Loosely Coupled Optimistic Replication for Highly Available, Scalable Storage

Dima Brodsky, Jody Pomkoski, Michael J. Feeley, Norman Hutchinson and Alex Brodsky
Publishing date
September 13, 2001
12 pages
People are becoming increasingly reliant on computing devices and are trusting increasingly important data to persistent storage. These systems should protect this data from failure and ensure that it is available anytime, from anywhere. Unfortunately, traditional mechanisms for ensuring high availability suffer from the complexity of maintaining consistent, distributed replicas of data. This paper describes Mammoth, a novel file system that uses a loosely-connected set of nodes to replicate data and maintain consistency. The key idea of Mammoth is that files and directories are stored as histories of immutable versions and that all meta-data is stored in append-only change logs. Users specify availability policies for their files and the system uses these policies to replicate certain, but not necessarily all, versions to remote nodes to protect them from a variety of failures. Because file data is immutable, it can be freely replicated without complicating the file's consistency. File and directory meta-data is replicated using an optimistic policy that allows partitioned nodes to read and write whatever file versions are currently accessible. When network partitions heal, inconsistent meta-data is reconciled by merging the meta-data updates made in each partition; conflicting updates manifest as branches in the file's or directory's history and can thus can be further resolved by higher-level software or users. We describe our design and the implementation and performance of an early prototype.