RBD Exclusive Locks

Exclusive locks are mechanisms designed to prevent multiple processes from accessing the same Rados Block Device (RBD) in an uncoordinated fashion. Exclusive locks are used heavily in virtualization (where they prevent VMs from clobbering each other’s writes) and in RBD mirroring (where they are a prerequisite for journaling in journal-based mirroring and fast generation of incremental diffs in snapshot-based mirroring).

The exclusive-lock feature is enabled on newly created images. This default can be overridden via the rbd_default_features configuration option or the --image-feature and --image-shared options for rbd create command.


Many image features, including object-map and fast-diff, depend upon exclusive locking. Disabling the exclusive-lock feature will negatively affect the performance of some operations.

To maintain multi-client access, the exclusive-lock feature implements automatic cooperative lock transitions between clients. It ensures that only a single client can write to an RBD image at any given time and thus protects internal image structures such as the object map, the journal or the PWL cache from concurrent modification.

Exclusive locking is mostly transparent to the user:

  • Whenever a client (a librbd process or, in case of a krbd client, a client node’s kernel) needs to handle a write to an RBD image on which exclusive locking has been enabled, it first acquires an exclusive lock on the image. If the lock is already held by some other client, that client is requested to release it.

  • Whenever a client that holds an exclusive lock on an RBD image gets a request to release the lock, it stops handling writes, flushes its caches and releases the lock.

  • Whenever a client that holds an exclusive lock on an RBD image terminates gracefully, the lock is also released gracefully.

  • A graceful release of an exclusive lock on an RBD image (whether by request or due to client termination) enables another, subsequent, client to acquire the lock and start handling writes.


By default, the exclusive-lock feature does not prevent two or more concurrently running clients from opening the same RBD image and writing to it in turns (whether on the same node or not). In effect, their writes just get linearized as the lock is automatically transitioned back and forth in a cooperative fashion.


To disable automatic lock transitions between clients, the RBD_LOCK_MODE_EXCLUSIVE flag may be specified when acquiring the exclusive lock. This is exposed by the --exclusive option for rbd device map command.


Sometimes a client that previously held an exclusive lock on an RBD image does not terminate gracefully, but dies abruptly. This may be because the client process received a KILL or ABRT signal, or because the client node underwent a hard reboot or suffered a power failure. In cases like this, the lock is never gracefully released. This means that any new client that comes up and attempts to write to the image must break the previously held exclusive lock.

However, a process (or kernel thread) may hang or merely lose network connectivity to the Ceph cluster for some amount of time. In that case, breaking the lock would be potentially catastrophic: the hung process or connectivity issue could resolve itself and the original process might then compete with one that started in the interim, thus accessing RBD data in an uncoordinated and destructive manner.

In the event that a lock cannot be acquired in the standard graceful manner, the overtaking process not only breaks the lock but also blocklists the previous lock holder. This is negotiated between the new client process and the Ceph Monitor.

  • Upon receiving the blocklist request, the monitor instructs the relevant OSDs to no longer serve requests from the old client process;

  • after the associated OSD map update is complete, the new client can break the previously held lock;

  • after the new client has acquired the lock, it can commence writing to the image.

Blocklisting is thus a form of storage-level resource fencing.


In order for blocklisting to work, the client must have the osd blocklist capability. This capability is included in the profile rbd capability profile, which should be set generally on all Ceph client identities using RBD.