[PC-BSD Dev] Wild idea to speed up boot process

Claudio L. claudio at hpgcc3.org
Fri Aug 9 11:00:27 PDT 2013

Would it be possible to implement something like this?

1) Early during boot, create a RAM disk (mdconfig)
2) Read it in whole with dd from a file in the root file system.
3) Union mount this ramdisk over root.

This ramdisk should of course contain all files needed during the boot 
process (but only the files needed for boot, not the whole root file 
system), acting as a ram cache.
Since it's written in one big file, it can be restored at sustained read 
speeds, avoiding random reads and the overhead of the filesystem.

Once it's in RAM, any file that exists in this ram disk would be used 
instead of the underlying root file system.

On system shutdown, or actually as soon as boot process is finished, 
this ramdisk can be dumped back to disk, to preserve any changes.

All we would need is some hook to detect which files are read during 
boot, and copy them to the ram disk on the fly if they are not already 
The union mount will automatically write the file to the ram disk if 
it's modified, but 99% of the boot files will be read only during normal 

We need some kind of service that monitors changes on any file that is 
present in the ram disk, and dump those files back into the root file 
system when the system shuts down (just to keep the ram disk in sync 
with root), or better off, modify the 'union' to actually write to both 
file systems, not just the top.

I think this should speed up the boot process noticeably. We can define 
when the system is considered "booted". For example we can extend it 
until the user logs on to the desktop and all applications are loaded.
A full desktop takes about 512 MB of ram, and that counts the ram needed 
to run the programs and disk caches, so I'm thinking a 512 mb ram disk 
should be able to fit all the executables and files needed for boot.
A normal hard disk can read 120 MB/s sustained, and an SSD around 500 
MB/s, so we can have everything needed for boot in RAM in about 4 seconds.

Any comments / ideas?


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