22.6. Partition and File System Tools

This section describes how different partition and file system management tools interact with a device's I/O parameters.

util-linux-ng's libblkid and fdisk

The libblkid library provided with the util-linux-ng package includes a programmatic API to access a device's I/O parameters. libblkid allows applications, especially those that use Direct I/O, to properly size their I/O requests. The fdisk utility from util-linux-ng uses libblkid to determine the I/O parameters of a device for optimal placement of all partitions. The fdisk utility will align all partitions on a 1MB boundary.

parted and libparted

The libparted library from parted also uses the I/O parameters API of libblkid. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 installer (Anaconda) uses libparted, which means that all partitions created by either the installer or parted will be properly aligned. For all partitions created on a device that does not appear to provide I/O parameters, the default alignment will be 1MB.
The heuristics parted uses are as follows:
  • Always use the reported alignment_offset as the offset for the start of the first primary partition.
  • If optimal_io_size is defined (i.e. not 0), align all partitions on an optimal_io_size boundary.
  • If optimal_io_size is undefined (i.e. 0), alignment_offset is 0, and minimum_io_size is a power of 2, use a 1MB default alignment.
    This is the catch-all for "legacy" devices which don't appear to provide I/O hints. As such, by default all partitions will be aligned on a 1MB boundary.


    Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 cannot distinguish between devices that don't provide I/O hints and those that do so with alignment_offset=0 and optimal_io_size=0. Such a device might be a single SAS 4K device; as such, at worst 1MB of space is lost at the start of the disk.

File System tools

The different mkfs.filesystem utilities have also been enhanced to consume a device's I/O parameters. These utilities will not allow a file system to be formatted to use a block size smaller than the logical_block_size of the underlying storage device.
Except for mkfs.gfs2, all other mkfs.filesystem utilities also use the I/O hints to layout on-disk data structure and data areas relative to the minimum_io_size and optimal_io_size of the underlying storage device. This allows file systems to be optimally formatted for various RAID (striped) layouts.