Improve FreeNAS NFS performance in Xenserver

My home lab consists of a virtualized instance of freenas, Citrix Xenserver, and various VMs. Recently I wanted to migrate some of my VMs to an NFS export from FreeNAS. To my dismay, the speed was abysmal (3 MB/second write speeds.) This tutorial will walk you through how to improve FreeNAS NFS performance in Xenserver by adding an log device (ZIL) to your ZFS pool.

After much research I realized the problem lies with ZFS behind the NFS export. Xenserver mounts the NFS share in such a way that it constantly wants to synchronize writes, which slows things down.

The solution: add a ZIL device. Since my freeNAS is virtualized, I chose the route of adding a virtual disk that is attached to an SSD. This process wasn’t straightforward.  If you have a virtual FreeNAS this is how to improve NFS performance:

  1. Add a disk in xenserver. Rule of thumb for size is half the amount of system RAM. I added 16GB ZIL disk to be safe.
  2. Add the following tunables in FreeNAS (to allow the OS to properly see xen hard drives)
    1. hint.ada.0.at, scbus100 (for the FreeNAS OS disk)
    2. hint.ada.1.at, scbus100 (for the newly added ZIL disk)
  3. Reboot FreeNAS
  4. In the FreeNAS GUI, click the ZFS Volume Manager, select your volume to expand from the dropdown, and select the device to be a LOG volume (ZIL)

That’s it! Once I added an SSD based ZIL device for my ZFS pool, NFS writes went from 3 MB/s to 60 MB/s. Awesome.

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