4. Persistent Naming

The operating system issues I/O to a storage device by referencing the path that is used to reach it. For SCSI devices, the path consists of the following:
  • PCI identifier of the host bus adapter (HBA)
  • channel number on that HBA
  • the remote SCSI target address
  • the Logical Unit Number (LUN)
This path-based address is not persistent. It may change any time the system is reconfigured (either by on-line reconfiguration, as described in this manual, or when the system is shutdown, reconfigured, and rebooted). It is even possible for the path identifiers to change when no physical reconfiguration has been done, as a result of timing variations during the discovery process when the system boots, or when a bus is re-scanned.
The operating system provides several non-persistent names to represent these access paths to storage devices. One is the /dev/sd name; another is the major:minor number. A third is a symlink maintained in the /dev/disk/by-path/ directory. This symlink maps from the path identifier to the current /dev/sd name. For example, for a Fibre Channel device, the PCI info and Host:BusTarget:LUN info may appear as follows:
pci-0000:02:0e.0-scsi-0:0:0:0 -> ../../sda
For iSCSI devices, by-path/ names map from the target name and portal information to the sd name.
It is generally not appropriate for applications to use these path-based names. This is because the storage device these paths reference may change, potentially causing incorrect data to be written to the device. Path-based names are also not appropriate for multipath devices, because the path-based names may be mistaken for separate storage devices, leading to uncoordinated access and unintended modifications of the data.
In addition, path-based names are system-specific. This can cause unintended data changes when the device is accessed by multiple systems, such as in a cluster.
For these reasons, several persistent, system-independent, methods for identifying devices have been developed. The following sections discuss these in detail.

4.1. WWID

The World Wide Identifier (WWID) can be used in reliably identifying devices. It is a persistent, system-independent ID that the SCSI Standard requires from all SCSI devices. The WWID identifier is guaranteed to be unique for every storage device, and independent of the path that is used to access the device.
This identifier can be obtained by issuing a SCSI Inquiry to retrieve the Device Identification Vital Product Data (page 0x83) or Unit Serial Number (page 0x80). The mappings from these WWIDs to the current /dev/sd names can be seen in the symlinks maintained in the /dev/disk/by-id/ directory.
For example, a device with a page 0x83 identifier would have:
scsi-3600508b400105e210000900000490000 -> ../../sda
Or, a device with a page 0x80 identifier would have:
scsi-SSEAGATE_ST373453LW_3HW1RHM6 -> ../../sda
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 automatically maintains the proper mapping from the WWID-based device name to a current /dev/sd name on that system. Applications can use the /dev/disk/by-id/ name to reference the data on the disk, even if the path to the device changes, and even when accessing the device from different systems.
If there are multiple paths from a system to a device, device-mapper-multipath uses the WWID to detect this. Device-mapper-multipath then presents a single "pseudo-device" in /dev/mapper/wwid, such as /dev/mapper/3600508b400105df70000e00000ac0000.
The command multipath -l shows the mapping to the non-persistent identifiers: Host:Channel:Target:LUN, /dev/sd name, and the major:minor number.
3600508b400105df70000e00000ac0000 dm-2 vendor,product 
[size=20G][features=1 queue_if_no_path][hwhandler=0][rw] 
\_ round-robin 0 [prio=0][active] 
 \_ 5:0:1:1 sdc 8:32  [active][undef] 
 \_ 6:0:1:1 sdg 8:96  [active][undef]
\_ round-robin 0 [prio=0][enabled] 
 \_ 5:0:0:1 sdb 8:16  [active][undef] 
 \_ 6:0:0:1 sdf 8:80  [active][undef]
Device-mapper-multipath automatically maintains the proper mapping of each WWID-based device name to its corresponding /dev/sd name on the system. These names are persistent across path changes, and they are consistent when accessing the device from different systems.
When the user_friendly_names feature (of device-mapper-multipath) is used, the WWID is mapped to a name of the form /dev/mapper/mpathn. By default, this mapping is maintained in the file /var/lib/multipath/bindings. These mpathn names are persistent as long as that file is maintained.


The multipath bindings file (by default, /var/lib/multipath/bindings) must be available at boot time. If /var is a separate filesystem from /, then you must change the default location of the file. For more information, refer to http://kbase.redhat.com/faq/docs/DOC-17650.


If you use user_friendly_names, then additional steps are required to obtain consistent names in a cluster. Refer to the Consistent Multipath Device Names section in the Using Device-Mapper Multipath book.
In addition to these persistent names provided by the system, you can also use udev rules to implement persistent names of your own, mapped to the WWID of the storage. For more information about this, refer to http://kbase.redhat.com/faq/docs/DOC-7319.