6.033 | Spring 2018 | Undergraduate
Computer System Engineering
Week 8: Distributed Systems Part I

Lecture 14 Outline

  1. Introduction
    • Done with OSes, networking.
    • Now: How to systematically deal with failures, or build “fault-tolerant” systems.
      • We’ll allow more complicated failures and also try to recover from failures.
    • Thinking about large, distributed systems. 100s, 1000s, even more machines, potentially located across the globe.
    • Will also have to think about what these applications are doing, what they need.
  2. Building Fault-Tolerant Systems
    • General approach:
      1. Identify possible faults (software, hardware, design, operation, environment, …).
      2. Detect and contain.
      3. Handle the fault.
        • Do nothing, fail-fast (detect and report to next higher-level), fail-stop (detect and stop), mask, …
    • Caveats
      • Components are always unreliable. We aim to build a reliable system out of them, but our guarantees will be probabilistic.
      • Reliability comes at a cost; always a tradeoff. Common tradeoff is reliability vs. simplicity.
      • All of this is tricky. It’s easy to miss some possible faults in step 1, e.g. Hence, we iterate.
      • We’ll have to rely on *some* code to work correctly. In practice, there is only a small portion of mission-critical code. We have stringent development processes for those components.
  3. Quantifying Reliability
    • Goal: Increase availability.
    • Metrics:
          MTTF = mean time to failure
          MTTR = mean time to repair
          availability = MTTF / (MTTF + MTTR)
    • Example: Suppose my OS crashes once every month, and takes 10 minutes to recover.
          MTTF = 30 days = 720 hours = 43,200 minutes
          MTTR = 10 minutes
          availability = 43,200 / 43,210 = .9997
  4. Reliability via Replication
    • To improve reliability, add redundancy.
    • One way to add redundancy: replication.
    • Today: Replication within a single machine to deal with disk failures.
      • Tomorrow in recitation: replication across machines to deal with machine failures.
  5. Dealing with Disk Failures
    • Why disks?
      • Starting from single machine because we want to improve reliability there first before we move to multiple machines.
      • Disks in particular because if disk fails, your data is gone. Can replace other components like CPU easily. Cost of disk failure is high.
    • Are disk failures frequent?
      • Manufactures claim MTBF is 700K+ hours, which is bogus.
        • Likely: Ran 1000 disks for 3000 hours (125 days) => 3 million hours total, had 4 failures, and concluded: 1 failure every 750,000 hours.
      • But failures aren’t memoryless: Disk is more likely to fail at beginning of its lifespan and the end than in the middle (see slides).
  6. Whole-Disk Failures
    • General scenario: Entire disk fails, all data on that disk is lost. What to do? RAID provides a suite of techniques.
    • RAID 1: Mirror data across 2 disks.
      • Pro: Can handle single-disk failures.
      • Pro: Performance improvement on reads (issue two in parallel), not a terrible performance hit on writes (have to issue two writes, but you can issue them in parallel too).
      • Con: To mirror N disks’ worth of data, you need 2N disks.
    • RAID 4: With N disks, add an additional parity disk. Sector i on the parity disk is the XOR of all of the sector i’s from the data disk.
      • Pro: Can handle single-disk failures (if one disk fails, xor the other disks to recover its data).
        • Can use same technique to recover from single-sector errors.
      • Pro: To store N disks’ worth of data we only need N+1 disks.
      • Pro: Improved performance if you stripe files across the array. E.g., an N-sector-length file can be stored as one sector per disk. Reading the whole file means N parallel 1-sector reads instead of 1 long N-sector read.
        • RAID is a system for reliability, but we never forget about performance, and in fact performance influenced much of the design of RAID.
      • Con: Every write hits the parity disk.
    • RAID 5: Same as RAID 4, except intersperse the parity sectors amongst all N+1 disks to load balance writes.
      • You need a way to figure out which disk holds the parity sector for sector i, but it’s not hard.
    • RAID 5 used in practice, but falling out in favor of RAID 6, which uses the same techniques but provides protection against two disks failing at the same time.
  7. Your Future
    • RAID, and even replication, don’t solve everything.
      • E.g., what about failures that aren’t independent?
    • Wednesday: We’ll introduce transactions, which let us make some abstractions to reason about faults.
    • Next-week: We’ll get transaction-based systems to perform well on a single machine.
    • Week after: We’ll get everything to work across machines.
Course Info
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As Taught In
Spring 2018
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