No space left on device – this can happen to anyone. Sooner or later you may face the situation where a database either has already or is only minutes away from running out of disk space. What many people do in such cases, they just start looking for semi-random things to remove – perhaps a backup, a few older log files, or pretty much anything that seems redundant. However this means acting under a lot of stress and without much thinking, so it would be great if there was a possibility to avoid that. Often there is. Or what if there isn’t anything to remove?
While xfs is usually the recommended filesystem for a MySQL data partition on Linux, the extended filesystem family continues to be very popular as it is used as default in all major Linux distributions. There is a feature specific to ext3 and ext4 that can help the goal of resolving the full disk situation.
Unless explicitly changed during filesystem creation, both by default reserve five percent of a volume capacity to the superuser (root). It helps preventing non-privileged processes from filling up all disk, leaving no room for system logging or system applications. However such reservation only makes sense for the system volumes, while MySQL often sits on its own, dedicated partition, so there is no real reason to keep any number of blocks away from it.
So if your database files are stored on a partition formatted with ext3 or ext4 and MySQL runs out of disk space, you may be in luck as there may be some extra capacity hidden the database may be able to use.
How to enable it?
I had a server that ran out of space on the MySQL volume. The system was reporting 5.7M free and MySQL essentially blocked waiting on the opportunity to complete the writes:
[root@db4 ~]# df -h Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_root 30G 25G 3.4G 89% / tmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /dev/shm /dev/sda1 243M 47M 183M 21% /boot /dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_mysql 145G 145G 5.7M 100% /vol/mysql
A quick verification of the filesystem used for that volume:
[root@db4 ~]# mount
/dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_mysql on /vol/mysql type ext4 (rw,noatime,nodiratime)
As the next step, I had to verify if the volume had any reserved blocks that could be freed. I have not seen many servers that actually had the default setting changed during the installation process, so in many cases there should be something:
[root@db4 ~]# dumpe2fs /dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_mysql | grep 'Reserved block count'
dumpe2fs 1.41.12 (17-May-2010)
Reserved block count: 1927884
It turned out 1927884 of 4KB blocks were reserved for the superuser, which was exactly five percent of the volume capacity. I was able to free this space and make it available to MySQL:
[root@db4 ~]# tune2fs -m 0 /dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_mysql
tune2fs 1.41.12 (17-May-2010)
Setting reserved blocks percentage to 0% (0 blocks)
This works instantaneously. Simply applications start to see more disk space available.
[root@db4 ~]# df -h Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_root 30G 25G 3.4G 89% / tmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /dev/shm /dev/sda1 243M 47M 183M 21% /boot /dev/mapper/vg_centos-lv_mysql 145G 145G 7.3G 95% /vol/mysql
Without removing a single file I managed to create over seven gigabytes of free space that allowed MySQL to resume operations. That didn’t solve the problem entirely, but it got me a lot of time to figure out a long term solution.
The method is a quick remedy for the emergency situation when your database runs out of disk space. I used it numerous times while helping many people to solve such problems. Of course, it is not a proper solution, but rather something that buys you time to figure out the options. As it only works once in a system lifetime, because after you remove the entire reservation, there would not be anything to remove if the server ran out of space for the second time, you should make sure to avoid facing such problem twice. Learn your lesson and work on implementing proper monitoring to alert you early enough.