Call for participation on mksysb

Submitted by dag on Wed, 2007/11/07 - 13:55

Ask any AIX system administrator and they will tell you that Linux is not ready for the real work. Many reasons are given, but one of recurring technical reasons is that there is no mksysb for Linux.

mksysb on AIX is a tool to do an (online) backup of your system in order to do a bare metal restore. It produces a bootable medium (tape, image, DVD) that restores the system partitioning/LVM configuration and restores the original filesystems for disaster recovery.

On Linux there are many tools to do backups and restores but none of them have the ease of use, versatility or wide-spread deployment that mksysb has, for that reason (and the fact that a customer asked me if something similar existed) I decided to look into an Open Source alternative or implementing mksysb for Linux myself.

For this we need to have a kernel that supports most hardware, we need to support multiple bootable devices and we need to somehow preserve and restore the partitioning. Open Source has most of the tools to do any of this, but there is nothing really integrated and surely making all of this work is not going to be that easy.

Do you know of a similar Linux or Open Source tool ? Have you heard of something that can preserve not only the data, but also the partitioning/LVM configuration and is easy to restore ? Can it do an online backup (by eg using LVM snapshots) ?

Let me know !

Will help

Hi Dag

I can try to help. However the real reason Linux is not ready for the enterprise is not mksysb.

Linux does not have SMIT! Without SMIT how can one
call oneself equivalent to AIX? [Running man fall down... can't get enough of that joke.]

(spoiler alert) Food for another blog article

Hey Stephen,

It is true that smitty is another tool that Linux is lacking and Linuxconf (or YaST or webmin) are very poor substitutes (and way too complex).

I have thought about writing a modular smitty-alike framework to hook scripts and procedures into. We definitely need something like that so people can easily contribute and improve this system.

At some point I am sure someone will do it. I will keep it in mind for when I become incredibly wealthy and need a good cause (other than food) for my money :)

PS I was planning to write a blog article wrt. smitty.

Completely agree

I've thought about this quite a bit as well.

I had envisioned basically what you describe, and having multiple modes of operation like smitty. The ability to configure the system through a unified ncurses interface, web interface, or command-line without needing explicit support written into the modules would be absolutely huge in gaining acceptance.

Two products I know of

Storix and CRU.

On word from a colleague at IBM, Storix was created by a couple blokes that actually worked on the original mksysb for AIX. I don't know the validity, but my colleague is using Storix on the account he works on at IBM, for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0 servers.

I used to work for the BRU guys (TOLIS Group), and worked directly on their tool, CRU years ago. It is a set of shell scripts that can provide a bare-metal disaster recovery using a BRU backup. Since BRU uses the same command line syntax as tar, sed s/bru/tar/g "should" work. It is released as open source under the "Q" public license. I know they are interested in the open source community, as their flagship product is primarily developed for Linux.

CRU and Disaster Recovery

Josh is right and we would love to find a new maintainer for CRU. As it stands, it will work with most Red Hat-based distributions, but it's some pretty straight forward bash shell scripting and can readily be converted to use tar instead of BRU.

If anyone would like to pick this up, drop us a note and we'll be very happy to provide what assistance our commercial schedule permits.


Ooops -

I didn't state it in the above comment, but storix is not open source. Sorry about that.


If the killer feature is the ability to generate a bootable device that has your harddisk configuration in it, then bacula has that. See for an overview of its features.

Not just creating the bootable device

I think the combination of:

- creating a bootable device
- ability to do bare-metal restore
- preserve system partitioning/LVM configuration
- simple and self-contained

is the killer-feature. Afaict Bacula needs a client-server setup and configuration, whereas mksysb is just a single tool.

In most production environments there is an extensive backup-system (in this case Tivoli Storage Manager), still mksysb reduces recovery time (read: down time) and is complementary to an extensive backup-system.

Bacula is too complicated if you compare it to AIX mksysb, but could be an option if your company is already using Bacula.

Souch tool exists for about 5 years

It is called MONDO RESCUE

main advantages:

Backing up
- makes bootable CD/DVD/HDD/TAPE backup of the system
(not necesary all 10 TB (1111 DL DVD ;-) )
- then makes just diferential/incremental backups
(by your command sir)
- no rebuild of boot backup necesary when you change
backup policy

- boot from bootable backup
- if you have THE SAME HW configuration - just restore
(all RAID/LVM, HW, NET settings are kept)
- if your HW has gone (thiefs, tornado, floods or you just can not buy the same vintage HW)
you can go throught dialogs to change disc layout (incl. RAID/LVM, HW settings NET ...)

Try it you will see ...

Thanksgiving welcomed on MONDO mailinglist ;-)


My last attempts with mondorescue were successful only if I was doing a bare metal restore to the same hardware. (ie. IBM x345 to x345).

The problem I ran into is when using different hardware. When I last tried it, mondorescue created a bootable cd image using the current loaded kernel. This meant that the current scsi_hostadapters were compiled in as well. Since the hardware that I was going to had different scsi_hostadapters, it would not recognize the hard drives.

mksysb alternative for linux

Agree with all above comments. But have much experience with Storix and have to say that everything else stinks in comparison. Not an open-source solution, but given those that are out there, it was worth the money and has recovered several of my severs so far (even to very very different hardware!!!!)

Same experience with Mondo

I was bit by the issue with mondo once. I we have since switched primarily to vmware vm's, which make fail over much easier, particularly when you have a farm of servers running and don't need to perform the immediate bare metal restore.

IBM is huge into linux, I am wondering if they could be persuaded into porting mksysb to linux.

I am agree

I am agree with dag.Especially about killer-feeture.I think AIX mksysb more simple than Bacula and useful for me and company.

P.S:I can help you about AIX mksysb if you want.

mksysb for linux

I have been with the RS/6000 or pSeries team since before it was announced in 1990. AIX 3.1.1 had mksysb as one of its features but it was only restorable to the same machine or one that was the same (7012 - 7012). The ability to restore to any architecture came much later and today, its a mature product. I feel that if mksysb for linux were introduced it could start off the same. Once in place, there are those who could expand its capabilities. It would also mean that new commands would have to be introduced to linux to allow it to determine lv names and sizes and filesystem names associated with those lv's. Perhaps this exists and if so, I am unaware. Add to this, the bios of computers being used would have to support boot from tape and most Intel/AMD pc's today don't support this. There is another answer and that is SOFTWARE RAID 1 which is what I use on my Fedora Core 8 system but I believe this can only be implemented at the time of install.


I guess I need to learn AIX, I never really took this server OS seriously. I'll probably be hated for making that comment.

I'll look at mondorescure too -- my backups are usually copied partition layouts and rsync backups made over the network.

mksysb for GNU/Linux

Has there been any traction on this? Having a mksysb-like utility for GNU/Linux would be a major coup. mksysb is a multi-functional shell script (Copyright IBM, of course) that utilizes roughly 50 different executables and other shell scripts. As discussed, the most basic use is to create a bootable image, preserve the LVM structure, and backup rootvg. Are all of these operations doable using native GNU/Linux utilities, say for Red Hat?

Can we target Linux only for no tool like mksysb?

Linux has many more features than AIX and most important point is it is GNU. Can we judge Linux just by non-presence of a tool like Linux. In this period of recession I would say Linux is the best.

Ideas for mksysb equiv.

I think the most robust way to do a mksysb-like tool for Linux would be to have the tool integrate into the vendor's installer utilities. For Red Hat (RHEL & Fedora), that would be Kickstart.
Step 1 -- Identify current partition layout of rootvg. This will usually include LVM, physical disk slicing, and mirroring (MD driver)layout.
Step 2 -- Generate a minimum kickstart file with this layout. The kickstart file should stop short of installing any packages.
Step 3 -- Instead of having a package section, have the kickstart file restore from a tar/cpio/dump format archive. This archive can be located on the boot CD/DVD image, or on the network (FTP, HTTP, or NFS mount point).

To get steps 2 & 3 working may require modifications to anaconda. I don't think the standard version lets you skip installing all packages, and even if it did then you still couldn't execute a post install script for step 3, since that would execute in a chroot environment on the system.

So my proposed modification to anaconda would be to allow for a "restore" section to take place of the "packages" section. It can then either take a parameter of where to restore the files from, or interactively prompt the user if not specified.


Hello all,

I've just started reading this thread, but find it quite interesting. I'm somewhat new to Linux, but have worked with AIX, Solaris, and HP-UX for nearly 20 years. One of the things that has long separated AIX from the others is the ability to do a bare metal restore using mksysb and savevg. I recently was asked by a colleague if such a tool was available for Linux, which led me to this thread.

A couple things come to mind - booting from tape, as mentioned above, is a nice to have, but I think even more important given the platforms Linux typically runs on is the ability to create a bootable system image (mksysb) to a DVD. Typically mksysbs are used to restore the OS, then the Enterprise BURA tools are used to recover the remaining filesystems. In the past, we've used a combination of mksysb and savevg - mksysb to get the root volume group, savevg with exclude files excluding all the data, but using the savevg utility to recreate the non-root volume group structures (vgs, lvs, and fs).

Additionally, mksysbs can be used to clone systems using the Network Installation Manager (NIM), which I've done many times. Now, not knowing Linux all that well (but coming up to speed quickly), I'm not sure what tools are available to do system cloning, but I'm sure that is a valuable tool as well, given that most enterprises want to be able to rapidly deploy a standard image.

I know for all the above cases commercial tools are available, but not sure of open source tools to do these things. I'd be happy to participate in any forum to assist in the development of such tools.

Best regards,

James (Jamie) A Dennis

Hi dag

First of all, i would like to thank you for, i use it as an rpm house ..
after all, i would like to participate in this issue, i was googling for "how mksysb really works", cause i was thinking of doing something just like mksysb for linux as i would like to add something to the linux community.
as an AIX Expert, and a unix admin in general i would like to participate in "making mksysb for linux"

Best Regards,

MKSYSB on RedHat

We have 2 virtualized RHEL LPAR's on Power 6 and i am just very surprised about the RHEL. What i miss in RHEL is the same mentioned in this Issue "a MKSYSB tool"
neither storix nor any other Solution can make a bare metal backup of RHEL on Power. A filesystem backup can be done by TSM or whatever. But it comes to punch of Probs, when the LPAR is multipath enabled, and that is a must, when it is virtualized.
I won't give my RHEL LPAR's away and install it on VMWare, because it is easier but there is no solution taking a system image from a RHEL LPAR.
Someone said do a "dd" or "dump"

I am working with AIX since 14 years and i would like to participate in mksysb for linux.

mksysb linux

I am working in AIX as well as Linux , now we have more then 150 Linux server & keep on increasing , (HP blade) , ( don't know good things are bad thing ) as the same time we have more then 1000 AIX server .

Before mksysb , we should think about alt_disk_backup for Linux like aix . so I created one tool which take backup of Linux OS VG , like we have in AIX alt_rootvg

after successfully implementation of alt disk tools , now i am looking for mksysb like tools in Linux .

however we have also TBMR for bare metal restore . but this not like mksysb , in this case we need always TSM servers to restore OS image .

As, i know , the biggest problem with Linux , that /boot can not be a part of root volume group , and second Linux LVM don't have concept like logical partition. ( as we have in AIX , we can assign (copy) three PP to one LP means mirroring .)
Hope one day above problem will solve in Linux