What is fpsync ?

To demonstrate fpart possibilities, a program called 'fpsync' is provided within the tools/ directory. This tool is a shell script that wraps fpart(1) and rsync(1), cpio(1), pax(1) or tar(1) to launch several synchronization jobs in parallel as presented in the previous section, but while the previous example used GNU Parallel to schedule transfers, fpsync provides its own -embedded- scheduler. It can execute several synchronization processes locally or launch them on several nodes (workers) through SSH.

Despite its initial "proof of concept" status, fpsync has quickly evolved into a powerful (yet simple to use) migration tool and has been successfully used to boost migration of several PB of data (initially at $work but it has also been tested by several organizations such as UCI, Intel and Amazon ; see the 'Links' section).

In addition to being very fast (as transfers start during FS crawling and are parallelized), fpsync is able to resume or replay synchronization "runs" (see options -r and -R) and presents an overall progress status. It also has a small memory footprint compared to rsync itself when migrating filesystems with a big number of files.

Last but not least, fpsync is very easy to set up and only requires a few (common) software to run: fpart, rsync/cpio/pax/tar, a POSIX shell, sudo and ssh.

See fpsync(1) to learn more about that tool and get a list of all supported options.

Here is a simple representation of how it works :

fpsync [args] /data/src/ /data/dst/
  +-- fpart (live mode) crawls /data/src/, generates parts.[1] + sync jobs ->
  |    \    \    \
  |     \    \    +___ part. #n + job #n
  |      \    \
  |       \    +______ part. #1 + job #1
  |        \
  |         +_________ part. #0 + job #0
  +-- fpsync scheduler, executes jobs either locally or remotely ----------->
       \    \    \
        \    \    +___ sync job #n... --------------------------------------> +
         \    \                                                               |
          \    +______ sync job #1 ---------------------------------->        |
           \                                                                  |
            +_________ sync job #0 ----------------------------->             +
              Filesystem tree rebuilt and synchronized! <------------------+

[1] Either containing file lists (default mode) or directory lists (option -E)


In its default mode, fpsync uses rsync(1) and works with file lists to perform incremental (only) synchronizations. You can choose to use cpio(1), pax(1) or tar(1) instead of rsync(1) with option '-m' (see Cpio, Pax and Tar support below).

The following examples show two typical usage.

The command :

$ fpsync -n 4 -f 1000 -s $((100 * 1024 * 1024)) \
    /data/src/ /data/dst/

will synchronize /data/src/ to /data/dst/ using 4 local workers, each one transferring at most 1000 files and 100 MB per synchronization job.

The command :

$ fpsync -n 8 -f 1000 -s $((100 * 1024 * 1024)) \
    -w login@machine1 -w login@machine2 -d /mnt/nfs/fpsync \
    /data/src/ /data/dst/

will synchronize /data/src/ to /data/dst/ using the same transfer limits, but through 8 concurrent synchronization jobs spread over two machines (machine1 and machine2). Those machines must both be able to access /data/src/ and /data/dst/, as well as /mnt/nfs/fpsync, which is fpsync's shared working directory.

As previously mentioned, those two examples work with file lists and will perform incremental synchronizations. As a consequence, they will require a final -manual- 'rsync --delete' pass to delete extra files from the /data/dst/ directory.

The final pass

(A.K.A "Directory mode")

If you want to avoid that final pass, use fpsync's option -E (only compatible with rsync tool). That option will make fpsync work with a list of directories (instead of files) and will (forcibly) enable rsync's --delete option with each synchronization job. The counterpart of using that mode is that directory lists are coarse-grained and will probably be less balanced than file lists. The best option is probably to run several incremental jobs and keep the -E option to speed up the final pass only.

(you can read the file Solving_the_final_pass_challenge.txt in the docs/ directory for more details about fpsync's option -E)

Cpio, Pax and Tar support

Fpsync's option '-m' allows you to use cpio(1), pax(1) or tar(1) instead of rsync(1) to copy files. Those tools are much faster than rsync(1) but there is a catch: when re-creating a complex file tree, missing parent directories are created on-the-fly. In that case, original directory metadata (e.g. timestamps) are not copied from source.

To overcome that limitation, fpsync uses fpart's option -zzz to ask fpart to also pack every single directory (0-sized) with file lists. Making directories appear in file lists will ask the external tool to copy their metadata when the directory is processed (of course, fpart ensures that a parent directory entry appears after files beneath. If the parent directory is missing it is first created on the fly, then directory metadata is updated).

This works fine with a single copy process (fpsync's option -n 1) but not with 2 or more parallel processes which can treat partitions out-of-order. Indeed, if several workers copy files to the same directory at the same time, it is possible that the parent directory's original metadata gets re-applied while another worker is still adding files to that directory. That can occur if a directory list spreads over more than one partition. In such a situation, original metadata (here, mtime) gets overwritten while new files get added to the directory.

To handle that situation, fpsync leverages another fpart option (-P) that asks fpart to flush last file's parent hierarchy (that is, every single parent directory up to the root) before closing each partition. Adding parent directories at the end of each partition ensures that modification times get reapplied to directories whatever the processing order of partitions is. Used in conjunction with -zzz, this allows seemless migrations when parallelizing cpio(1), pax(1) or tar(1) jobs.

Tarify tool

Tar(1) can be used in a special mode called 'tarify'. In that mode, fpsync(1) will not copy the original file tree but generate tarballs (one per partition) into the specified destination directory.

Extracting (merging) those tarball to a another directory will reproduce the original file tree.

Notes about Debian Almquist shell (dash)

Debian Almquist shell (/bin/sh on Debian since Squeeze / 6.0) does not support enabling job control without a tty in non-interactive mode (i.e. one cannot run 'dash fpsync ... &' or just 'fpsync ... &').

This is a known problem that has been discussed here and led to the following patch waiting for inclusion.

Meanwhile, if you need to run fpsync in the background, just change its shebang to use another Bourne shell (bash for example).

Notes about GNU cpio

Developments have been made with BSD cpio (FreeBSD version). Fpsync will work with GNU cpio too but there are small behaviour differences you must be aware of :

  • for an unknown reason, GNU cpio will not apply mtime to the main target directory (AKA './' when received by cpio).

  • when using GNU cpio, you will get the following warnings when performing a second pass :

    not created: newer or same age version exists

You can ignore those warnings as that second pass will fix directory timestamps anyway.

Warning: if you pass option '-u' to cpio (trough fpsync's option '-o') to get rid of those messages, you will possibly re-touch directory mtimes (loosing original ones). Also, be aware of what that option implies: re-transferring every single file.

Notes about hard links

Rsync can detect and replicate hard links with option -H but that will NOT work with fpsync because rsync collects hard links' information on a per-run basis.

Being able to propagate hard links with fpsync would require from fpart the guarantee that all related links belong to the same partition.

Unfortunately, this is not something fpart can do because, in live mode (used by fpsync to start synchronization as soon as possible), it crawls the filesystem as it comes. As a consequence, there is no mean to know if a hard link connected to a file already written to a partition (and probably already synchronized through an independent rsync process) will appear later or not. Also, in non-live mode, trying to group related hardlinks into the same partitions would propably lead to un-balanced partitions as well as complexify code.

If you need to propagate hard links, you have 3 options:

  • Re-create hard links on the target, but this is not optimal as you may not want to link 2 files together, even if they are similar

  • Pre-copy hard linked files together (using find's '-type f -links +1' options) before running fpsync. That will work but linked files that have changed since your first synchronization will be converted back to regular files when running fpsync

  • Use a final -monolithic- rsync pass with option -H that will re-create them

SSH options

When dealing with SSH options and keys, keep in mind that fpsync uses SSH for two kinds of operations :

  • data synchronization (when ssh is forked by rsync), can occur locally or on remote workers (if using any)
  • communication with workers (when ssh is forked by fpsync), only occurs locally (on the scheduler)

If you need specific options for the first case, you can pass ssh options by using rsync's option '-e' (through fpsync's option '-o') and triple-escaping the quote characters :

$ fpsync [...] -o "-lptgoD -v --numeric-ids -e \\\"ssh -i ssh_key\\\"" \
    /data/src/ login@remote:/data/dst/

The key will have to be present and accessible on all workers.

Fpsync does not offer options to deal with the second case. You will have to tune your ssh config file to enable passwordless communication with workers. Something like :

$ cat ~/.ssh/config
Host remote
IdentityFile /path/to/the/passwordless/key

should work.


  • Fpsync only synchronizes directory contents !

    Contrary to rsync, fpsync enforces the final '/' on the source directory. It means that directory contents are synchronized, not the source directory itself (i.e. you will not get a subdirectory of the name of the source directory in the target directory after synchronization).

Portability considerations

On OpenIndiana, if you need to use fpsync(1), the script will need adjustments :

  • Change shebang from /bin/sh to a more powerful shell that understands local variables, such as /bin/bash.
  • Adapt fpart(1) and grep(1) paths (use ggrep(1) instead of grep(1) as default grep(1) doesn't know about -E flag).
  • Remove -0 and --quiet options from cpio calls (they are not supported). As a consequence, also remove -0 from fpart options.
  • Use gtar(1) instead or tar(1) (adapt TAR_NAME variable).

On Alpine Linux, you will need the 'fts-dev' package to build fpart(1).