Abstract: The increasing speed of the most powerful computers, especially multiprocessors, makes it difficult to provide sufficient I/O bandwidth to keep them running at full speed for the largest problems. Trends show that the difference in the speed of disk hardware and the speed of processors is increasing, with I/O severely limiting the performance of otherwise fast machines. This widening access-time gap is known as the ``I/O bottleneck crisis.'' One solution to the crisis, suggested by many researchers, is to use many disks in parallel to increase the overall bandwidth.
This dissertation studies some of the file system issues needed to get high performance from parallel disk systems, since parallel hardware alone cannot guarantee good performance. The target systems are large MIMD multiprocessors used for scientific applications, with large files spread over multiple disks attached in parallel. The focus is on automatic caching and prefetching techniques. We show that caching and prefetching can transparently provide the power of parallel disk hardware to both sequential and parallel applications using a conventional file system interface. We also propose a new file system interface (compatible with the conventional interface) that could make it easier to use parallel disks effectively.
Our methodology is a mixture of implementation and simulation, using a software testbed that we built to run on a BBN GP1000 multiprocessor. The testbed simulates the disks and fully implements the caching and prefetching policies. Using a synthetic workload as input, we use the testbed in an extensive set of experiments. The results show that prefetching and caching improved the performance of parallel file systems, often dramatically.
Copyright © 1991 by David Kotz.The copy made available here is the authors' version; for a definitive copy see the publisher's version described above.