It is usually possible to alter the way in which a troublesome application stores its data in order to gain a considerable performance advantage.
A typical example of a troublesome application is an email server. These are often laid out with a spool directory containing files for each user (
mbox), or with a directory for each user containing a file for each message (
maildir). When requests arrive over IMAP, the ideal arrangement is to give each user an affinity to a particular node. That way their requests to view and delete email messages will tend to be served from the cache on that one node. Obviously if that node fails, then the session can be restarted on a different node.
When mail arrives by means of SMTP, then again the individual nodes can be set up so as to pass a certain user's mail to a particular node by default. If the default node is not up, then the message can be saved directly into the user's mail spool by the receiving node. Again this design is intended to keep particular sets of files cached on just one node in the normal case, but to allow direct access in the case of node failure.
This setup allows the best use of GFS2's page cache and also makes failures transparent to the application, whether
Backup is often another tricky area. Again, if it is possible it is greatly preferable to back up the working set of each node directly from the node which is caching that particular set of inodes. If you have a backup script which runs at a regular point in time, and that seems to coincide with a spike in the response time of an application running on GFS2, then there is a good chance that the cluster may not be making the most efficient use of the page cache.
Obviously, if you are in the (enviable) position of being able to stop the application in order to perform a backup, then this will not be a problem. On the other hand, if a backup is run from just one node, then after it has completed a large portion of the file system will be cached on that node, with a performance penalty for subsequent accesses from other nodes. This can be mitigated to a certain extent by dropping the VFS page cache on the backup node after the backup has completed with following command:
echo -n 3 >/proc/sys/vm/drop_caches
However this is not as good a solution as taking care to ensure the working set on each node is either shared, mostly read only across the cluster, or accessed largely from a single node.