RAPID-Cache - A reliable and inexpensive write cache for high performance storage systems

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Modern high performance disk systems make extensive use of nonvolatile RAM (NVRAM) write caches. A single-copy NVRAM cache creates a single point of failure while a dual-copy NVRAM cache is very expensive because of the high cost of NVRAM. This paper presents a new cache architecture called RAPID-Cache for Redundant, Asymmetrically Parallel, and Inexpensive Disk Cache. A typical RAPID-Cache consists of two redundant write buffers on top of a disk system. One of the buffers is a primary cache made of RAM or NVRAM and the other is a backup cache containing a two-level hierarchy: a small NVRAM buffer on top of a log disk. The small NVRAM buffer combines small write data and writes them into the log disk in large sizes. By exploiting the locality property of I/O accesses and taking advantage of well-known Log-structured File Systems, the backup cache has nearly equivalent write performance as the primary RAM cache. The read performance of the backup cache is not as critical because normal read operations are performed through the primary RAM cache and reads from the backup cache happen only during error recovery periods. The RAPID-Cache presents an asymmetric architecture with a fast-write-fast-read RAM being a primary cache and a fast-write-slow-read NVRAM-disk hierarchy being a backup cache. The asymmetrically parallel architecture and an algorithm that separates actively accessed data from inactive data in the cache virtually eliminate the garbage collection overhead, which are the major problems associated with previous solutions such as Log-structured File Systems and Disk Caching Disk. The asymmetric cache allows cost-effective designs for very large write caches for high-end parallel disk systems that would otherwise have to use dual-copy, costly NVRAM caches. It also makes it possible to implement reliable write caching for low-end disk I/O systems since the RAPID-Cache makes use of inexpensive disks to perform reliable caching. Our analysis and trace-driven simulation results show that the RAPID-Cache has significant reliability/cost advantages over conventional single NVRAM write caches and has great cost advantages over dual-copy NVRAM caches. The RAPID-Cache architecture opens a new dimension for disk system designers to exercise trade-offs among performance, reliability, and cost.

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IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems