Warning: This document is for an old version of zrepl. The main version is master.

Implementation Overview


Incomplete / under construction

The following design aspects may convince you that zrepl is superior to a hacked-together shell script solution.

Testability & Performance

zrepl is written in Go, a real programming language with type safety, reasonable performance, testing infrastructure and an (opinionated) idea of software engineering.

  • key parts & algorithms of zrepl are covered by unit tests (work in progress)
  • zrepl is noticably faster than comparable shell scripts

RPC protocol

While it is tempting to just issue a few ssh remote 'zfs send ...' | zfs recv, this has a number of drawbacks:

  • The snapshot streams need to be compatible.
  • Communication is still unidirectional. Thus, you will most likely
    • either not take advantage of features such as compressed send & recv
    • or issue additional ssh commands in advance to figure out what features are supported on the other side.
  • Advanced logic in shell scripts is ugly to read, poorly testable and a pain to maintain.

zrepl takes a different approach:

  • Define an RPC protocol.
  • Establish an encrypted, authenticated, bidirectional communication channel…
  • … with zrepl running at both ends of it.

This has several obvious benefits:

  • No blank root shell access is given to the other side.
  • Instead, an authenticated peer can request filesystem lists, snapshot streams, etc.
  • Requests are then checked against job-specific ACLs, limiting a client to the filesystems it is actually allowed to replicate.
  • The transport mechanism is decoupled from the remaining logic, keeping it extensible.

Protocol Implementation

zrepl implements its own RPC protocol. This is mostly due to the fact that existing solutions do not provide efficient means to transport large amounts of data.

Package github.com/zrepl/zrepl/rpc builds a special-case handling around returning an io.Reader as part of a unary RPC call.

Measurements show only a single memory-to-memory copy of a snapshot stream is made using github.com/zrepl/zrepl/rpc, and there is still potential for further optimizations.

Logging & Transparency

zrepl comes with rich, structured and configurable logging, allowing administators to understand what the software is actually doing.