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Swift/RAID: A Distributed RAID System

Darrell D. E. Long, Bruce R. Montaguey

Computer and Information Sciences
University of California, Santa Cruz

Luis-Felipe Cabrera
Computer Science Department
IBM Almaden Research Center


The Swift I/O architecture is designed to provide high data rates in support of multimedia type applications in general purpose distributed environments through the use of distributed striping. Striping techniques place sections of a single logical data space onto multiple physical devices. The original Swift prototype was designed to validate the architecture, but did not provide fault tolerance. We have implemented a new prototype of the Swift architecture that provides fault tolerance in the distributed environment in the same manner as RAID levels 4 and 5. RAID (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks) techniques have recently been widely used to increase both performance and fault tolerance of disk storage systems.

The new Swift/RAID implementation manages all communication using a distributed transfer plan executor which isolates all communication code from the rest of Swift. The transfer plan executor is implemented as a distributed finite state machine which decodes and executes a set of reliable data transfer operations. This approach enabled us to easily investigate alternative architectures and communications protocols.

Providing fault tolerance comes at a cost, since computing and administering parity data impacts Swift/RAID data rates. For a five node system, in one typical performance benchmark, Swift/RAID level 5 obtained 87% of the original Swift read throughput and 53% of the write throughput. Swift/RAID level 4 obtained 92% of the original Swift read throughput and 34% of the write throughput.

Keywords: Swift architecture, RAID, data striping, client-server data transmission, network data service, distributed atomic operations, concurrent programming, distributed state machines, real-time distributed programming.

1 Introduction

The Swift system was designed to investigate the use of network disk striping to achieve the data rates required by multimedia in a general purpose distributed system. The original Swift prototype was implemented during 1991, and its design and performance was described, investigated, and reported [Cabrera and Long, 1991, Emigh, 1992]. A high-level view of the Swift architecture is shown in Figure 1. Swift uses a high speed interconnection medium to aggregate arbitrarily many (slow) storage devices into a faster logical storage service, making all applications unaware of this aggregation. Swift uses a modular client-server architecture made up of independently replaceable components.

Disk striping is a technique analogous to main memory interleaving that has been used for some time to enhance throughput and balance disk load in disk arrays [Kim, 1986, Salem and Garcia-Molina, 1986]. In such systems writes scatter data across devices (the members of the stripe) while reads `gather' data from

ySupported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant NSF CCR-9111220 and by the Office of Naval Research under Grant N00014?92?J?1807