Block storage


Block volumes are similar to virtual disks that can be attached to any compute instance in a region to provide additional storage. They are highly available and extremely resilient.

Our block storage service is provided by a fully distributed storage system, with no single points of failure and scalable to the exabyte level. The system is self-healing and self-managing. Data is seamlessly replicated on three different servers in the same region, making it fault tolerant and resilient.

The loss of a node or a disk leads to the data being quickly recovered on another disk or node. The system runs frequent CRC checks to protect data from soft corruption. The corruption of a single bit can be detected and automatically restored to a healthy state.

Storage tiers


The b1.standard tier combines SSDs with spinning drives to provide a good balance between performance and cost. Writes are always done to SSDs first and then flushed to HDDs later behind the scenes. Reads are likely to be cached by the aggregate memory of all our storage nodes combined, but will hit a HDD when the data is not cached.

Data stored on the b1.standard storage tier is replicated on three different storage nodes on the same region.

Each b1.standard volume is limited to 1000 IOPS. You can stripe multiple volumes together (using RAID 0) to achieve higher IOPS.

Additional storage tiers

Catalyst is prepared to introduce additional storage tiers and is currently waiting for demand from customers to introduce a faster tier backed purely by SSDs. If you are interested and would like to see this available as soon as possible, please contact your account manager.

Best practices

The root volume of your compute instance should only be used for operating system data. It is recommended to add additional volumes to your compute instances to persist application data. For example: when running a MySQL database, you should add at least one additional volume with enough space to hold your database and mount it on /var/lib/mysql.

While block volumes can be formatted and used independently, it is highly recommended to use a logical volume management layer, such as LVM, in production environments. By using LVM you will be able to add additional volumes and resize file-systems without downtime. Please consult the documentation of your operating system for information on how to use LVM.

If you are using volumes independently (without LVM, in a development scenario), then you must label your partitions to ensure they will be mounted correctly. The order of the devices (sdb, sdc, etc) may change and, when unlabelled, may result in them being mounted incorrectly.

Via the CLI

Create a new volume

Use the openstack volume create command to create a new volume:

$ openstack volume create --description 'database volume' --size 50 db-vol-01
| Field               | Value                                |
| attachments         | []                                   |
| availability_zone   | nz-por-1a                            |
| bootable            | false                                |
| consistencygroup_id | None                                 |
| created_at          | 2016-08-18T23:08:40.021641           |
| description         | database volume                      |
| encrypted           | False                                |
| id                  | 7e94a2f6-b4d2-47f1-83f7-a200e963404a |
| multiattach         | False                                |
| name                | db-vol-01                            |
| properties          |                                      |
| replication_status  | disabled                             |
| size                | 50                                   |
| snapshot_id         | None                                 |
| source_volid        | None                                 |
| status              | creating                             |
| type                | b1.standard                          |
| updated_at          | None                                 |
| user_id             | 4b934c44d8b24e60acad9609b641bee3     |

Attach a volume to a compute instance

Use the openstack server add volume command to attach the volume to an instance:

$ openstack server add volume INSTANCE_NAME VOLUME_NAME

The command above assumes that your volume name is unique. If you have volumes with duplicate names, you will need to use the volume ID to attach it to a compute instance.

Using volumes

Once attached to a compute instance, a block volume behaves like a raw unformatted disk.

On Linux

The example below illustrates the use of a volume without LVM.


Please note that this configuration is not suitable for production servers, but rather a demonstration that block volumes behave like regular disk drives attached to a server.

Check that the disk is recognised by the OS on the instance using fdisk:

$ sudo fdisk -l /dev/vdb
Disk /dev/vdb: 50 GiB, 53687091200 bytes, 104857600 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes

Now use fdisk to create a partition on the disk:

$ sudo fdisk /dev/vdb

Welcome to fdisk (util-linux 2.27.1).
Changes will remain in memory only, until you decide to write them.
Be careful before using the write command.

Device does not contain a recognized partition table.
Created a new DOS disklabel with disk identifier 0x1552cd32.

Command (m for help): n
Partition type
   p   primary (0 primary, 0 extended, 4 free)
   e   extended (container for logical partitions)
Select (default p): p
Partition number (1-4, default 1): 1
First sector (2048-104857599, default 2048):
Last sector, +sectors or +size{K,M,G,T,P} (2048-104857599, default 104857599):

Created a new partition 1 of type 'Linux' and of size 50 GiB.

Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered.
Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.
Syncing disks.

Check the partition using lsblk:

vda    253:0    0  10G  0 disk
└─vda1 253:1    0  10G  0 part /
vdb    253:16   0  50G  0 disk
└─vdb1 253:17   0  50G  0 part

Make a new filesystem on the partition:

$ sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/vdb1
mke2fs 1.42.13 (17-May-2015)
Creating filesystem with 5242624 4k blocks and 1310720 inodes
Filesystem UUID: 7dec7fb6-ff38-453b-9335-0c240d179262
Superblock backups stored on blocks:
    32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208,

Allocating group tables: done
Writing inode tables: done
Creating journal (32768 blocks): done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done

Create a directory where you wish to mount this file system:

$ sudo mkdir /mnt/extra-disk

Mount the file system:

$ sudo mount /dev/vdb1 /mnt/extra-disk

Label the partition:

$ sudo tune2fs -L 'extra-disk' /dev/vdb1
tune2fs 1.42.13 (17-May-2015)
$ sudo blkid
/dev/vda1: LABEL="cloudimg-rootfs" UUID="98c51306-83a2-49da-94a9-2a841c9f27b0" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="8cefe526-01"
/dev/vdb1: LABEL="extra-disk" UUID="7dec7fb6-ff38-453b-9335-0c240d179262" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="235ac0e4-01"

If you want the new file system to be mounted when the system reboots then you should add an entry to /etc/fstab, for example:

$ cat /etc/fstab
LABEL=cloudimg-rootfs /               ext4    defaults    0 1
LABEL=extra-disk      /mnt/extra-disk ext4    defaults    0 2


When referring to block devices in /etc/fstab it is recommended that UUID or volume label is used instead of using the device name explicitly. It is possible for device names to change after a reboot particularity when there are multiple attached volumes.


How to grow a cinder volume?

So you have been succesfully using OpenStack and now one of your volumes has started filling up. What is the best, quickest and safest way to grow the size of your volume?

Well, as always, that depends.

Boot Volumes

This is difficult in OpenStack as there is not an easy and obvious choice.

Create New Instance

The best method is to spin up a new instance with a new volume and use the configuration management tool of your choice to make sure it is as you want it. Terminate the old instance and attach all the data volumes to the new instance.

This assumes there is no permanent data stored on the boot volume that is outside the configuration managment tool control.

Use a Volume Snapshot

Another method which is quick and safe is to perform a volume snapshot.

The process is as follows:

  • Shutdown the instance.
  • Take a volume snapshot.
  • Create volume from snapshot.
  • Boot instance from volume.

This sequence can be performed either through the API/commands or the dashboard.

A reason to like this method is that the original volume is maintained, it is quick and cloud-init grows the new instance filesystem to the new volume size on first boot.

The reasons not to like this method are:

  • The host gets new keys which may upset some applications.
  • The original volume and the snapshot can not be deleted until the newly created volume is deleted.
  • You will be charged for these cinder volumes and the snapshot.

Old Fashioned Method

Finally, there is the old fashioned methods that involves:

  • Create a new bootable volume.
  • Shutdown instance and detach boot volume.
  • Attach the new volume and the original to another instance.
  • Perform a copy using tools like dd.

Non-boot Volumes

The way to go is:

  • Detach the volume from the instance
  • Extend the volume
  • Attach the volume to the instance
  • Adjust the disk within the OS as you would normally