This software is still beta - you use it at your own risk. Please create a ticket if you encounter bugs!



DNBD (Distributed Network Block Device) is a read-only and caching network
block device and supports following main features:
  • replication of servers for robustness
  • multicast communication and caching of network traffic for scalability

These characteristics make it suitable especially for use in wireless networks,
e.g. for diskless clients or to share multimedia files in such an environment.
The servers can export a file or block device equipped with a operating system,
movies, music, etc. Several clients can import the block device and access it
like a local hard disk. However, each block transfer over the network can be
cached by all clients: If several users on each client start to watch a movie
within a certain time interval, the movie data has to be transmitted only once
(depending on the cache size). The network is not burdened with unnecessary

DNBD can be used together with cowloop or unionfs in order to get local
write semantics, e.g. for diskless clients. Especially in wireless environments
with limited bandwidth, caching can increase boot-up time enormously.

Question, problems etc.

If you encounter any difficulties, please use search to find out if the problem is
already known. Also, the FAQ will contain typical problems.


The source code can be retrieved from the subversion repository.

$ svn co


DNBD was developed for kernel 2.6.13 and later releases. For kernels later than 2.6.16 you will need to remove the "devfs" source from kernel/main.c (simply search for "devfs" and remove all calls and includes). Kernel 2.4 is not supported. The kernel sources and common tools (gcc, make, etc.) have to be installed.

Server and Client


$ cd dnbd; make



To show available command line parameters, start the server without

$ ./server/dnbd-server
dnbd-server, version 0.9.0
Usage: dnbd-server -m <address> -d <device/file> -i <number> 
                  [-t <threads>]

  -m|--mcast     <multicast address>
  -d|--device    <block device or file>
  -i|--id        <unique identification number>
  -t|--threads   <number of threads>

With the following command, the server will be started for the multicast
network with address and export the given file or block device.
Its unique id is 1:

root@server1 $ ./server/dnbd-server -m -d <partition/file> -i 1

To start a server on another computer, the used file or block device must have
the same content and size as on the first server. However, the id has to be
root@server2 $ ./server/dnbd-server -m -d <partition/file> -i 2

If DNBD is used for wired networks and on multi-processor machines, the
number of threads should be increased to the number of CPUs.

To access the exported file or block device, another computer is used as


The kernel module has to be loaded, before the client application can be used:

root@client1 $ insmod ./kernel/dnbd.ko

There should be an entry in syslog after successful loading. With no command
line arguments the client gives available options:
root@client1 $ ./client/dnbd-client
dnbd-client, version 0.9.0
Usage: dnbd-client -d device -b <address> [-c <file>]
    or dnbd-client -d device -u
    or dnbd-client -d device -c <file>

  -d|--device    <device>
  -b|--bind      <multicast-address>
  -c|--cache     <file>

We will now import the block device of the server, e.g.:
root@client1 $ ./client/dnbd-client -d /dev/dnbd0 -b

The client should tell you that it found a server with id "1". If you exported
a CDROM with a movie, you can watch it on the client over the network, e.g.
with mplayer (usually after mounting).

If someone else wants to watch the movie on a different client, you should
enable caching either during operation

root@client1 $ ./client/dnbd-client -d /dev/dnbd0 -c <cachefile>

or at the beginning
root@client2 $ ./client/dnbd-client -d /dev/dnbd0 -b -c <cachefile>

To create a cache with, e.g. 32M use
root@client1$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/cachefile bs=1M count=32

Cache statistics are shown with
root@client1$ cat /proc/driver/dnbd/dnbd0

The block device has to be unbound before the module can be unloaded:
root@client1 $ ./client/dnbd-client -d /dev/dnbd0 -u
root@client1 $ rmmod dnbd



   client.c        # client application


   net.c        # network routines
   query.c        # server request handling
   filer.c        # file/device I/O
   server.c        # server application (main file)

Kernel module

   net.c        # server management
   queue.c        # queue handling for requests
   cache.c        # cache implementation (red-black trees)
   main.c        # module and block device (un)registration, threads


DNBD is available through the GNU General Public License (GPL).

This distribution is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

The programs in this distribution are distributed in the hope that they will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

See the file COPYING that is also included with this distribution for more details.