Can’t We All Get Along? Redesigning Protection Storage for Modern Workloads


Yamini Allu, Fred Douglis, Mahesh Kamat, Ramya Prabhakar, Philip Shilane, and Rahul Ugale, Dell EMC


Deduplication systems for traditional backups have optimized for large sequential writes and reads. Over time, new applications have resulted in nonsequential accesses, patterns reminiscent of primary storage systems. The Data Domain File System (\ddfs) needs to evolve to support these modern workloads by providing high performance for nonsequential accesses without degrading performance for traditional backup workloads.

Based on our experience with thousands of deployed systems, we have updated our storage software to distinguish user workloads and apply optimizations including leveraging solid-state disk (SSD) caches. Since SSDs are still significantly more expensive than magnetic disks, we make our system cost-effective by caching metadata and file data rather than moving everything to SSD. We dynamically detect access patterns to decide when to cache, prefetch, and perform numerous other optimizations. We find that on a workload with nonsequential accesses, with SSDs for caching metadata alone, we measured a 5.7$\times$ improvement on input/output operations per second (IOPS) when compared to a baseline without SSDs. Combining metadata and data caching in SSDs, we measured a further 1.7$\times$ IOPS increase. Adding software optimizations throughout our system added an additional 2.7$\times$ IOPS improvement for nonsequential workloads. Overall, we find that both hardware and software changes are necessary to support the new mix of sequential and nonsequential workloads at acceptable cost. Our updated system is sold to customers worldwide.

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@inproceedings {215937,
author = {Yamini Allu and Fred Douglis and Mahesh Kamat and Ramya Prabhakar and Philip Shilane and Rahul Ugale},
title = {Can{\textquoteright}t We All Get Along? Redesigning Protection Storage for Modern Workloads},
booktitle = {2018 {USENIX} Annual Technical Conference ({USENIX} {ATC} 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-931971-44-7},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {705--718},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},