AES Banner

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Storage Holy Grail - The RAMcloud

While most of the consumer world is just getting used to the idea of cloud computing, corporations have been using it for years. For those of you who don't know, cloud computing means storing your data and even your apps on an external server that's accessed via the Internet.

A number of behind the scenes companies like RackSpace offer cloud services, but Google and Amazon also have huge server farms around the country that have been renting their storage in their clouds for years. Over the last year, the cloud has been brought to consumer's attention thanks to Amazon and Google's cloud music initiatives, and of course more recently by Apple's iCloud.

The big problem is that cloud storage is often failure-prone, slow, and quirky. Of course the cloud is never supposed to go down, thanks to so-called redundant systems, but that hasn't always been case. Of course, when the cloud goes down, it can be devastating. Don't forget when your data can't be accessed, your dead in the water until it's fixed. Although it's rare that you lose any data, outages are a nagging problem.

The reason why a cloud goes down is because just like your personal computer, server farms still store their data on spinning hard drives, and therein lies the problem. Enterprise-level drives are much less likely to stop working than the run of the mill drives that most of us use, but they still go down. That's why a group at Standford University has a radical suggestion: datacenters should just put everything in RAM.

The proposed system, which the researchers are calling RAMcloud, means that those spinning drives are replaced by the latest solid-state disks (SSDs). Since they don't use mechanical spinning parts like a hard drive, they're not only a lot more reliable, but a lot faster too. Of course SSDs are still a lot more expensive than hard drives, but if only a few server farms switch to SSDs, it's thought that the huge number of drives ordered would be enough to cause SSDs to decrease in price immediately.

Don't forget that almost all websites are stored on a spinning hard drive somewhere. Imagine how much faster they'd be in a RAMcloud. When it comes to the Internet, fast is never fast enough.
----------------------------------
Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

3 comments:

Simon said...

Random access memory and solid state devices are two entirely different things. SSDs are still blazingly quick but they maintain the data stored in them when they're switched off and back on again. RAM on the other hand loses everything when it's power-cycled.

That said you can actually get RAM-based storage which is blazingly fast; one of the disks i've seen uses flash memory to back its contents up to something more permanent.

Juan Febres said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juan Febres said...

The key to cloud computing is how fast someone can access those remote resources. To notice differences in terms of speed accessing different kinds of cloud storage is crucial -first- to have a huge bandwidth connection to the internet, like fiber-to-the-home scheme.

SSDs are absolutely faster than regular HDDs and it is easier to notice it locally. But remotely, as in the cloud, where those server farms runs a lot of HDD arrays configured in redundant schemes and/or data stripping schemes -dividing data chunks into small pieces and store them onto several disks- speed improvement can be less noticeable for the remote user, in my opinion.

In other hand, it will be terrific that SSDs have that price drop that you suggest!

I also read a review of PCI-E-based storage solution claiming that they're even faster than SSDs!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...