Creating and Managing Persistent Disks on VMs

As described in the previous section, you can specify the boot disk when launching a VM from the Console and from the command-line. There are times when you may want to create and attach additional disks to an instance. There are three main steps in this process: you must first create the disk, then you must attach it to the instance, and finally you must format it. When you are finished, you may want to detach the disk and when you are done with it, you will want to delete it. We will describe each of these steps in a bit more detail below. You may also want to see the Google documentation on Adding Persistent Disks.

Create a Persistent Disk

The gcloud command for creating a persistent disk is gcloud compute disks create. The most common options you’ll probably use are --size, --type, and --zone (see this page for more details). For example:

gcloud compute disks create disk-1 --size 500GB

will create a 500 GB disk named “disk-1”, using default settings (eg the type will be pd-standard).

Attach a Persistent Disk

The gcloud command to attach a newly created disk to a previously created instance looks like this:

gcloud compute instances attach-disk –disk disk-1 –device-name my-instance

Note that this command is part of the gcloud compute instances group rather than the gcloud compute disks group. Details about additional options can be found in the documentation. For example the default mode is rw (read-write), but you can also specify that a disk be attached ro (read-only).

Format a Persistent Disk

In order to format a disk that you’ve attached to an instance, you need to first log on to that instance:

gcloud compute ssh  my-instance

For complete details, please refer to the Google documentation on formatting and mounting non-root persistent disks; but there are two main steps: first you must format the disk using the mkfs tool (note that this will delete any existing data on the disk), and second you must use the mount tool to mount the disk at a specified mount-point:

sudo mkfs.ext4 -F /dev/disk/by-id/disk-1
sudo mkdir /mnt/pd1
sudo mount -o discard,defaults /dev/disk/by-id/disk-1 /mnt/pd1

Detach a Persistent Disk

Detaching a disk is a two step process: first you unmount the disk (using the umount command, from the instance to which it is attached), and then (after logging out from that instance) you use the gcloud tool:

$sudo umount /dev/disk/by-id/disk-1
$exit

gcloud compute instances detach-disk my-instance --disk disk-1

Delete a Persistent Disk

Note that a boot disk will be deleted if you delete the instance that it is attached to (as long as the auto-delete property for the disk was set to “yes” (the default) when it was created). In all other cases, you will need to delete the disk manually using the gcloud compute disks delete command. Note that disks can be deleted only if they are not being used by any VM instances.

You can also see and manage persistent disks from the Console on the Compute Engine > Disks page.


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