Limitations on Repository Content

Because CernVM-FS provides what appears to be a POSIX filesystem to clients, it is easy to think that it is a general purpose filesystem and that it will work well with all kinds of files. That is not the case, however, because CernVM-FS is optimized for particular types of files and usage. This section contains guidelines for limitations on the content of repositories for best operation.

Data files

First and foremost, CernVM-FS is designed to distribute executable code that is shared between a large number of jobs that run together at grid sites, clouds, or clusters. Worker node cache sizes and web proxy bandwidth are generally engineered to accommodate that application. The total amount read per job is expected to be roughly limited by the amount of RAM per job slot. The same files are also expected to be read from the worker node cache multiple times for the same type of job, and read from a caching web proxy by multiple worker nodes.

If there are data files distributed by CernVM-FS that follow similar access patterns and size limits as executable code, it will probably work fine. In addition, if there are files that are larger but read slowly throughout long jobs, as opposed to all at once at the beginning, that can also work well if the same files are read by many jobs. That is because web proxies have to be engineered for handling bursts at the beginning of jobs and so they tend to be lightly loaded a majority of the time.

In general, a good rule of thumb is to calculate the maximum rate at which jobs typically start and limit the amount of data that might be read from a web proxy to 100 MB/s per thousand jobs, assuming a reasonable amount of overlap of jobs onto the same worker nodes. Also, limit the amount of data that will be put into any one worker node cache to 5 Gigabytes. Of course, if you have a special arrangement with particular sites to have large caches and bandwidths available, these limits can be made higher at those sites. Web proxies may also need to be engineered with faster disks if the data causes their cache hit ratios to be reduced.

Also, keep in mind that the total amount of data distributed is not unlimited. The files are stored and distributed compressed, and files with the same content stored in multiple places in the same repository are collapsed to the same file in storage, but the storage space is used not only on the original repository server, it is also replicated onto multiple Stratum 1 servers. Generally if only executable code is distributed, there is no problem with the space taken on Stratum 1s, but if many large data files are distributed they may exceed the Stratum 1 storage capacity. Data files also tend to not compress as well, and that is especially the case of course if they are already compressed before installation.

Tarballs, zip files, and other archive files

If the contents of a tarball, zip file, or some other type of archive file is desired to be distributed by CernVM-FS, it is usually better to first unpack it into its separate pieces first. This is because it allows better sharing of content between multiple releases of the file; some pieces inside the archive file might change and other pieces might not in the next release, and pieces that don't change will be stored as the same file in the repository. CernVM-FS will compress the content of the individual pieces, so even if there's no sharing between releases it shouldn't take much more space.

File permissions

Care should be taken to make all the files in a repository readable by “other”. This is because permissions on files in the original repository are generally the same as those seen by end clients, except the files are owned by the “cvmfs” user and group. The write permissions are ignored by the client since it is a read-only filesystem. However, unless the client has set


(and most do not), unprivileged users will not be able to read files unless they are readable by “other” and all their parent directories have at least “execute” permissions. It makes little sense to publish files in CernVM-FS if they won't be able to be read by anyone.


By default CernVM-FS does not allow hardlinks of a file to be in different directories. If there might be any such hardlinks in a repository, set the option


in the repository's server.conf. The file will not appear to be hardlinked to the client, but it will still be stored as only one file in the repository just like any other files that have identical content. Note that if, in a subsequent publish operation, you change only one of these cross-directory hardlinks, the other hardlinks remain unchanged (the hardlink got “broken”).

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