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Enhancing Derby

Given the overhead and performance drawbacks associated with disk persistence, a file system that offers multiple persistence guarantees rather than a ``one-size-fits-all model'' has several potential benefits. Consider the Unix Temporary File System (tmpfs) which stores data in the high-speed (volatile) memory of the local machine and never writes the data to disk. Despite the potential for data loss, many applications are willing to take that chance in exchange for fast file access. Unfortunately, to use tmpfs, users must know where the tmpfs file system is mounted (assuming it is mounted) and must selectively place their temporary files in the tmpfs portion of the directory structure. This also forces logically related files with different persistence requirements to be stored in different places. As another example, local file systems often delay writes to disk to improve performance. In this case, all data eventually hits the disk, but recently written data may be lost, often to the surprise and dismay of the user. We conclude that applications are often willing to trade persistence for performance and that a one-size-fits-all persistence model will be suboptimal for most applications. In this paper, we develop a new file system that supports a per-file, selectable-persistence model.

Our analysis shows that the majority of data written to the file system can tolerate a persistence level between tmpfs and disk persistence. Note, this does not mean ``the data will be lost'' but rather that we will accept a slightly higher probability of loss in exchange for better performance. For example, web-browser cache files can be lost without ill effect. Locally generated object files (.o's) and output files from word processing and typesetting applications can be easily regenerated or replaced. Likewise, whether adding to or extracting from an archive file (for example, tar or zip), the resultant file(s) can be recreated as long as the original file(s) survive. Even files initially retrieved by HTTP or FTP, if lost, usually can be re-downloaded. Certainly, there are exceptions to the above generalizations and so a per-file persistence model is necessary to provide the correct persistence for atypical files.

To quantify the amount of file data that can take advantage of a selectable persistence abstraction, we snooped NFS traffic on our computer science networks. The trace was conducted for 3 days and recorded all NFS traffic sent to our 5 file server machines running Solaris 2.6. All user accounts reside on the file servers as is typical of many distributed file systems. The majority of activity consisted of reading mail, browsing the web (browser cache files), editing/word-processing/typesetting, compiling, and archiving (for example, tar and gzip). We recorded the names of all files opened for writing and the number of bytes written to each file. We then classified files as requiring disk persistence or weak persistence (something less than disk persistence). If there was any doubt as to the persistence required by a file, we erred on the side of caution and classified the file as requiring disk persistence stability. Note that the amount of weakly persistent data would be higher had traffic to /tmp been captured as part of this trace. The results of the study are reported in Table 1.

Table 1: Number of files/bytes written or modified.
File Type # of files # of bytes
Weak persistence 24477 (75%) 4,410,711,305 (97%)
Disk persistence 8165 (25%) 116,717,201 (3%)

Although 25% of files required disk persistence, most of these files were small text files (.h and .c files for example) created with an editor and did not require memory-speed write performance. Disk-persistent files also only accounted for a small portion of the total file system write traffic. Conversely, weakly persistent files made up the bulk of write traffic, consisting of compiler and linker output, LaTeX output (for example, .dvi, .log, and .aux files), tar files, Netscape cache files, and temporary files created by a variety of programs. From this we conclude that a large percentage of write traffic would trade weaker persistence guarantees for performance. Furthermore, we believe that the aggregate memory space of current networks is ideal for storing weakly-persistent data requiring fast access.

next up previous
Next: MBFS Overview Up: An Application-Aware Data Storage Previous: Derby
Todd Anderson