OSDI '06 Paper
Pp. 1528 of the Proceedings
Figure 1: Comparison of traditional disks vs. type-safe disks
Gopalan Sivathanu, Swaminathan Sundararaman, and Erez Zadok
Stony Brook University
We present the notion of a type-safe disk (TSD). Unlike a
traditional disk system, a TSD is aware of the pointer relationships
between disk blocks that are imposed by higher layers such as the file
system. A TSD utilizes this knowledge in two key ways. First, it
enables active enforcement of invariants on data access based on the
pointer relationships, resulting in better security and integrity.
Second, it enables semantics-aware optimizations within the disk
system. Through case studies, we demonstrate the benefits of TSDs and
show that a TSD presents a simple yet effective general interface to
build the next generation of storage systems.
Pointers are the fundamental means by which modern file systems
organize raw disk data into semantically-meaningful entities such as
files and directories. Pointers define three things: (1) the semantic
dependency between blocks (e.g., a data block is accessible only
through a pointer from an inode block); (2) the logical grouping of
blocks (e.g., blocks pointed to by the same indirect block are part of
the same file or directory); and even (3) the importance of a block
(e.g., blocks with many outgoing pointers are important because they
impact the accessibility of a large set of blocks).
Despite the rich semantic information inherently available through
pointers, pointers are completely opaque to disk systems today. Due
to a narrow read-write interface, storage systems view data simply as
a raw sequence of uninterpreted blocks, thus losing all semantic
structure imposed on the data by higher layers such as the file system
or database system. This leads to the well-known information
gap between the storage system and higher
layers [8,10]. Because of this information gap,
storage systems are constrained in the range of functionality they can
provide, despite the powerful processing capability and the great deal
of low-level layout knowledge they
We propose the notion of a type-safe disk (TSD), a disk
system that has knowledge of the pointer relationships between blocks.
A TSD uses this knowledge in two key ways. First, semantic structure
conveyed through pointers is used to enforce invariants on data
access, providing better data integrity and security. For example, a
TSD prevents access to an unallocated block. Second, a TSD can
perform various semantics-aware optimizations that are difficult to
provide in the current storage
A TSD extends the traditional block-based read-write interface with
three new primitives: block allocation, pointer creation, and pointer
removal. By performing block allocation and de-allocation, a TSD frees
the file system from the need for free-space management. Similar in
spirit to type-safe programming languages, a TSD also exploits its
pointer awareness to perform automatic garbage collection of unused
blocks; blocks which have no pointers pointing to them are reclaimed
automatically, thus freeing file systems of the need to track
reference counts for blocks in many cases.
We demonstrate the utility of a TSD through two prototype case
studies. First, we show that a TSD can provide better data security
by constraining data access to conform to implicit trust
relationships conveyed through pointers. ACCESS (A Capability
Conscious Extended Storage System) is a TSD prototype that provides an
independent perimeter of security by constraining data access even
when the operating system is compromised due to an attack. ACCESS
enforces the invariant that for a block to be accessed, a parent block
pointing to this block should have been accessed in the recent past.
ACCESS also allows certain top-level blocks to be associated with
explicit read and write capabilities (i.e., per-block keys);
access to all other blocks is then validated through the
implicit capability vested by the fact that a parent block
pointing to that block was successfully accessed before. Such
path-based capabilities enable applications to encode
arbitrary operation-level access policies and sharing modes by
constructing separate pointer chains for different modes of access.
Our second case study is secure delete , a TSD
prototype that automatically overwrites deleted blocks. When the last
pointer to a block is removed, our secure deletion TSD schedules the
block for overwrite and will not reuse it until the overwrite
Overall, we find that a TSD presents an improved division of labor
between file systems and storage. By building on the existing
block-based interface, a TSD requires minimal modifications to the
file system. All the modifications required are
unlike design-level modifications that are required with
brand new interfaces. To demonstrate the ease with which existing
file systems can be ported to TSDs, we have modified two file systems,
Linux Ext2 and VFAT, to use our TSD prototype; in both cases the
changes were minimal.
Despite its simplicity, we find the interface to be quite powerful,
since it captures the essence of a file system's semantic
structure . We describe how various kinds of
functionality enhancements enabled by alternative
approaches [19,27] can be readily implemented
in our model. We also find that the notion of type-safety is largely
independent of the exact unit of block access. For example, even with
recent proposals for an object-based interface to
disks [11,19], the ability to convey relationship
between objects through pointers has benefits very similar to what we
illustrate in our case studies.
We evaluate our prototype implementations by using micro-benchmarks
and real workloads. We find that the primary performance cost in a
TSD arises from the various forms of state that the disk tracks for
block allocation, capability enforcement, etc. The costs, however,
are quite minimal. For typical user workloads, a TSD has an overhead
of just 3% compared to regular disks.
The rest of this paper is organized as follows.
In Section 2 we discuss the utility of pointer
information at the disk.
Section 3 discusses the design and implementation of the
basic TSD framework.
In Section 4 we describe file system support for TSDs.
Sections 6 and 7 present detailed case
studies of two applications of TSDs: ACCESS and secure deletion.
We evaluate all our prototype implementations in
We discuss related work in Section 9, and conclude in
In this section we present an extended motivation.
Pointers as a proxy for data semantics
The inter-linkage between blocks conveys rich semantic information
about the structure imposed on the data by higher layers. Most modern
file systems and database systems make extensive use of pointers to
organize disk blocks. For example, in a typical file system,
directory blocks logically point to inode blocks which in turn point
to indirect blocks and regular data blocks. Blocks pointed to by the
same pointer block are often semantically related (e.g., they belong
to the same file or directory). Pointers also define reachability: if
an inode block is corrupt, the file system cannot access any of the
data blocks it points to. Thus, pointers convey information about
which blocks impact the availability of the file system to various
degrees. Database systems are very similar in their usage of
pointers. They have B-tree indexes that contain on-disk pointers, and
their extent maps track the set of blocks belonging to a table or
In addition to being passively aware of pointer relationships, a
type-safe disk takes it one step further. It actively enforces
invariants on data access based on the pointer knowledge it has. This
feature of a TSD enables independent verification of file system
operations; more specifically, it can provide an additional perimeter
of security and integrity in the case of buggy file systems or a
compromised OS. As we show in Section 6, a type-safe
disk can limit the damage caused to stored data, even by an attacker
with root privileges. We believe this active nature of control and
enforcement possible with the pointer abstraction makes it powerful
compared to other more passive information-based interfaces.
Pointers thus present a simple but general way of capturing
application semantics. By aligning with the core abstraction used by
higher-level application designs, a TSD has the potential to enable
on-disk functionality that exploits data semantics. In the next
subsection, we list a few examples of new functionality (some proposed
in previous work in the context of alternative approaches) that TSDs
There are several possible uses of TSDs.
Since TSDs are capable of differentiating data and pointers, they can
identify metadata blocks as those blocks that contain outgoing
pointers and replicate them to a higher degree, or distribute them
evenly across all the disks. This could provide graceful degradation
of availability as provided by D-GRAID .
Using the knowledge of pointers, a TSD can co-locate blocks along with
their reference blocks (blocks that point to them). In general,
blocks will be accessed just after their pointer blocks are accessed,
and hence there would be better locality during access.
TSDs can perform intelligent prefetching of data because of
the pointer information. When a pointer block is accessed, a TSD can
prefetch the data blocks pointed to by it, and store it in the
on-disk buffers for improved read performance.
TSDs can provide new security properties using the pointer
knowledge by enforcing implicit capabilities. We discuss
this in detail in Section 6.
TSDs can perform automatic secure deletion of deleted blocks by
tracking block liveness using pointer knowledge. We describe this
in detail in Section 7.
3 Type-Safety at the Disk Level
Having pointer information inside the disk system enables enforcement
of interesting constraints on data access. For example, a TSD allows
access to only those blocks that are reachable through some pointer
path. TSDs manage block allocations and enforce that every block must
be allocated in the context of an existing pointer path, thus
preventing allocated blocks from becoming unreachable. More
interestingly TSDs enable disk-level enforcement of much richer
constraints for data security as described in our case study in
Enforcing such access constraints based on pointer relationships
between blocks is a
restricted form of type-safety, a well-known concept in the
field of programming languages. The type information that a TSD
exploits, however, is narrower in scope: TSDs just differentiate
between normal data and pointers.
We now detail the TSD interface, its operation, and our prototype
implementation. Figure 1 shows the architectural
differences between normal disks and a TSD.
3.1 Disk API
A type-safe disk exports the following primitives, in addition to the
basic block-based API:
- SET_BLOCKSIZE(Size): Sets the file system block size
- ALLOC_BLOCKS(Ref, Hint, Count): Allocates Count
number of new file system blocks from the disk-maintained free block
list, and creates pointers to the allocated blocks, from block Ref.
Allocated blocks need not be contiguous. Ref must be a valid block
number that was previously allocated. Hint is the block number
closest to which the new blocks should be allocated. Hint can be
NULL, which means the disk can choose the new block totally at its own
discretion. Returns an array of addresses of the newly allocated
blocks, or NULL if there are not enough free blocks on the device.
- ALLOC_CONTIG_BLOCKS(Ref, Hint, Count): Follows the
same semantics as ALLOC_BLOCKS, except that it allocates
Count number of contiguous blocks if available.
- CREATE_PTR(Src, Dest): Creates a pointer from block
Src to block Dest. Both Src and Dest must be previously
allocated. Returns success or failure.
- DELETE_PTR(Src, Dest): Deletes a pointer from block
Src that points to block Dest. Semantics similar to
- GET_FREE: Returns the number of free blocks left.
3.2 Managing Block Pointers
A TSD needs to maintain internal data-structures to keep track of all
pointers between blocks. It maintains a pointer tracking table called
PTABLE that stores the set of all pointers. The
PTABLE is indexed by the source block number and each table
entry contains the list of destination block numbers. A new
PTABLE entry is added every time a pointer is created. Based
on pointer information, TSD disk blocks are classified into three
kinds: (a) Reference blocks: blocks with both incoming and
outgoing pointers (such as inode blocks). (b) Data blocks:
blocks without any outgoing pointers but just incoming pointers. (c)
Root blocks: a pre-determined set of blocks that contain just
outgoing pointers but not incoming pointers. Root blocks are never
allocated or freed, and they are statically determined by the disk.
Root blocks are used for storing boot information or the primary
metadata block of file systems (e.g., the Ext2 super block).
3.3 Free-Space Management
To perform free-space management at the disk level, we track live and
free blocks. A TSD internally maintains an allocation bitmap,
ALLOC-BITMAP, containing one bit for every logical unit of
data maintained by the higher level software (e.g., a file system
block). The size of a logical unit is set by the upper-level software
through the SET_BLOCKSIZE disk primitive. When a new block
need to be allocated, the TSD can choose a free block closest to the
hint block number passed by the caller. Since the TSD can exploit the
low level knowledge it has, it chooses a block number which
requires the least access time from the hint block.
TSDs use the knowledge of block liveness (a block is defined to be
dead if it has no incoming pointers) to perform garbage collection.
Unlike traditional garbage collection systems in programming
languages, garbage collection in TSD happens synchronously
during a particular DELETE_PTR call which deletes the last
incoming pointer to a block. A TSD maintains a reference count table,
RTABLE, to speed up garbage collection. The reference count
of a block gets incremented every time a new incoming pointer is
created and is decremented during pointer deletions. When the
reference count of a block drops to zero during a DELETE_PTR
call, the block is marked free immediately. A TSD performs garbage
collection one block at a time as apposed to performing cascading
deletes. Garbage collection of reference blocks with outgoing
pointers is prevented by disallowing deletion of the last pointer to a
reference block before all outgoing pointers in it are deleted.
As TSDs maintain separate pointer information, TSD pointers could
become inconsistent with the file system pointers during system
crashes. Therefore, upon a system crash, the consistency mechanism of
the file system is triggered which checks file system pointers against
TSD pointers and first fixes any inconsistencies between both. It
then performs a regular scan of the file system to fix file system
inconsistencies and update the TSD pointers appropriately. For
example, if the consistency mechanism creates a new inode pointer to
fix an inconsistency, it also calls the CREATE_PTR primitive
to update the TSD internal pointers. Alternatively, we can obviate
the need for consistency mechanisms by just modifying file systems to
use TSD pointers instead of maintaining their own copy in their
meta-data. However, this involves wide-scale modifications to the
File system integrity checkers such as fsck for TSDs have to run
in a privileged mode so that they can perform a scan of the disk
without being subjected to the constraints enforced by TSDs. This
privileged mode can use a special administrative interface that
overrides TSD constraints and provides direct access to the TSD
pointer management data-structures.
When a block containing TSD-maintained pointer data-structures gets
corrupted the pointer information has to be recovered, as the data
blocks pertaining to the pointers could still be reachable through the
file system meta-data. Block corruption can be detected using
well-known methods such as checksumming. Upon detection, the TSD
notifies the file system, which recreates the lost pointers from its
3.5 Prototype Implementation
We implemented a prototype TSD as a pseudo-device driver in Linux
kernel 2.6.15 that stacks on top of an existing disk block driver. It
contains 3,108 lines of kernel code. The TSD layer receives all block
requests, and redirects the common read and write requests to the
lower level device driver. The additional primitives required for
operations such as block allocation and pointer management are
implemented as driver ioctls.
We implemented PTABLE and RTABLE as in-memory hash
tables which gets written out to disk at regular intervals of time
through an asynchronous commit thread. In implementing the
RTABLE, we add an optimization to reduce the number of
entries maintained in the hash table. We add only those blocks whose
reference count is greater than one. A block which is allocated and
which does not have an entry in the RTABLE is deemed to have
a reference count of one and an unallocated block (as indicated by the
ALLOC_BITMAP) is deemed to have a reference count of zero.
This significantly reduces the size of our RTABLE, because
most disk blocks have reference counts of zero or one (e.g., all data
blocks have reference counts zero or one).
4 File System Support
We now describe how a file system needs to be modified to
use a TSD. We first describe the general modifications
required to make any file system work with a TSD. Next, we describe
our modifications to two file systems, Linux Ext2 and VFAT, to use our
Since TSDs perform free-space management at the disk-level, file
systems using TSD are freed from the complexity of allocation
algorithms, and tracking free block bitmaps and other related
meta-data. However, file systems now need to call the disk API to
perform allocations, pointer management, and getting the free blocks
count. The following are the general modifications required to
existing file systems to support type-safe disks:
In the next two sub-sections we describe the modifications that we
made to the Ext2 and the VFAT file systems under Linux, to support
- The mkfs program should set the file system block size
using the SET_BLOCKSIZE primitive, and store the primary
meta-data block of the file system (e.g., the Ext2 super block) in one
of the TSD root blocks. Note that the TSD root blocks are a
designated set of well-known blocks known to the file system.
- The free-space management sub-system should be eliminated from
the file system, and TSD API should be used for block allocations. The
file system routine that estimates free-space, should call the
GET_FREE disk API, instead of consulting its own allocation
- Whenever file systems add new pointers to their meta-data,
CREATE_PTR disk primitive should be called to create a TSD
pointer. Similarly, the DELETE_PTR primitive has to be
called when pointers are removed from the file system.
We modified the Linux Ext2 file system to support type-safe disks; we
call the modified file system Ext2TSD. The Ext2 file system
groups together a fixed number of sequential blocks into a block group
and the file system is managed as a series of block groups. This is
done to keep related blocks together. Each block group contains a
copy of the super block, inode and block allocation data-structures,
and the inode blocks. The inode table is a contiguous array of blocks
in the block group that contain on-disk inodes.
To modify Ext2 to support TSDs, we removed the notion of block groups
from Ext2. Since allocations and de-allocations are done by using the
disk API, the file system need not group blocks based on their order.
However, to perform easy inode allocation in tune with Ext2, we
maintain inode groups which we call ISEGMENTS. Each isegment
contains a segment descriptor that has an inode bitmap to track the
number of free inodes in that isegment. The inode allocation
algorithm of Ext2TSD is same as that of Ext2.
The mkfs user program of Ext2TSD writes the super block, and
allocates the inode segment descriptor blocks, and inode tables using
the allocation API of the disk. It also creates pointers from the
super block to all blocks containing isegment descriptors and inodes
The organization of file data in Ext2TSD follows the same structure as
Ext2. When a new file data or indirect block is allocated, Ext2TSD
calls ALLOC_BLOCKS with the corresponding inode block or the
indirect block as the reference block. While truncating a file,
Ext2TSD just deletes the pointers in the indirect block branches in
the right order such that all outgoing pointers from the parent block
to its child blocks are deleted before deleting the incoming pointer
to the parent block. Thus blocks belonging to truncated or deleted
files are automatically reclaimed by the disk.
In the Ext2 file system, each directory entry contains the inode
number for the corresponding file or directory. This is a logical
pointer relationship between the directory block and the inode block.
In our implementation of Ext2TSD, we create physical pointers between
a directory block and the inode blocks corresponding to the inode
numbers contained in every directory entry in the directory block.
Modifying the Ext2 file system to support TSD was relatively simple.
It took 8 days for us to build Ext2TSD starting from a vanilla Ext2
file system. We removed 538 lines of code from Ext2 which are mostly
the code required for block allocation and bitmap management. We added
90 lines of new kernel code and modified 836 lines of existing code.
The next file system we consider is VFAT, a file system with origins
in Windows. Specifically, we consider the Linux implementation of
VFAT. We chose to modify VFAT to support TSDs because it is
sufficiently different in architecture from Ext2 and hence shows the
generality of the pointer level abstraction provided by TSDs. We call
our modified file system VFATTSD.
The VFAT file system contains an on-disk structure called the File
Allocation Table (FAT). The FAT is a contiguous set of blocks in
which each entry contains the logical block number of the next block
of a file or a directory. To get the next block number of a file, the
file system consults the FAT entries corresponding to the previous
block of the file. Each file or directory's first block is stored as
part of the directory entry in the corresponding directory block. The
FAT entry corresponding to the last block of a file contains an
EOF marker. VFAT tracks free blocks by having a special marker
in the FAT entry corresponding to the blocks.
In the context of TSDs, we need not use the FAT to track free blocks.
All block allocations are done using the allocation API provided by a
TSD. The mkfs file system creation program allocates and writes
the FAT blocks using the disk API. Modifying the VFAT file system to
support TSDs was substantially simpler compared to Ext2, as VFAT does
not manage data blocks hierarchically. We had to maintain
substantially lesser number of pointers.
In VFAT, we created pointers from each directory block to all blocks
belonging to files which have their directory entries in the directory
block. Each FAT block points to the block numbers contained in the
entries present within. The TSD therefore tracks all blocks belonging
to files in the same directory block. Also, all the directory blocks
and the FAT blocks contain outgoing pointers. The disk can track the
set of all metadata blocks present in the file system by just checking
if a block is a data block or a reference block.
Modifying the VFAT file system to support TSD was relatively straightforward.
It took 4 days for us to build VFATTSD from the VFAT file system.
We added 83 lines of code, modified 26 lines of code, and deleted 71
lines of code. The deleted code belonged to the free space management
component of VFAT.
5 Other Usage Scenarios
In this section we discuss how the TSD abstraction that we have
presented fits three other usage scenarios.
The TSD architecture requires a one-to-one correspondence between a
file system and a TSD. However, in aggregated storage architectures
such as RAID, a software or hardware layer could exist between file
systems and TSDs. In this scenario, the file system gets
distributed across several TSDs and no single piece has all the pointer
To realize the benefits of TSDs in this model, we propose the
following solution: all the layers between the file systems and the
TSDs should be aware of the TSD interface. Reference blocks should be
replicated across the TSDs, and the software layer that performs
aggregation should route the pointer management calls to the
appropriate TSD that contains the corresponding data blocks.
Therefore, in an aggregated storage system, each TSD contains a copy
of all the reference blocks, but has only a subset of pointers
pertaining to the data blocks in them. This ensures that whatever
information that a single TSD has is sufficient for its own internal
operations such as garbage collection, and the global structure can be
used by the aggregation layer by combining the information present in
each of the TSDs. The aggregation layer intercepts the
CREATE_PTR and DELETE_PTR calls and invokes the
disk primitives of the TSD which contains the corresponding data
blocks. The aggregation layer also contains an allocation algorithm
to route the ALLOC_BLOCKS call from the file system to the
appropriate TSD. For example, if there are three TSDs in a software
RAID system and a file is striped across the three, all the disks will
contain the file's inode block. However, each disk's pointer
data-structures will contain only the pointers from the inode blocks
to those data blocks that are present in that disk. In this case, the
first disk only contains pointers from the inode block to block
offsets 0, 3, 6, and so on. A related idea explored in the context of
Chunkfs is allowing files and directories to span across different
file systems by having continuation inodes in each file
Journalling file systems
Journalling file systems maintain a persistent log of operations for
easy recovery after a crash. A journalling file system that uses a
TSD should pre-allocate the journal blocks using the
ALLOC_BLOCKS primitive with the reference block as one of
the root blocks. For example, Ext3 can create pointers from the super
block to all the journal blocks. Journalling file systems should also
update TSD pointers during journal recovery, using the pointer
management API of the TSD, to ensure that the TSD pointer information
is in sync with the file system meta-data.
Software dependent on physical locations
Software that needs to place data in the exact physical location on
the disk, such as some physical backup tools, may not benefit as much
from the advantages of TSDs. This is because TSDs do not provide
explicit control to the upper level software to choose the precise
location of a block to allocate. However, such software can be
supported by TSDs by using common techniques such as preallocating all
blocks in the disk and then managing them at the software level. For
example, a log-structured file system can allocate all TSD blocks
using the ALLOC_BLOCKS primitive during bootstrapping, and
then perform its normal operation within that range of blocks.
6 Case Study: ACCESS
We describe how type-safety can enable a disk to provide better
security properties than existing storage systems. We designed and
implemented a secure storage system called ACCESS
(A Capability Conscious
Extended Storage System) using the TSD
framework; we then built a file system on top, called Ext2ACCESS.
Protecting data confidentiality and integrity during intrusions is
crucial: attackers should not be able to read or write on-disk data
even if they gain root privileges. One solution is to use
encryption [6,30]; this ensures that
intruders cannot decipher the data they steal. However, encryption
does not protect the data from being overwritten or destroyed.
An alternative is to use explicit disk-level capabilities to
control access to data [1,11]. By enforcing
capabilities independently, a disk enables an additional perimeter of
security even if the OS is compromised. Others explored using
disk-level versioning that never overwrites blocks, thus enabling the
recovery of pre-attack data .
ACCESS is a type-safe disk that uses pointer information to enforce
implicit path-based capabilities, obviating the need to
maintain explicit capabilities for all blocks, yet providing similar
ACCESS has five design goals.
(1) Provide an infrastructure to limit the scope of confidentiality
breaches on data stored on local disks even when the attacker has root
privileges or the OS and file systems are compromised.
(2) The infrastructure should also enable protection of stored data
against damage even in the event of a network intruder gaining access
to the raw disk interface.
(3) Support efficient and easy revocation of authentication keys,
which should not require costly re-encryptions upon revocation.
(4) Enable applications to use the infrastructure to build strong and
easy-to-use security features.
(5) Support data recovery through administrative interfaces
even when authentication tokens are lost.
The primitive unit of storage in today's commodity disks is a
fixed-size disk block. Authenticating every block access using a
capability is too costly in terms of performance and usability.
Therefore, there needs to be some criteria by which blocks are grouped
and authenticated together.
Since TSDs can differentiate between normal data and pointers, they
can perform logical grouping of blocks based on the reference blocks
pointing to them. For example, in Ext2 all data blocks pointed to
by the same indirect block belong to the same file.
ACCESS provides the following guarantee: a block x cannot be accessed
unless a valid reference block y that points to this block x is accessed.
This guarantee implies that protecting access to data simply
translates to protecting access to the reference blocks. Such
grouping is also consistent with the fact that users often arrange
files of related importance into individual folders. Therefore, in
ACCESS, a single capability would be sufficient to protect a logical
working set of user files. Reducing the number of capabilities
required is not only more efficient, but also more convenient for
In ACCESS, blocks can have two capability strings: a read and a
write capability (we call these explicit capabilities).
Blocks with associated explicit capabilities, which we call
protected blocks, can be read or written only by providing
the appropriate capability.
By performing an operation on a block Ref using a valid capability,
the user gets an implicit capability to perform the same
operation on all blocks pointed to by Ref, which are not directly protected
(capability inheritance). If a particular reference block i points
to another block j with associated explicit capabilities, then the
implicit capability of i is not sufficient to access j; the
explicit capability of j is needed to perform operations on it.
As all data and reference blocks are accessed using valid pointers
stored on disk, root blocks are used to bootstrap the operations. In
ACCESS, there are two kinds of access modes: (1) All protected blocks
are accessed by providing the appropriate capability for the
operation. (2) Blocks which are not protected can inherit their
capability from an authenticated parent block.
ACCESS maintains a table named KTABLE indexed by the block
number, to store the blocks' read and write
It also maintains a temporal access table called LTABLE which
is indexed by the reference block number. The LTABLE has
entries for all reference blocks whose associated implicit
capabilities have not timed out. The timed out entries in the
LTABLE are periodically purged.
Preventing replay attacks
In ACCESS, data needs to be protected even in situations where the OS
is compromised. Passing clear-text capabilities through the OS
interface could lead to replay attacks by a silent intruder who
eavesdrops capabilities. To protect against this, ACCESS associates a
sequence number with capability tokens. To read a protected block,
the user has to provide a HMAC checksum of the capability (Cu)
concatenated with a sequence number (Su) (Hu = HMAC(Cu+Su,Cu)). This can be generated using an external key card or a
hand-held device that shares sequence numbers with the ACCESS disk
system. Each user has one of these external devices, and ACCESS
tracks sequence numbers for each user's external device. Upon
receiving Hu for a block, ACCESS retrieves the capability token for
that block from the KTABLE and computes HA =
HMAC(CA+SA, CA), where CA and SA are the capability and
sequence number for the block, and are maintained by ACCESS. If Hu
and HA do not match, ACCESS denies access. Skews in sequence
numbers are handled by allowing a window of valid sequence numbers at
any given time.
During every reference block access, an optional timeout interval
(Interval) can be provided, during which the implicit capabilities
associated with that reference block will be active. Whenever a
reference block Ref is accessed successfully, an LTABLE
entry is added for it. This entry stays until Interval expires. It
is during this period of time, that we call the temporal
window, all child blocks of Ref which are not protected inherit the
implicit capability of accessing Ref. Once the timeout interval
expires, all further accesses to the child blocks are denied. This
condition should be captured by the upper level software, which should
prompt the user for the capability token, and then call the disk
primitive to renew the timeout interval for Ref. The value of
Interval can be set based on the security and convenience
requirements. Long-running applications that are not interactive in
nature should choose larger timeout intervals.
At any instant of time when the OS is compromised, the subset of
blocks whose temporal window is active will be vulnerable to attack.
This subset would be a small fraction of the entire disk data. The
amount of data vulnerable during OS compromises can be reduced by
choosing short timeout intervals. One can also force the timeout of
the temporal window using the FORCE_TIMEOUT disk primitive
To design the ACCESS API, we extended the TSD API
(Section 3) with capabilities, and added new primitives
for managing capabilities and timeouts. Note that some of the
primitives described below let the file system specify the reference
block through which the implicit capability chain is established.
However, as we describe later, this is only used as a hint by the disk
system for performance reasons; ACCESS maintains its own structures
that validate whether the specified reference block was indeed
accessed, and it has a pointer to the actual block being accessed. In
this section when we refer to read or write capabilities, we
mean the HMAC of the corresponding capabilities and a sequence number.
- SET_CAPLEN(Length): Sets the length of capability
tokens. This setting is global.
- ALLOC_BLOCKS(Ref, Refr | Cw, Count): Operates
similar to the TSD ALLOC_BLOCKS primitive with the
following two changes. (1) If Ref is protected the call takes the
write capability of Ref, Cw; (2) otherwise, the call takes the
reference block Refr of Ref, to verify that the caller has write
access to Ref.
- ALLOC_CONTIG_BLOCKS(Ref, Refr | Cw, Count): Same
as the ALLOC_BLOCKS primitive, but allocates contiguous
- READ(Bno, Ref | Crw, Timeout): Reads the block
represented by Bno. Ref is the reference block that has a pointer
to Bno. Crw is either the read or the write capability of
block Bno. The second argument of this primitive must be Ref if
Bno is not protected for read, and must be Crw if Bno is
protected. Timeout is the timeout interval.
- WRITE(Bno, Ref | Cw, timeout): Writes the block
represented by Bno. Cw is the write capability of Bno. Other
semantics are similar to READ.
- CREATE_PTR(Src, Dest, Refs | Csw, Cdw |Refdw): Creates a pointer from block Src to block Dest. If
Src or Dest are protected, their capabilities have to be provided.
For blocks which are not protected, the caller must provide valid
reference blocks which point to Src and Dest. Note that although
the pointer is created only from the source block, we need the write
capability for the destination block as well; without this
requirement, one can create a pointer to any arbitrary block and gain
implicit write capabilities on that block.
- DELETE_PTR(Src, Dest, Refs | Csw): Deletes a
pointer from block Src to block Dest. Write credentials for Src
has to be provided.
- KEY_CONTROL(Bno, Cow, Cnr, Cnw, Ref): This
sets, unsets, or changes the read and write capabilities associated
with the block Bno. Cow is the old write capability of Bno.
Cnr and Cnw are the new read and write capabilities
respectively. A reference block Ref that has a pointer to Bno
needs to be passed only while setting the write key for a block that
did not have a write capability before. For all other operations, like
unsetting keys or changing keys, Ref need not be specified because
Cow can be used for authentication.
- RENEW_CAPABILITY(Ref, Crw, Interval): Renews the
capability for a given reference block. Crw is the read or write
key associated with Ref. Interval is the timeout interval for the
- FORCE_TIMEOUT(Ref): Times out the implicit
capabilities associated with reference block Ref.
- SET_BLOCKSIZE and GET_FREE TSD primitives
(Section 3) can be called through the secure
administrative interface discussed in Section 6.3.
6.2 Path-Based Capabilities
Capability systems often use capabilities at the granularity of
objects (e.g., physical disk blocks, or memory pages); each
object is associated with a capability that needs to be presented to
In contrast, the implicit capabilities used by ACCESS are
path-level. In other words, they authenticate an access
based on the path through which the access was made. This mechanism
of authenticating paths instead of individual objects is quite
powerful in enabling applications to encode arbitrary trust
relationships in those paths. For example, a database system could
have a policy of allowing any user to access a specific row in a table
by doing an index lookup of a 64-bit key, but restrict scans of the
entire table only to privileged users. With per-block (or per-row)
capabilities, this policy cannot be enforced at the disk unless the
disk is aware of the scan and index lookup operations. With
path-based capabilities, the database system could simply encode this
policy by constructing two separate pointer chains: one going from
each block in the table to the next, and another from the index block
to the corresponding table block-and just have different keys for
the start of both these chains. Thus, the same on-disk data item can
be differentiated for different application-level operations,
while the disk is oblivious to these operations.
Another benefit of the path-based capability abstraction is that it
enables richer modes of sharing in a file system context. Let's
assume there are n users in a file system and each user shares a
subset of files with another user. With traditional encryption or
per-object capability systems, users has to use a separate key for
each other user that shares their files; this is clearly a key
management nightmare (with arbitrary sharing, we would need n2
keys). In our model, users can use the same key regardless of how
many users share pieces of their data. To enable another user to
share a file, all that needs to be done is a separate link be created
from the other user's directory to this specific file. The link
operation needs to take capabilities of both users, but once the
operation is complete, the very fact that the pointer linkage exists
will enable the sharing, but at the same time limit the sharing to
only those pieces of data explicitly shared.
6.3 Key Revocation and Data Recovery
ACCESS enables efficient and easy key revocation. In normal
encryption based security systems, key revocation could become pretty
costly in proportion to the size of the data, as all data have to be
decrypted and re-encrypted with the new key. With ACCESS, one just
changes the capability for the reference blocks instead of the entire
set of data blocks. Data need not be modified at all while revoking
Secure key backup is a major task in any encryption-based data
protection system. Once an encryption key is lost, usually the data
is fully lost and cannot be recovered.
ACCESS does not have this major problem. Data is not
encrypted at all, and hence even if keys are lost, data can be
retrieved or the keys may be reset using the administrative interface
Often system administrators need to perform backup and or
administrative operations for which the restricted ACCESS interface
might not be sufficient. ACCESS will have a secure administrative
interface, which could be through a special hardware port requiring
physical access, in combination with a master key. Using the secure
administrative interface, the administrator can backup files, delete
unimportant files, etc., because the data is not stored internally in
6.4 ACCESS Prototype
We extended our TSD prototype to implement ACCESS. We implemented
additional hash tables for storing the KTABLE and
LTABLE required for tracking capabilities and temporal access
locality. All in-memory hash tables were periodically committed to
disk through an asynchronous commit thread. The allocation and
pointer management ioctls in TSD were modified to take
capabilities or reference blocks as additional arguments. We
implemented the KEY_CONTROL primitive as a new ioctl
in our pseudo-device driver.
To authenticate the read and write operations, we
implemented a new ioctl, KEY_INPUT. We did this to
simplify our implementation and not modify the generic block driver.
The KEY_INPUT ioctl takes the block number and the
capabilities (or reference blocks) as arguments. The upper level
software should call this ioctl before every read or write
operation to authenticate the access. Internally, the disk validates
the credentials provided during the ioctl and stores the success
or failure state of the authentication. When a read or write request
is received, ACCESS checks the state of the previous
KEY_INPUT for the particular block to allow or disallow
access. Once access is allowed for an operation, the success state is
reset. When a valid KEY_INPUT is not followed by a
subsequent read or write for the block (e.g., due to software bugs),
we time out the success state after a certain time interval.
6.5 The Ext2ACCESS File System
We modified the Ext2TSD file system described in
Section 4.1 to support ACCESS; we call the new file
system Ext2ACCESS. To demonstrate a usage model of ACCESS
disks, we protected only the inode blocks of Ext2ACCESS with read and
write capabilities. All other data blocks and indirect blocks had
implicit capabilities inherited from their inode blocks. This way
users can have a single read or write capability for accessing a whole
file. An alternative approach may be to protect only directory inode
blocks. ACCESS provides an infrastructure for implementing security
at different levels, which upper level software can use as needed.
To implement per-file capabilities, we modified the Ext2 inode
allocation algorithm. Ext2 stores several inodes in a single block;
so in Ext2ACCESS we needed to ensure that an inode block has only
those inodes that share the same capabilities. To handle this, we
associated a capability table with every isegment
(Section 4.1). The capability table persistently stores
the checksums of the capabilities of every inode block in the
particular isegment. Whenever a new inode needs to be allocated, an
isegment with the same key is chosen if available.
Ext2ACCESS has two file system ioctls, called SET_KEY
and UNSET_KEY, which can be used by user processes to set
and unset capabilities for files.
The life of a user's key in kernel memory can be decided by the user.
For example, a user can call the SET_KEY ioctl before
an operation and then immediately call the UNSET_KEY
ioctl after the operation is completed to erase the capability
from kernel memory; in this case the life of the key in kernel memory is
limited to a single operation. Ext2ACCESS uses the
KEY_INPUT device ioctl of ACCESS to send the user's
key before reading an inode block. For all other blocks, it sends the
corresponding reference block as an implicit capability, for temporal
An issue that arises in Ext2ACCESS is that general file system
meta-data such as super block and descriptors need to be written to
all the time (and hence must have their capabilities in memory). This
can potentially make them vulnerable to modifications by attackers.
We address this vulnerability by mapping these blocks to root blocks
and enforce that no pointer creations or deletions can be made to root
blocks except through an administrative interface. Accordingly,
mkfs creates set of pointers to the relevant inode bitmap and
isegment descriptor blocks, but this cannot change after that. Thus,
we ensure confidentiality and write protection of all protected user
files and directories.
Although the above solution protects user data during attacks, the
contents of the metadata blocks themselves could be modified (for
example, free block count, inode allocation status, etc). Although
most of this information can be reconstructed by querying the pointer
structure from the disk, certain pieces of information are hard to
reconstruct. Our current implementation does not handle this
scenario, but there are various solutions to this problem. First, we
could impose that the disk perform periodic snapshotting of root
blocks; since these are very few in number, the overhead of
snapshotting will be minimal.
Alternatively, some amount of NVRAM could be used to buffer writes to
these global metadata blocks and periodically (say once a day) an
administrator "commits" these blocks to disk using a special
capability after verifying its integrity.
7 Case Study: Secure Deletion
In this section we describe our next case study: a disk system that
automatically performs secure deletion of blocks that are freed. We
begin with a brief motivation and then move on to the design and
implementation of our Secure Deletion Type-Safe Disk
Data security often includes the ability to delete data such that it
Several software-level mechanisms exist today that delete disk data
securely [22,16]. However, these mechanisms are
fundamentally insecure compared to disk-level
mechanisms , because the former do not have
knowledge of disk internals and therefore cannot guarantee that
deleted data is overwritten.
Since a TSD automatically tracks blocks that are not used, obtaining
liveness information about blocks is simple as described in
Section 3. Whenever a block is garbage collected, an
SDTSD just needs to securely delete the block by overwriting it one or
more times. The SDTSD must also ensure that a garbage collected block
that is not yet securely deleted is not re-allocated; an SDTSD achieves
this by deferring the update of the ALLOC_BITMAP until a
block is securely deleted.
To improve performance, an SDTSD overwrites blocks in batches. Blocks
that are garbage collected are automatically added to a
secure-deletion list. This list is periodically flushed and the
blocks to be securely deleted are sorted for sequential access. Once a
batch of blocks is overwritten multiple times, the
ALLOC_BITMAP is updated to mark all those blocks as free.
We extended our prototype TSD framework described in
Section 3.5 to implement secure-deletion
functionality. Whenever a block is garbage collected, we add the
block number to a list. An asynchronous kernel thread wakes up every
second to flush the list into a buffer, sort it, and perform
overwrites. The number of overwrites per block is configurable. We
added 403 lines of kernel code to our existing TSD prototype.
We evaluated the performance of our prototype TSD framework in the
context of Ext2TSD and VFATTSD. We also evaluated our prototype
implementations of ACCESS and secure delete. We ran general-purpose
workloads and also micro-benchmarks on our prototypes and compared them
with unmodified Ext2 and VFAT file systems on a regular disk.
This section is organized as follows: first we talk
about our test platform, configurations, and procedures. Next, we
analyse the performance of the TSD framework with the Ext2TSD and
VFATTSD file systems. Finally, we evaluate our prototypes for ACCESS
We conducted all tests on a 2.8GHz Xeon with 1GB RAM, and a 74GB,
10Krpm, Ultra-320 SCSI disk. We used Fedora Core 4, running a
vanilla Linux 2.6.15 kernel. To ensure a cold cache, we unmounted all
involved file systems between each test. We ran all tests at least
five times and computed 95% confidence intervals for the mean
elapsed, system, user, and wait times using the Student-t
distribution. In each case, the half-widths of the intervals were
less than 5% of the mean. Wait time is the elapsed time less CPU
time used and consists mostly of I/O, but process scheduling can also
affect it. We recorded disk statistics from /proc/diskstats
for our test disk. We provide the following detailed disk-usage
statistics: the number of read I/O requests (rio), number of write
I/O requests (wio), number of sectors read (rsect), number
of sectors written (wsect), number of read requests merged
(rmerge), number of write requests merged (wmerge), total
time taken for read requests (ruse), and the total time taken
for write requests (wuse).
Benchmarks and configurations We used Postmark v1.5 to generate
an I/O-intensive workload. Postmark
stresses the file system by performing a series of
operations such as directory lookups, creations, and deletions
on small files .
For all runs, we ran Postmark with 50,000 files and 250,000
To simulate a relatively CPU-intensive user workload, we compiled the
Linux kernel source code. We used a vanilla Linux 2.6.15 kernel, and
analyzed the overheads of Ext2TSD and Ext2ACCESS, for the
untar, make oldconfig, and make operations combined.
To isolate the overheads of individual file system operations, we ran
micro-benchmarks that analyze the overheads associated with the
create, lookup, and unlink operations. For all
micro-benchmarks, we used a custom user program that creates 250
directories and 1,000 files in each of these directories, creating a
total of 250,000 files. For performing lookups, we called the
stat operation on each of these files. We called stat by
specifying the full path name of the files so that readdir was
not called. For the unlink micro-benchmarks, we removed
all 250,000 files created.
Unless otherwise mentioned, the system time
overheads were caused by the hash table lookups required during the
CREATE_PTR and DELETE_PTR TSD calls. This CPU overhead
is due to the fact that our prototype is implemented as a
pseudo-device driver that runs on the same CPU as the file system. In
a real TSD setting, the hash table lookups will be performed by the
processor embedded in the disk and hence will not influence the
overheads on the host system.
We analyze the overheads of Ext2TSD over our TSD framework in
comparison with the overheads of regular Ext2 over a regular disk. We
discuss the Postmark, kernel compilation, and micro-benchmark results.
Figure 2: Postmark and Kernel compile results for Ext2TSD
Figure 2(a) shows the comparison of
Ext2TSD over TSD with regular Ext2. Ext2TSD has a system time
overhead of 81% compared to regular Ext2. This is because of the
hash table lookups required for creating and deleting pointers. The
wait time of the Ext2TSD configurations was 5% lower than regular
Ext2. This is because of better spatial locality in Ext2TSD for the
Postmark workload. This is evidenced by the higher rmerge and
wmerge values of Ext2TSD compared to Ext2. Ext2's allocation
policy takes into account future file growth and hence leaves free
blocks between newly created files. In Ext2TSD, we did not implement
this policy and hence we have better locality for small files.
Overall, the elapsed times for Ext2 and Ext2TSD under Postmark are
The Ext2TSD results for the kernel compilation benchmark are shown in
Figure 2(b). The wait time overhead for Ext2TSD
is 77%. This increase in wait time is not because of increase in
I/O, as shown in the disk statistics. The increase is because of the
increased sleep time of the Postmark process context while the TSD
commit thread (described in Section 3.5) preempts it
to commit the hash tables. The asynchronous commit thread runs in a
different context and has to traverse all hash tables to commit them,
taking more system time, which is reflected as wait time in the
context of Postmark.
Since a kernel compile is not an I/O-intensive workload, the system
time overhead is lower than the overhead for Postmark. The elapsed
time overhead of Ext2TSD compared to Ext2 under this benchmark is 3%.
We ran the CREATE, LOOKUP, and UNLINK
micro-benchmarks on Ext2TSD and compared them with Ext2TSD.
Figure 3: Create
Figure 3 shows the results for the CREATE
micro-benchmark. The wait time overhead is 36%, which is due to the
increase in the sleep time due to CPU context switches required for
the TSD commit thread. Since this benchmark has a significant system
time component, this is more pronounced. The wuse and
ruse values in the disk statistics have not increased and hence
the higher wait time is not because of additional I/O.
Figure 4: Lookup
Figure 4 shows the results of the LOOKUP
micro-benchmark. Ext2TSD had a 12% lower elapsed time than Ext2.
This is mainly
because of the 24% savings in wait time thanks to the better spatial
locality evidenced by the ruse value of the disk statistics.
Figure 5: Unlink
Figure 5 shows the results of the UNLINK
Ext2TSD is comparable to Ext2 in terms to
elapsed time. This is because the 21% increase in system time is
compensated for by the 12% decrease in the wait time,
due to better spatial locality.
We evaluated the overheads of VFATTSD compared to VFAT, by running
Postmark on a regular VFAT file system and on VFATTSD.
Figure 6 shows the Postmark results for
The increase in wait time in VFATTSD (31%) is due to the increased
seek times while updating FAT entries. This is because VFATTSD's FAT
blocks are not contiguous. This is evident from the increased value
of wuse for similar values of wsect.
Figure 6: Postmark
results for VFATTSD
We now discuss the results for Ext2ACCESS under Postmark, kernel
compilation, and micro-benchmarks.
Figure 7: Postmark and Kernel compile results for Ext2ACCESS
Figure 7(a) shows the Postmark results for
Ext2ACCESS and Ext2. The overheads of Ext2ACCESS are similar to
Ext2TSD except that the system time overheads have increased
significantly. Ext2ACCESS has 60% more system time than Ext2. This
is because of the additional information such as keys and the temporal
locality of reference blocks that ACCESS needs to track. Even though
ACCESS incurs the overhead to write the capability table
(Section 6.5) for each isegment, it has not affected
the wait time because of better spatial locality.
Figure 7(b) shows the results for the Ext2ACCESS
kernel compile benchmark. Ext2ACCESS had 21% more system time than
Ext2, due to the additional information being tracked by ACCESS.
Ext2ACCESS's wait time was 2.5 times larger because of the increase in
sleep time of the compile process context due to the preemption of the
TSD commit thread. The sleep time has increased compared to Ext2TSD
because ACCESS is more CPU-intensive than Ext2TSD.
Figures 3, 4, and 5 also
show the results for the CREATE, LOOKUP, and the
UNLINK micro-benchmarks for Ext2ACCESS, respectively. For the
CREATE workload the system time and wait time of Ext2ACCESS
increased by 44% and 2.2 times, respectively, compared to regular
The increase in wait time is because of two reasons. First, the I/O
time for Ext2ACCESS is greater because of the additional seeks
required to access the capability table. This is shown in the disk
statistics. The wuse and ruse values of Ext2ACCESS are
significantly higher than regular Ext2. Second, the preemption of the
benchmark process context by the TSD commit thread has resulted in
increased sleep time. The results for the lookup workload are similar
to that of Ext2TSD, except for the 12% increase in system time. For
the unlink workload, Ext2ACCESS shows significant overheads: 90% more
system time and 85% more wait time. This is because unlinking files
involve several calls to the DELETE_PTR disk primitive which
requires multiple hash table lookups. The increase in wait time is
due to the increase in the time taken for writes as evidenced by the
high wuse value of disk statistics. This is because of the
additional seeks required to update the capability tables for each
8.4 Secure Deletion
To evaluate the performance of our next case study (SDTSD), we ran an
unlink micro-benchmark. Figure 8 shows the results of
this benchmark. The I/O overhead of SDTSD over Ext2TSD was 40%
compared to regular Ext2, mainly because of the additional I/O caused
by overwrites for secure deletion. This is evidenced by the high
wsect and wuse values for SDTSD, as expected.
Figure 8: Unlink
benchmark for secure delete
9 Related Work
The concept of type safety has been widely used in the context of
programming languages. Type-safe languages such as Java are known to
make programming easier by providing automatic memory management.
More importantly, they improve security by restricting memory access
to legal data structures. Type-safe languages use a philosophy very
similar to our model: a capability to an encompassing data structure
implies a capability to all entities enclosed within it.
Type-safety has also been explored in the context of building secure
operating systems. For example, the SPIN operating
system  enabled safe kernel-level extensions by
constraining them to be written in Modula-3, a type-safe language.
Since the extension can only access objects it has explicit access to,
it cannot change arbitrary kernel state. More recently, the
Singularity operating system  used a similar
approach, attempting to improve OS robustness and
reliability by using type-safe languages and clearly defined
Interface between file systems and disks Our work is
closely related to a large body of work examining new interfaces
between file systems and storage. For example, logical disks expand
the block-based interface by exposing a list-based mechanism that file
systems use to convey grouping between blocks . The
Universal File Server  has two layers where the
lower layer exists in the storage level, thereby conveying
directory-file relationships to the storage layer. More recent
research has suggested the evolution of the storage interface from the
current block-based form to a higher-level abstraction. Object-based
Storage Device (OSD) is one example ; in OSDs the disk
manages variable-sized objects instead of blocks. Similar to TSD,
object-based disks handle block allocation within an object, but still
do not have information on the relationships across objects. Another
example is Boxwood ; Boxwood considers making
distributed file systems easier to develop by providing a distributed
storage layer that exports higher-level data structures such as
B-Trees. Unlike many of these interfaces, TSD considers backwards
compatibility and ease of file system modification as an important
goal. By following the block-based interface and augmenting it with
minimal hooks, we enable file systems to be more readily portable to
this interface, as this paper demonstrates. Others examine the
storage interface by trying to keep the interface constant, but move
some intelligence into the disk system. For example, the Loge disk
controller implemented eager-writing by writing to a block closest to
its disk arm . The log-based programmable
disk  extended this work, adding free-space
compaction. These systems, while being easily deployable by not
requiring interface change, are quite limited in the functionality
they extend to disks.
A more recent example of work on improving storage functionality
without changing the interface is Semantically-smart Disk Systems
(SDSs) . An SDS enables rich functionality by
automatically tracking information about the file system or DBMS using
the storage system, by carefully watching updates. However, semantic
disks need to be tailored to the specifics of the file system above.
In addition, they involve a fair amount of complexity to infer
semantic information underneath asynchronous file systems. As the
authors point out , SDS is valuable when the
interface cannot be changed, but serves better as an evolutionary step
towards an eventual change to an explicit interface such as TSD.
Capability-based access control Network-Attached Secure
Disks (NASDs) incorporate capability based access control in the
context of distributed authentication using object-based
Temporal timeouts in ACCESS are related to caching capabilities during
a time interval in OSDs . The notion of using a
single capability to access a group of blocks has been explored in
In contrast to their object-level capability enforcement, ACCESS uses
implicit path-based capabilities using pointer relationships between
In this paper, we have taken the well-known concept of type-safety and
applied it in the context of disk storage. We have explored a simple
question: what can a disk do if it knew about pointers? We find that
pointer information enables rich functionality within storage, and
also enables better security through active enforcement of constraints
within the disk system. We believe that this pointer abstraction
explores an interesting and effective design choice in the large
spectrum of work on alternative interfaces to storage.
Our experience with TSDs and the case studies has also pointed to some
limitations with this approach. First, TSDs assume that a block is an
atomic unit of file system structure. This assumption makes it hard
to enforce constraints on data objects that occupy a partial block
(e.g., multiple inodes per block). Second, the lack of higher level
control over block allocation may limit the benefits of TSDs with
software that need to place data in the exact physical locations on
disk. While the current interface presents a reasonable choice, only
future research will identify if more fine tuning is required.
We like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments,
and especially our shepherd Garth Gibson, whose meticulous and
detailed comments helped improve the work. We thank Muthian Sivathanu
for his valuable feedback during the various stages of this project.
We would also like to thank the following people for their comments
and suggestions on the work:
Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau,
Charles P. Wright, and the members of our research group (File systems
and Storage Lab at Stony Brook).
This work was partially made possible by NSF CAREER EIA-0133589 and
NSF CCR-0310493 awards.
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