseness of a file.
If you create a backup using the cpio command on sparse files, you will need to use the pax command to restore that data. Using the cpio command to restore the data will not preserve sparseness.
NOTE: The pax command can only read cpio backups if the cpio c flag was used when the backup was created. If the c flag was not used, the pax command will not be able to restore the data.
NOTE: This pax limitation is no longer valid for 4.1.
pax -vf /dev/rmt#
restore -Tvf /dev/rmt0
restore -tvf /dev/rmt0
NOTE: If you used cpio or tar, restore with pax.
Using the dd command on the file itself does not preserve sparseness. However, using dd on the file system device does preserve the state of the individual files.
Example: Backing up a logical volume:
dd if=/dev/datalv of=/dev/rmt0 ibs=4096 obs=1024 conv=sync
The mksysb command in AIX 3.2 uses tar to back up the mounted JFS file systems in the rootvg. See the section on tar. Mksysb uses the pax command to restore the system. See the section on pax. The mksysb command in AIX 4.1 uses backup/restore. See the section on backup/restore.
NOTE: The pax command can read tar archives and can read cpio archives if the c flag was used.
The pax command aggressively preserves sparseness. In fact, the pax command will unallocate any blocks filled with zeroes, thus making a file sparse.
Sysback will use either backup by name or inode to backup the data on the system. See the section on backup.
If you create a backup using the tar command on sparse files, you will have to use the pax command to restore that data. Using the tar command to restore the data will not preserve sparseness.
[ Doc Ref: 90605223214642 Publish Date: Oct. 26, 2000 4FAX Ref: 3753 ]