A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up an NFS File Witness with SIOS LifeKeeper on Linux

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Getting Started with SIOS Lifekeeper and NFS-Based File Witness

In high availability clustering, a witness plays a crucial role in ensuring the integrity and reliability of the cluster. Without a 3rd node, it can be hard to achieve quorum as there is no data to help break a tie where both nodes think they should go live (This is known as a split-brain). You can solve this problem in many ways, for example, by providing a dedicated witness server, a shared storage path seen by the whole cluster, or simply by having more nodes in the cluster itself (minimum 3!). Thankfully, SIOS LifeKeeper offers robust solutions for setting up high-availability clusters on Linux environments, and configuring a witness to improve quorum is an essential feature. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to set up an NFS-based file witness with SIOS LifeKeeper on Linux, helping you enhance the availability and resilience of your clustered applications.


To achieve a 2-node cluster using an NFS-based storage witness as shown in the diagram below:

Prerequisites: Before getting started, ensure you have the following:

  • Linux servers are configured and connected with administrative privileges (i.e., root access).
  • SIOS LifeKeeper is either installed or downloaded and ready to install on each server.
  • An NFS share is accessible to all servers in the cluster.

Step 1: Install/Modify SIOS LifeKeeper:

We will need to either install LifeKeeper at this stage or re-run the setup to add Witness functionality unless you already included it earlier.

In my case, I’m using RHEL8.8, so I will mount the ISO before running the setup with the supplementary package needed for RHEL8.8.

[root@server1-LK ~]# mount /root/sps.img /mnt/loop  -t iso9660 -o loop

[root@server1-LK ~]# cd /mnt/loop/

[root@server1-LK loop]# ./setup –addHADR /root/HADR-RHAS-4.18.0-477.10.1.el8_8.x86_64.rpm

Here the important part for our purposes is enabling the witness function like in the screenshot below. However, you will also need an additional license file, which you can either add here or add via the command line later at your discretion:

Otherwise, configure LifeKeeper for your purposes, or if it was already configured simply proceed through the setup once you’ve included the “Use Quorum / Witness Function” option.

If you decided to add the license via the command line also run the following command on each node in the cluster with the correct path to your license file:

[root@server1-LK ~]# /opt/LifeKeeper/bin/lkkeyins /<path-to-license-file>l/quorum-disk.lic

Step 2: Set up and mount shared storage:

Ensure that you have shared storage accessible to all servers in the cluster. You can check each server using either the ‘mount’ command or with ‘findmnt’ to verify that you have it locally mounted: 

[root@server1-LK loop]# mount | grep nfs

sunrpc on /var/lib/nfs/rpc_pipefs type rpc_pipefs (rw,relatime) on /nfs/general type nfs4 (rw,relatime,vers=4.2,rsize=1048576,wsize=1048576,namlen=255,hard,proto=tcp,timeo=600,retrans=2,sec=sys,clientaddr=,local_lock=none,addr=


[root@server1-LK ~]# findmnt -l /nfs/general 

TARGET       SOURCE                          FSTYPE OPTIONS

/nfs/general nfs4   rw,relatime,vers=4.2,rsize=1048576,wsize=1048576,namlen=255,hard,proto=tcp,timeo=600,retrans=2,sec=sys,clientaddr=,local_lock=none,addr=

Should you still need to mount the share yourself, please follow these steps:

First, confirm you can see the NFS share on the host server.

[root@server1-LK ~]# showmount -e

Export list for

/home  ,


In my case, I want to mount the ‘/var/nfs/general’ share.

To mount this share, first, make sure your directory you plan to mount it to exists. If not, create it:

[root@server1-LK ~]# mkdir -p /nfs/general

Now you can manually mount the share using the following command to confirm you can connect, and it works:

[root@server1-LK ~]# mount /nfs/general

Finally, once happy, add the mount point to you’re /etc/fstab file so it will mount on boot:

[root@server1-LK ~]# cat /etc/fstab


# /etc/fstab

# Created by anaconda on Thu Jan 25 12:07:15 2024


# Accessible filesystems, by reference, are maintained under ‘/dev/disk/’.

# See man pages fstab(5), findfs(8), mount(8) and/or blkid(8) for more info.


# After editing this file, run ‘systemctl daemon-reload’ to update systemd

# units generated from this file.


/dev/mapper/rhel-root   /                       xfs     defaults        0 0

UUID=6b22cebf-8f1c-405b-8fa8-8f12e1b6b56c /boot                   xfs     defaults        0 0

/dev/mapper/rhel-swap   none                    swap    defaults        0 0

#added for NFS share   /nfs/general  nfs4    defaults        0 0

Now, you can confirm it is mounted using the mount command:

[root@server1-LK ~]# mount -l | grep nfs

sunrpc on /var/lib/nfs/rpc_pipefs type rpc_pipefs (rw,relatime) on /nfs/general type nfs4 (rw,relatime,vers=4.2,rsize=1048576,wsize=1048576,namlen=255,hard,proto=tcp,timeo=600,retrans=2,sec=sys,clientaddr=,local_lock=none,addr=

As you can see from the highlighted text above, it has now been mounted successfully. Repeat on all servers until you are sure all servers have the share mounted before proceeding.

Step 4: Check your hostnames and configure /etc/default/LifeKeeper settings:

You can see the hostname LifeKeeper knows for each of your servers by running the following command on each node:


Example of settings you’ll need to add to the /etc/default/LifeKeeper file:







For ‘QWK_STORAGE_OBJECT_<server-name>’, you need to declare this for each node, and it is formed using your hostname as well as the path, and the desired location of the witness file itself.

It should be noted that if the hostname contains a “-” or “.”, replace them with an underscore “_” (e.g., lksios-1 → lksios_1 or lksios-1.localdomain → lksios_1_localdomain ).

In my example, I had the following hostnames:



Which meant adding the following ‘QWK_STORAGE_OBJECT_’ definitions:



In addition, we will need to adjust one of the existing settings in /etc/default/LifeKeeper:


To help understand why we have set both our WITNESS_MODE and QUORUM_MODE to storage take a look at the following table:

Supported Combinations of a Quorum Mode and Witness Mode

LifeKeeper supports the following combinations.

WITNESS_MODEremote_verifySupported3 or more nodesSupported3 or more nodesNot supportedSupported3 or more nodes
storageNot SupportedNot SupportedSupportedBetween 2 and 4 nodesNot supported
none/offSupported3 or more nodesSupported2 or more nodesNot supportedSupported

We have a two-node cluster that wants to use external storage for a quorum, so the only supported combination would be ‘storage’ for both values. However, you can see from the table how flexible this can be when you require more nodes, offering many ways to achieve communication and provide a quorum.

Step 4: Initialize the Witness file:

To initialize the witness file and enable its use, you must run the following command on each node:

[root@server1-LK ~]# /opt/LifeKeeper/bin/qwk_storage_init

It will pause when run until each node has completed so execute the command on the first node in the cluster, then the second, and so on before coming back to check the command is completed with no errors.


[root@server1-LK ~]# /opt/LifeKeeper/bin/qwk_storage_init

ok: LifeKeeper is running.

ok: The LifeKeeper license key is successfully installed.

ok: QWK parameter is valid.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeA is not yet avail.

/nfs/general/nodeA already exsits as not QWK_STORAGE_OBJECT: overwrite? (y/N): y

ok: The path of QWK object is valid.

ok: down: /opt/LifeKeeper/etc/service/qwk-storage: 1377s

ok: Initialization of QWK object of own node is completed.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

QWK object of /nfs/general/nodeB is not yet avail.

ok: quorum system is ready.

ok: run: /opt/LifeKeeper/etc/service/qwk-storage: (pid 14705) 1s, normally down


Step 5: Validate Configuration:

The configuration can be validated by running the following command:


Should it find any errors, they will be printed to the terminal for you. In the example below, I hadn’t replaced the special characters in my hostname so it highlighted it was unable to find the storage.

[root@server1-LK ~]# /opt/LifeKeeper/bin/lktest

/opt/LifeKeeper/bin/lktest: /etc/default/LifeKeeper[308]: QWK_STORAGE_OBJECT_server1_LK.localdomain=/nfs/general/nodeA: not found

/opt/LifeKeeper/bin/lktest: /etc/default/LifeKeeper[309]: QWK_STORAGE_OBJECT_server2_LK.localdomain=/nfs/general/nodeB: not found


 4 S root     2348  873   0   TS   39 -20 7656  15:49  00:00:00 lcm

 4 S root     2388  882   0   TS   39 -20 59959         15:49 00:00:00 ttymonlcm

 4 S root     2392  872   0   TS   29 -10 10330         15:49 00:00:00 lcd

 4 S root     8591  8476  0   TS   19  0 7670   15:58  00:00:00 lcdremexec -d server2-LK.localdomain -e — cat /proc/mdstat

You can also confirm that the witness file is being updated via the command line like so:

[root@server1-LK ~]# cat /nfs/general/nodeA



time=Thu Feb 15 14:10:56 2024





A Successful File Share Witness Using NFS

Setting up a file share witness using NFS is easy! It can be powerful if you are restricted to two nodes but need better resilience to split-brain events, especially in the cloud where you can leverage something like AWS’s EFS… Another essential part can be utilizing more communications paths, but that’s a different blog. However, by following the steps outlined in this guide, you can enhance the resilience of your clustered applications and minimize the risk of downtime. Always refer to the SIOS documentation and best practices for further guidance and optimization of your high-availability setup. It’s publicly available and extremely comprehensive!

SIOS High Availability and Disaster Recovery

SIOS Technology Corporation provides high availability and Disaster Recovery products that protect & optimize IT infrastructures with cluster management for your most important applications. Contact us today for more information about our services and professional support. 

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