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A Comparison of FFS Disk Allocation Policies

Keith A. Smith and Margo Seltzer
Harvard University


The 4.4BSD file system includes a new algorithm for allocating disk blocks to files. The goal of this algorithm is to improve file clustering, increasing the amount of sequential I/O when reading or writing files, thereby improving file system performance. In this paper we study the effectiveness of this algorithm at reducing file system fragmentation. We have created a program that artificially ages a file system by replaying a workload similar to that experienced by a real file system. We used this program to evaluate the effectiveness of the new disk allocation algorithm by replaying ten months of activity on two file systems that differed only in the disk allocation algorithms that they used. At the end of the ten month simulation, the file system using the new allocation algorithm had approximately half the fragmentation of a similarly aged file system that used the traditional disk allocation algorithm. Measuring the performance difference between the two file systems by reading and writing the same set of files on the two systems showed that this decrease in fragmentation improved file write throughput by 20% and read throughput by 32%. In certain test cases, the new allocation algorithm provided a performance improvement of greater than 50%.

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