Wandering Thoughts archives

2024-03-06

Where and how Ubuntu kernels get their ZFS modules

One of the interesting and convenient things about Ubuntu for people like us is that they provide pre-built and integrated ZFS kernel modules in their mainline kernels. If you want ZFS on your (our) ZFS fileservers, you don't have to add any extra PPA repositories or install any extra kernel module packages; it's just there. However, this leaves us with a little mystery, which is how the ZFS modules actually get there. The reason this is a mystery is that the ZFS modules are not in the Ubuntu kernel source, or at least not in the package source.

(One reason this matters is that you may want to see what patches Ubuntu has applied to their version of ZFS, because Ubuntu periodically backports patches to specific issues from upstream OpenZFS. If you go try to find ZFS patches, ZFS code, or a ZFS changelog in the regular Ubuntu kernel source, you will likely fail, and this will not be what you want.)

Ubuntu kernels are normally signed in order to work with Secure Boot. If you use 'apt source ...' on a signed kernel, what you get is not the kernel source but a 'source' that fetches specific unsigned kernels and does magic to sign them and generate new signed binary packages. To actually get the kernel source, you need to follow the directions in Build Your Own Kernel to get the source of the unsigned kernel package. However, as mentioned this kernel source does not include ZFS.

(You may be tempted to fetch the Git repository following the directions in Obtaining the kernel sources using git, but in my experience this may well leave you hunting around in confusing to try to find the branch that actually corresponds to even the current kernel for an Ubuntu release. Even if you have the Git repository cloned, downloading the source package can be easier.)

How ZFS modules get into the built Ubuntu kernel is that during the package build process, the Ubuntu kernel build downloads or copies a specific zfs-dkms package version and includes it in the tree that kernel modules are built from, which winds up including the built ZFS kernel modules in the binary kernel packages. Exactly what version of zfs-dkms will be included is specified in debian/dkms-versions, although good luck finding an accurate version of that file in the Git repository on any predictable branch or in any predictable location.

(The zfs-dkms package itself is the DKMS version of kernel ZFS modules, which means that it packages the source code of the modules along with directions for how DKMS should (re)build the binary kernel modules from the source.)

This means that if you want to know what specific version of the ZFS code is included in any particular Ubuntu kernel and what changed in it, you need to look at the source package for zfs-dkms, which is called zfs-linux and has its Git repository here. Don't ask me how the branches and tags in the Git repository are managed and how they correspond to released package versions. My current view is that I will be downloading specific zfs-linux source packages as needed (using 'apt source zfs-linux').

The zfs-linux source package is also used to build the zfsutils-linux binary package, which has the user space ZFS tools and libraries. You might ask if there is anything that makes zfsutils-linux versions stay in sync with the zfs-dkms versions included in Ubuntu kernels. The answer, as far as I can see, is no. Ubuntu is free to release new versions of zfsutils-linux and thus zfs-linux without updating the kernel's dkms-versions file to use the matching zfs-dkms version. Sufficiently cautious people may want to specifically install a matching version of zfsutils-linux and then hold the package.

I was going to write something about how you get the ZFS source for a particular kernel version, but it turns out that there is no straightforward way. Contrary to what the Ubuntu documentation suggests, if you do 'apt source linux-image-unsigned-$(uname -r)', you don't get the source package for that kernel version, you get the source package for the current version of the 'linux' kernel package, at whatever is the latest released version. Similarly, while you can inspect that source to see what zfs-dkms version it was built with, 'apt get source zfs-dkms' will only give you (easy) access to the current version of the zfs-linux source package. If you ask for an older version, apt will probably tell you it can't find it.

(Presumably Ubuntu has old source packages somewhere, but I don't know where.)

linux/UbuntuKernelsZFSWhereFrom written at 22:59:21; Add Comment


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