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Forecasting Disk Resource Requirements for a Usenet Server

Karl L. Swartz
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center


Three years ago the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) decided to embrace netnews as a site-wide, multi-platform communications tool for the laboratory's diverse user community. The Usenet newsgroups as well as other world-wide newsgroup hierarchies were appealing for their unique ability to tap a broad pool of information, while the availability of the software on a number of platforms provided a way to communicate to and amongst the computing community. The previous way of doing this ran only on the VM mainframe system and had become increasingly ineffective as users migrated to other platforms.

The increasing dependence on netnews brought with it the requirement that the service be reliable. This was dramatically demonstrated when the long-neglected netnews service collapsed under the load of the traditional fall surge in Usenet traffic and the site was without news service for a week while an upgraded system was installed. One result of that painful event was that efforts were made to forecast growth and the accompanying hardware requirements so that equipment could be acquired and installed before problems became visible to the users.

This paper describes the major on-disk databases associated with news software, then presents an analysis of the storage requirements for these databases based on data collected at SLAC. A model is developed from this data which permits forecasting of disk resource requirements for a full feed as a function of time and local policies. Suggestions are also made as to how to modify this model for sites which do not carry a full feed.

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