The Google File System’s conscious design tradeoffs

Google File System Architecture

ProfProfile4-cartoon.jpgThis is my first post on the Google File System where I will very briefly touch base on a very specific feature-set that is driven by conscious design tradeoffs that have made GFS and derived systems so successful.

  1.  Highly Redundant Data vs. Highly Available HardwareWhen working with Petabytes of data hardware failure is a norm more than an exception, expensive highly redundant hardware is replaced with commodity components that allow the file system to store multiple copies of data across storage nodes and switches at a reasonable cost.
  2.  Store a small number of large files vs. millions of small individual documentsWith the need to store hundreds of terabytes composed of billions of small objects (i.e. e-Mail Messages, Webpages), GFS attempts to simplify file system design by serializing these small individual objects to be grouped together into larger files. Having a small number of large files allows GFS to keep all file and namespace metadata in memory on the GFS master which in turn allows the master to leverage this global visibility to make smarter load balancing and redundancy decisions.
  3.  Generally Immutable dataOnce a serialized object or file record is written to disk it will never be updated again, as Google states on their research paper random writes are practically non-existent. This is driven by application requirements where data is generally written once and then consumed by applications over time without alteration. Google describes the application data as mutating by either inserting new records or appending on the last “chunk” or block of a file, applications are encouraged to constrain their update strategies to these two operations.

On my next series of post I will analyze other architecture and performance characteristics that make the Google File System brilliantly innovative, stay tuned!



“The Google File System”; Ghemawat, Gobioff, Leung; Google Research