Thursday, April 28, 2022

Software for Fast Storage Hardware With Prof Willy Zwaenepoel

Greetings from the famous room N101 at ANU Computer Science where Prof Willy Zwaenepoel is speaking on "Software for Fast Storage Hardware".  He argues that modern solid state storage works differently to the old rotating disks database software was designed for. As a result the old software doesn't produce the expected improvement of much faster storage. 

The problem turns out to be that the CPU is holding up data access. For those brought up with mechanical storage it is a shock, as disks are thousands of times slower than the CPU, but modern storage is solid state, just like the CPU.

Database software is optimized for sequential writing to the disk, because that is faster than random access. Logs are also used to allow for a failure while the data is being written. This all takes CPU cycles to do, but is not needed for SSD. Instead data can be written immediately to storage. 

Professor Zwaenepoel's software is called KVell (Key Value and North American slang for happy and proud). This reminded me of what Canberra start-up Instaclustr, do with Apache Cassandra. There are many articles for Cassandra setting for SSDs.

This was an excellent seminar to be back on campus for. It challenged assumptions from my earliest training at the ABS decades ago. 

ps: ANU events follow Oxford Time: "Classes commence at five minutes past the published start time and conclude five minutes before the published end time."(Policy: Timetable, ANUParagraph 6, 2019).


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