Tuning recommendations

First and foremost, for optimal DRBD performance in environments where low latency — rather than high throughput — is crucial, it is strongly recommended to use DRBD 8.2.5 and above. The changeset for DRBD 8.2.5 contained a number of improvements particularly targeted at optimizing DRBD latency.

Setting DRBD's CPU mask

DRBD allows for setting an explicit CPU mask for its kernel threads. This is particularly beneficial for applications which would otherwise compete with DRBD for CPU cycles.

The CPU mask is a number in whose binary representation the least significant bit represents the first CPU, the second-least significant bit the second, and so forth. A set bit in the bitmask implies that the corresponding CPU may be used by DRBD, whereas a cleared bit means it must not. Thus, for example, a CPU mask of 1 (00000001) means DRBD may use the first CPU only. A mask of 12 (00001100) implies DRBD may use the third and fourth CPU.

An example CPU mask configuration for a resource may look like this:

resource resource {
  syncer {
    cpu-mask 2;


Of course, in order to minimize CPU competition between DRBD and the application using it, you need to configure your application to use only those CPUs which DRBD does not use.

Some applications may provide for this via an entry in a configuration file, just like DRBD itself. Others include an invocation of the taskset command in an application init script.

Modifying the network MTU

When a block-based (as opposed to extent-based) filesystem is layered above DRBD, it may be beneficial to change the replication network's maximum transmission unit (MTU) size to a value higher than the default of 1500 bytes. Colloquially, this is referred to as enabling Jumbo frames.


Block-based file systems include ext3, ReiserFS (version 3), and GFS. Extent-based file systems, in contrast, include XFS, Lustre and OCFS2. Extent-based file systems are expected to benefit from enabling Jumbo frames only if they hold few and large files.

The MTU may be changed using the following commands:

ifconfig interface mtu size


ip link set interface mtu size

interface refers to the network interface used for DRBD replication. A typical value for size would be 9000 (bytes).

Enabling the deadline I/O scheduler

When used in conjunction with high-performance, write back enabled hardware RAID controllers, DRBD latency may benefit greatly from using the simple deadline I/O scheduler, rather than the CFQ scheduler. The latter is typically enabled by default in reasonably recent kernel configurations (post-2.6.18 for most distributions).

Modifications to the I/O scheduler configuration may be performed via the sysfs virtual file system, mounted at /sys. The scheduler configuration is in /sys/block/device, where device is the backing device DRBD uses.

Enabling the deadline scheduler works via the following command:

echo deadline > /sys/block/device/queue/scheduler

You may then also set the following values, which may provide additional latency benefits:

  • Disable front merges:

    echo 0 > /sys/block/device/queue/iosched/front_merges

  • Reduce read I/O deadline to 150 milliseconds (the default is 500ms):

    echo 150 > /sys/block/device/queue/iosched/read_expire

  • Reduce write I/O deadline to 1500 milliseconds (the default is 3000ms):

    echo 1500 > /sys/block/device/queue/iosched/write_expire

If these values effect a significant latency improvement, you may want to make them permanent so they are automatically set at system startup. Debian and Ubuntu systems provide this functionality via the sysfsutils package and the /etc/sysfs.conf configuration file.

You may also make a global I/O scheduler selection by passing the elevator option via your kernel command line. To do so, edit your boot loader configuration (normally found in /boot/grub/menu.lst if you are using the GRUB bootloader) and add elevator=deadline to your list of kernel boot options.