RAID-II: A High-Bandwidth Network File Server
Ann L. Drapeau Ken W. Shirriff John H. Hartman Ethan L. Miller
Srinivasan Seshan Randy H. Katz Ken Lutz David A. Patterson1
Edward K. Lee2 Peter M. Chen3 Garth A. Gibson4
In 1989, the RAID (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive
Disks) group at U. C. Berkeley built a prototype disk array
called RAID-I. The bandwidth delivered to clients by
RAID-I was severely limited by the memory system bandwidth
of the disk array’s host workstation. We designed our
second prototype, RAID-II, to deliver more of the disk array
bandwidth to file server clients. A custom-built crossbar
memory system called the XBUS board connects the disks
directly to the high-speed network, allowing data for large
requests to bypass the server workstation. RAID-II runs
Log-Structured File System (LFS) software to optimize performance
for bandwidth-intensive applications.
The RAID-II hardware with a single XBUS controller
board delivers 20megabytes/second for large, random read
operations and up to 31 megabytes/second for sequential
read operations. A preliminary implementation of LFS
on RAID-II delivers 21 megabytes/second on large read
requests and 15 megabytes/second on large write operations.
It is essential for future file servers to provide highbandwidth
I/O because of a trend toward bandwidthintensive
applications like multi-media, CAD, objectoriented
databases and scientific visualization. Even in
well-established application areas such as scientific computing,
the size of data sets is growing rapidly due to reductions
in the cost of secondary storage and the introduction of
faster supercomputers. These developments require faster
I/O systems to transfer the increasing volume of data.
High performance file servers will increasingly incorporate
disk arrays to provide greater disk bandwidth. RAIDs,
or Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks , , use a
collection of relatively small, inexpensive disks to achieve
high performance and high reliability in a secondary storage
system. RAIDs provide greater disk bandwidth to a file
by striping or interleaving the data from a single file across
a group of disk drives, allowing multiple disk transfers to
occur in parallel. RAIDs ensure reliability by calculating
1Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley, CA
2DEC Systems Research Center, Palo Alto, CA 94301-1044
3ComputerScience and EngineeringDivision,University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2122
4School ofComputer Science, CarnegieMellonUniversity, Pittsburgh,
error correcting codes across a group of disks; this redundancy
information can be used to reconstruct the data on
disks that fail. In this paper, we examine the efficient delivery
of bandwidth from a file server that includes a disk
In 1989, the RAID group at U.C. Berkeley built an initial
RAID prototype, called RAID-I . The prototype
was constructed using a Sun 4/280 workstation with 128
megabytes of memory, four dual-string SCSI controllers,
28 5.25-inch SCSI disks and specialized disk striping software.
Wewere interested in the performance of a disk array
constructed of commercially-available components on two
workloads: small, random operations typical of file servers
in a workstation environment and large transfers typical
of bandwidth-intensive applications. We anticipated that
there would be both hardware and software bottlenecks
that would restrict the bandwidth achievable by RAID-I.
The development of RAID-I was motivated by our desire
to gain experience with disk array software, disk controllers
and the SCSI protocol.
Experiments with RAID-I show that it performs well
when processing small, random I/O’s, achieving approximately
275 four-kilobyte random I/Os per second.
However, RAID-I proved woefully inadequate
at providing high-bandwidth I/O, sustaining at best 2.3
megabytes/second to a user-level application on RAID-I.
By comparison, a single disk on RAID-I can sustain 1.3
megabytes/second. The bandwidth of nearly 26 of the 28
disks in the array is effectively wasted because it cannot be
delivered to clients.
There are several reasons why RAID-I is ill-suited for
high-bandwidth I/O. The most serious is the memory contention
experienced on the Sun 4/280 workstation during
I/O operations. The copy operations that move data between
kernel DMA buffers and buffers in user space saturate
the memory system when I/O bandwidth reaches
2.3megabytes/second. Second, because all I/O on the
Sun 4/280 goes through the CPU’s virtually addressed
cache, data transfers experience interference from cache
flushes. Finally, disregarding the workstation’s memory
bandwidth limitation, high-bandwidth performance is
also restricted by the low backplane bandwidth of the
Sun 4/280’s VME system bus, which becomes saturated
The problems RAID-I experienced are typical of many
workstations that are designed to exploit large, fast caches
for good processor performance, but fail to support adequate
primary memory or I/O bandwidth , . In such
This paper appeared in the 21st International Symposium on Computer Architecture, April 1994, pages 234–244.
workstations, the memory system is designed so that only
the CPU has a fast, high-bandwidth path to memory. For
busses or backplanes farther away from the CPU, available
memory bandwidth drops quickly. Thus, file servers incorporating
such workstations perform poorly on bandwidthintensive
The design of hardware and software for our second
prototype, RAID-II , was motivated by a desire to deliver
more of the disk array’s bandwidth to the file server’s
clients. Toward this end, the RAID-II hardware contains
two data paths: a high-bandwidth path that handles large
transfers efficiently using a custom-built crossbar interconnect
between the disk system and the high-bandwidth network,
and a low-bandwidthpath used for control operations
and small data transfers. The software for RAID-II was
also designed to deliver disk array bandwidth. RAID-II
runs LFS, the Log-Structured File System , developed
by the Sprite operating systems group at Berkeley. LFS
treats the disk array as a log, combining small accesses
together and writing large blocks of data sequentially to
avoid inefficient small write operations. A single XBUS
board with 24 attached disks and no file system delivers
up to 20 megabytes/second for random read operations and
31 megabytes/second for sequential read operations. With
LFS software, the board delivers 21 megabytes/second on
sequential read operations and 15 megabytes/second on sequential
write operations. Not all of this data is currently
delivered to clients because of client and network limitations
described in Section 3.4.
This paper describes the design, implementation and
performance of theRAID-II prototype. Section 2 describes
the RAID-II hardware, including the design choices made
to deliver bandwidth, architecture and implementation details,
and hardware performance measurements. Section
3 discusses the implementation and performance of LFS
running on RAID-II. Section 4 compares other high performance
I/O systems to RAID-II, and Section 5 discusses
future directions. Finally, we summarize the contributions
of the RAID-II prototype.
2 RAID-II Hardware
Figure 1 illustrates the RAID-II storage architecture.
The RAID-II storage server prototype spans three racks,
with the two outer racks containing disk drives and the
center rack containing custom-designed crossbar controller
boards and commercial disk controller boards. The center
rack also contains a workstation, called the host, which
is shown in the figure as logically separate. Each XBUS
controller board has a HIPPI connection to a high-speed
Ultra Network Technologies ring network that may also
connect supercomputers and client workstations. The host
workstation has an Ethernet interface that allows transfers
between the disk array and clients connected to the Ethernet
In this section, we discuss the prototype hardware. First,
we describe the design decisions that were made to deliver
disk array bandwidth. Next, we describe the architecture
and implementation, followed by microbenchmark measurements
of hardware performance.
2.1 Delivering Disk Array Bandwidth
2.1.1 High and Low Bandwidth Data Paths
Disk array bandwidth on our first prototypewas limited by
low memory system bandwidth on the host workstation.
RAID-II was designed to avoid similar performance limitations.
It uses a custom-built memory system called the
XBUS controller to create a high-bandwidth data path. This
data path allows RAID-II to transfer data directly between
the disk array and the high-speed, 100 megabytes/second
HIPPI networkwithout sending data through the hostworkstation
memory, as occurs in traditional disk array storage
servers like RAID-I. Rather, data are temporarily stored in
memory on the XBUS board and transferred using a highbandwidth
crossbar interconnect between disks, the HIPPI
network, the parity computation engine and memory.
There is also a low-bandwidth data path in RAID-II that
is similar to the data path in RAID-I. This path transfers
data across theworkstation’s backplane between the XBUS
board and host memory. The data sent along this path include
file metadata (data associated with a file other than
its contents) and small data transfers. Metadata are needed
by file system software for file management, name translation
and for maintaining consistency between file caches
on the host workstation and the XBUS board. The lowbandwidth
data path is also used for servicing data requests
from clients on the 10 megabits/second Ethernet network
attached to the host workstation.
We refer to the two accessmodes onRAID-II as the highbandwidthmode
for accesses that use the high-performance
data path and standard mode for requests serviced by the
low-bandwidth data path. Any client request can be serviced
using either accessmode, but we maximize utilization
and performance of the high-bandwidthdata path if smaller
requests use the Ethernet network and larger requests use
the HIPPI network.
2.1.2 Scaling to Provide Greater Bandwidth
The bandwidth of the RAID-II storage server can be scaled
by adding XBUS controller boards to a host workstation.
To some extent, adding XBUS boards is like adding disks
to a conventional file server. An important distinction is
that adding an XBUS board to RAID-II increases the I/O
bandwidth available to the network, whereas adding a disk
to a conventional file server only increases the I/O bandwidth
available to that particular file server. The latter is
less effective, since the file server’s memory system and
backplane will soon saturate if it is a typical workstation.
Eventually, adding XBUS controllers to a host workstation
will saturate the host’s CPU, since the host manages
all disk and network transfers. However, since the highbandwidth
data path of RAID-II is independent of the host
workstation, we can use a more powerful host to continue
scaling storage server bandwidth.
2.2 Architecture and Implementation ofRAID-II
Figure 2 illustrates the architecture of the RAID-II file
server. The file server’s backplane consists of two highbandwidth
(HIPPI) data busses and a low-latency (VME)
control bus. The backplane connects the high-bandwidth
network interfaces, several XBUS controllers and a host
workstation that controls the operation of the XBUS controller
boards. Each XBUS board contains interfaces to the
High Bandiwdth Network
(100 MB/s Ultranet)
Host Client Workstations
RAID-II File Server
Figure 1: The RAID-II File Server and its Clients. RAID-II, shown by dotted lines, is composed of three racks. The
host workstation is connected to one or more XBUS controller boards (contained in the center rack of RAID-II) over
the VME backplane. Each XBUS controller has a HIPPI network connection that connects to the Ultranet high-speed
ring network; the Ultranet also provides connections to client workstations and supercomputers. The XBUS boards
also have connections to SCSI disk controller boards. In addition, the host workstation has an Ethernet network
interface that connects it to client workstations.
HIPPI backplane and VME control bus, memory, a parity
computation engine and four VME interfaces that connect
to disk controller boards.
Figure 3 illustrates the physical packaging of the
RAID-II file server, which spans three racks. To minimize
the design effort, we used commercially available
components whenever possible. Thinking Machines Corporation
(TMC) provided a board set for the HIPPI interface
to the Ultranet ring network; Interphase Corporation
provided VME-based, dual-SCSI, Cougar disk controllers;
Sun Microsystems provided the Sun 4/280 file server; and
IBM donated disk drives and DRAM. The center rack is
composed of three chassis. On top is a VME chassis containing
eight Interphase Cougar disk controllers. The center
chassis was provided by TMC and contains theHIPPI interfaces
and our custom XBUS controller boards. The bottom
VME chassis contains the Sun4/280 host workstation. Two
outer racks each contain 72 3.5-inch, 320megabyte IBM
SCSI disks and their power supplies. Each of these racks
contains eight shelves of nine disks. RAID-II has a total
capacity of 46 gigabytes, although the performance results
in the next section are for a singleXBUS board controlling
24 disks. We will achieve full array connectivity by adding
XBUS boards and increasing the number of disks per SCSI
Figure 4 is a block diagram of theXBUS disk array controller
board, which implements a 4x8, 32-bit wide crossbar
interconnect called the XBUS. The crossbar connects
four memory modules to eight system components called
ports. The XBUS ports include two interfaces to HIPPI
network boards, four VME interfaces to Interphase Cougar
disk controller boards, a parity computation engine, and a
VME interface to the host workstation. Each XBUS transfer
involves one of the four memory modules and one of
the eight XBUS ports. Each port was intended to support
40 megabytes/second of data transfer for a total of 160
megabytes/second of sustainable XBUS bandwidth.
TheXBUSis a synchronous,multiplexed (address/data),
crossbar-based interconnect that uses a centralized,
priority-based arbitration scheme. Each of the eight 32-
bit XBUS ports operates at a cycle time of 80 nanoseconds.
The memory is interleaved in sixteen-word blocks. The
XBUS supports only two types of bus transactions: reads
and writes. Our implementation of the crossbar interconnect
was fairly expensive, using 192 16-bit transceivers.
Using surface mount packaging, the implementation required
120 square inches or approximately 20% of the
XBUS controller’s board area. An advantage of the implementation
is that the 32-bit XBUS ports are relatively
HIPPI (1 Gb/s) HIPPI (1 Gb/s)
VME VME VME VME
(64 bits, 100 MB/s)
(64 bits, 100 MB/s)
(32 bits, 40 MB/s)
XBUS Disk Array
XBUS Disk Array
XBUS Disk Array
XBUS Disk Array
Cougar Disk Controller
Cougar Disk Controller
Cougar Disk Controller
Cougar Disk Controller
RAID-II main chassis
VME VME VME VME VME VME VME VME VME VME VME VME
Figure 2: Architecture of RAID-II File Server. The host workstation may have several XBUS controller boards
attached to its VME backplane. Each XBUS controller board contains interfaces to HIPPI network source and
destination boards, buffer memory, a high-bandwidth crossbar, a parity engine, and interfaces to four SCSI disk
Two XBUS ports implement an interface between the
XBUS and the TMC HIPPI boards. Each port is unidirectional,
designed to sustain 40 megabytes/second of data
transfer and bursts of 100 megabytes/second into 32 kilobyte
Four of the XBUS ports are used to connect the XBUS
board to four VME busses, each of which may connect to
one or two dual-string Interphase Cougar disk controllers.
In our current configuration, we connect three disks to each
SCSI string, two strings to each Cougar controller, and
one Cougar controller to each XBUS VME interface for
a total of 24 disks per XBUS board. The Cougar disk
controllers can transfer data at 8 megabytes/second, for a
maximum disk bandwidth to a single XBUS board of 32
megabytes/second in our present configuration.
Of the remaining two XBUS ports, one interfaces to a
parity computation engine. The last port is theVME control
interface linking theXBUS board to the hostworkstation. It
provides the host with access to the XBUS board’s memory
as well as its control registers. This makes it possible for
file server software running on the host to access network
headers, file data and metadata in the XBUS memory.
2.3 Hardware Performance
In this section, we present raw performance of the
RAID-II  hardware, that is, the performance of the hardware
without the overhead of a file system. In Section 3.4,
we show how much of this raw hardware performance can
be delivered by the file system to clients.
Figure 5 shows RAID-II performance for random reads
and writes. We refer to these performance measurements
as hardware system level experiments, since they involve
all the components of the system from the disks to the
HIPPI network. For these experiments, the disk system is
16 word interleave
4 x 8 Crossbar Interconnect
40 MB/s per port
HIPPIS HIPPID XOR
VME0 VME1 VME2 VME3
Figure 4: Structure of XBUS controller board. The board contains fourmemorymodules connected by a 4x8 crossbar
interconnect to eight XBUS ports. Two of these XBUS ports are interfaces to the HIPPI network. Another is a parity
computation engine. One is a VME network interface for sending control information, and the remaining four are
VME interfaces connecting to commercial SCSI disk controller boards.
Figure 3: The physical packaging of the RAID-II File
Server. Two outer racks contain 144 disks and their
power supplies. The center rack contains three chassis:
the top chassis holds VME disk controller boards;
the center chassis contains XBUS controller boards
and HIPPI interface boards, and the bottom VME chassis
contains the Sun4/280 workstation.
configured as a RAID Level 5  with one parity group of
24 disks. (This scheme delivers high bandwidth but exposes
the array to data loss during dependent failure modes such
as a SCSI controller failure. Techniques for maximizing
reliability are beyond the scope of this paper , , .)
For reads, data are read from the disk array into the
memory on theXBUS board; from there, data are sent over
HIPPI, back to the XBUS board, and into XBUS memory.
For writes, data originate in XBUS memory, are sent
over the HIPPI and then back to the XBUS board to XBUS
memory; parity is computed, and then both data and parity
are written to the disk array. For both tests, the system
is configured with four Interphase Cougar disk controllers,
each with two strings of three disks. For both reads and
writes, subsequent fixed size operations are at random locations.
Figure 5 shows that, for large requests, hardware
system level read and write performance reaches about 20
megabytes/second. The dip in read performance for requests
of size 768 kilobytes occurs because at that size
the striping scheme in this experiment involves a second
string on one of the controllers; there is some contention
on the controller that results in lower performance when
both strings are used. Writes are slower than reads due
to the increased disk and memory activity associated with
computing and writing parity. While an order of magnitude
faster than our previous prototype, RAID-I, this is still
well below our target bandwidth of 40 megabytes/second.
Below, we show that system performance is limited by that
of the commercial disk controller boards and our disk interfaces.
Table 1 shows peak performance of the system when
0 500 1000 1500
Request Size (KB)
Figure 5: Hardware System Level Read and Write
Performance. RAID-II achieves approximately 20
megabytes/second for both random reads and writes.
Sequential reads 31
Sequential writes 23
Table 1: Peak read and write performance for an XBUS
board on sequential operations. This experiment was
run using the four XBUS VME interfaces to disk controllers
boards, with a fifth disk controller attached to
the XBUS VME control bus interface.
sequential read and write operations are performed. These
measurements were obtained using the four Cougar boards
attached to the XBUS VME interfaces, and in addition,
using a fifth Cougar board attached to the XBUS VME
control bus interface. For requests of size 1.6 megabytes,
read performance is 31 megabytes/second, compared to
23 megabytes/second for writes. Write performance is
worse than read performance because of the extra accesses
required during writes to calculate and write parity and
because sequential reads benefit from the read-ahead performed
into track buffers on the disks; writes have no such
advantage on these disks.
While one of the main goals in the design of RAID-II
was to provide better performance than our first prototype
on high-bandwidth operations, we also want the file server
to perform well on small, random operations. Table 2
compares the I/O rates achieved on our two disk array prototypes,
RAID-I and RAID-II, using a test program that
performed random 4 kilobyte reads. In each case, fifteen
disks were accessed. The tests used Sprite operating system
read and write system calls; the RAID-II test did not
use LFS. In each case, a separate process issued 4 kilobyte,
randomly distributed I/O requests to each active disk in
the system. The performance with a single disk indicates
the difference between the Seagate Wren IV disks used in
RAID-I and the IBM 0661 disks used in RAID-II. The
IBM disk drives have faster rotation and seek times, mak-
1 disk 15 disks
I/O Rate I/O Rate
System (I/Os/sec) (I/Os/sec)
RAID-I 27 274
RAID-II 36 422
Table 2: Peak I/O rates in operations per second for
random, 4 kilobyte reads. Performance for a single disk
and for fifteen disks, with a separate process issuing
random I/O operations to each disk. The IBM 0661 disk
drives used in RAID-II can perform more I/Os per second
than the Seagate Wren IV disks used in RAID-I because
they have shorter seek and rotation times. Superior
I/O rates on RAID-II are also the result of the architecture,
which does not require data to be transferred
through the host workstation.
+ + + + + + + +
0 + + +
1 10 100 1000 10000 100000
Request Size (KB)
Figure 6: HIPPI Loopback Performance. RAID-II
achieves 38.5 megabytes/second in each direction.
ing random operations quicker. With fifteen disks active,
both systems perform well, with RAID-II achieving over
400 small accesses per second. In both prototypes, the
small, random I/O rates were limited by the large number
of context switches required on the Sun4/280 workstation
to handle request completions. RAID-I’s performance was
also limited by the memory bandwidth on the Sun4/280,
since all data went into host memory. Since data need not
be transferred to the host workstation in RAID-II, it delivers
a higher percentage (78%) of the potential I/O rate from
its fifteen disks than does RAID-I (67%).
The remaining performance measurements in this sectionare
for specific components of theXBUS board. Figure
6 shows the performance of the HIPPI network and boards.
Data are transferred from the XBUS memory to the HIPPI
source board, and then to the HIPPI destination board and
back toXBUS memory. Because the network is configured
as a loop, there isminimal network protocol overhead. This
test focuses on the HIPPI interfaces’ raw hardware performance;
it does not include measurements for sending data
over the Ultranet. In the loopback mode, the overhead of
sending a HIPPI packet is about 1.1 milliseconds, mostly
due to setting up the HIPPI and XBUS control registers
0 1 2 3 4 5
Number of Disks
Figure 7: Disk read performance for varying number of
disks on a single SCSI string. Cougar string bandwidth
is limited to about 3 megabytes/second, less than that
of three disks. The dashed line indicates the performance
if bandwidth scaled linearly.
across the slow VME link. (By comparison, an Ethernet
packet takes approximately 0.5 millisecond to transfer.)
Due to this control overhead, small requests result
in low performance on the HIPPI network. For large requests,
however, the XBUS and HIPPI boards support 38
megabytes/second in both directions, which is very close
to the maximum bandwidth of the XBUS ports. The HIPPI
loopback bandwidth of 38 megabytes/second is three times
greater than FDDI and two orders of magnitude greater
than Ethernet. Clearly the HIPPI part of the XBUS is not
the limiting factor in determining hardware system level
Disk performance is responsible for the lower-thanexpected
hardware system level performance of RAID-II.
One performance limitation is the Cougar disk controller,
which only supports about 3 megabytes/second on each of
two SCSI strings, as shown in Figure 7. The other limitation
is our relatively slow, synchronous VME interface
ports, which only support 6.9 megabytes/second on read
operations and 5.9 megabytes/second on write operations.
This low performance is largely due to the difficulty of synchronizing
the asynchronous VME bus for interactionwith
3 The RAID-II File System
In the last section, we presented measurements of the
performance of the RAID-II hardware without the overhead
of a file system. Although some applications may
use RAID-II as a large raw disk, most will require a file
system with abstractions such as directories and files. The
file system should deliver to applications as much of the
bandwidth of the RAID-II disk array hardware as possible.
RAID-II’s file system is a modified version of the Sprite
Log-Structured File System (LFS) . In this section, we
first describe LFS and explain why it is particularly wellsuited
for use with disk arrays. Second, we describe the
features of RAID-II that require special attention in the LFS
implementation. Next, we illustrate how LFS on RAID-II
handles typical read requests from a client. Finally, we discuss
the measured performance and implementation status
of LFS on RAID-II.
3.1 The Log-Structured File System
LFS  is a disk storage manager that writes all file
data and metadata to a sequential append-only log; files
are not assigned fixed blocks on disk. LFS minimizes the
number of small write operations to disk; data for small
writes are buffered in main memory and are written to disk
asynchronouslywhen a log segment fills. This is in contrast
to traditional file systems, which assign files to fixed blocks
on disk. In traditional file systems, a sequence of random
filewrites results in inefficient small, random disk accesses.
Because it avoids small write operations, the Log-
Structured File System avoids a weakness of redundant
disk arrays that affects traditional file systems. Under a
traditional file system, disk arrays that use large block interleaving
(Level 5 RAID ) perform poorly on small
write operations because each small write requires four
disk accesses: reads of the old data and parity blocks and
writes of the new data and parity blocks. By contrast, large
write operations in disk arrays are efficient since they don’t
require the reading of old data or parity. LFS eliminates
small writes, grouping them into efficient large, sequential
A secondary benefit of LFS is that crash recovery is very
quick. LFS periodically performs checkpoint operations
that record the current state of the file system. To recover
from a file system crash, the LFS server need only process
the log from the position of the last checkpoint. By contrast,
a UNIX file system consistency checker traverses the entire
directory structure in search of lost data. Because a RAID
has a very large storage capacity, a standard UNIX-style
consistency check on bootwould be unacceptably slow. For
a 1 gigabyte file system, it takes a few seconds to perform
an LFS file system check, compared with approximately
20minutes to check the consistency of a typical UNIX file
system of comparable size.
3.2 LFS on RAID-II
An implementation of LFS for RAID-IImust efficiently
handle two architectural features of the disk array: the separate
low- and high-bandwidth data paths, and the separate
memories on the host workstation and the XBUS board.
To handle the two data paths, we changed the original
Sprite LFS software to separate the handling of data and
metadata. We use the high-bandwidth data path to transfer
data between the disks and the HIPPI network, bypassing
host workstation memory. The low-bandwidth VME connection
between theXBUS and the hostworkstation is used
to send metadata to the host for file name lookup and location
of data on disk. The low-bandwidth path is also used
for small data transfers to clients on the Ethernet attached
to the host.
LFS on RAID-II also must manage separate memories
on the host workstation and the XBUS board. The host
memory cache contains metadata as well as files that have
been read into workstation memory for transfer over the
Ethernet. The cache is managed with a simple Least Recently
Used replacement policy. Memory on the XBUS
board is used for prefetch buffers, pipeliningbuffers, HIPPI
network buffers, and write buffers for LFS segments. The
file system keeps the two caches consistent and copies data
between them as required.
To hide some of the latency required to service large
requests, LFS performs prefetching into XBUS memory
buffers. LFS on RAID-II uses XBUS memory to pipeline
network and disk operations. For read operations, while
one block of data is being sent across the network, the next
blocks are being read off the disk. For write operations, full
LFS segments are written to disk while newer segments are
being filled with data. We are also experimenting with
prefetching techniques so small sequential reads can also
benefit from overlapping disk and network operations.
From the user’s perspective, the RAID-II file system
looks like a standard file system to clients using the slow
Ethernet path (standard mode), but requires relinking of
applications for clients to use the fast HIPPI path (highbandwidth
mode). To access data over the Ethernet, clients
simply use NFS or the Sprite RPC mechanism. The fast
data path across the Ultranet uses a special library of file
system operations for RAID files: open, read, write,
etc. The library converts file operations to operations on an
Ultranet socket between the client and the RAID-II server.
The advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t require
changes to the client operating system. Alternatively, these
operations could be moved into the kernel on the client and
would be transparent to the user-level application. Finally,
some operating systems offer dynamically loadable device
drivers that would eliminate the need for relinking applications;
however, Sprite does not allow dynamic loading.
3.3 Typical High and Low Bandwidth Requests
This section explains how the RAID-II file system handles
typical open and read requests from a client over the
fastUltraNetwork Technologies network and over the slow
Ethernet network attached to the host workstation.
In the first example, the client is connected to RAID-II
across the high-bandwidthUltranet network. The client application
is linked with a small library that converts RAID
file operations into operations on anUltranet socket connection.
First, the applicationrunning on the client performs an
open operation by calling the library routine raid_open.
This call is transformed by the library into socket operations.
The library opens a socket between the client and the
RAID-II file server. Then the client sends an open command
to RAID-II. Finally, the RAID-II host opens the file
and informs the client.
Now the application can perform read and write operations
on the file. Suppose the application does a large
read using the library routine raid_read. As before, the
library converts this read operation into socket operations,
sending RAID-II a read command that includes file position
and request length. RAID-II handles a read request
by pipelining disk reads and network sends. First, the file
system code allocates a buffer in XBUS memory, determines
the position of the data on disk, and calls the RAID
driver code to read the first block of data into XBUS memory.
When the read has completed, the file system calls the
network code to send the data from XBUS memory to the
client. Meanwhile, the file system allocates another XBUS
buffer and reads the next block of data. Network sends and
disk reads continue in parallel until the transfer is complete.
LFS may have several pipeline processes issuing read requests,
allowing disk reads to get ahead of network send
operations for efficient network transfers.
On the client side, the network data blocks are received
and read into the application memory using socket read
operations. When all the data blocks have been received,
the library returns from the raid_read call to the application.
In the second example, we illustrate the handling of a
read request sent over the relatively slow Ethernet. A client
sends standard file system open and read calls to the
host workstation across its Ethernet connection. The host
workstation sends the read command over the VME link to
the XBUS board. The XBUS board responds by reading
the data from disk into XBUS memory and transferring
the data to the host workstation. Finally, the host workstation
packages the data into Ethernet packets and sends the
packets to the client.
3.4 Performance and Status
This section describes the performance of LFS running
on RAID-II. These measurements show that LFS performs
efficiently on large random read and write operations, delivering
about 65% of the raw bandwidth of the hardware.
LFS also achieves good performance on small randomwrite
operations by grouping small writes into larger segments.
All the measurements presented in this section use a
single XBUS board with 16 disks. The LFS log is interleaved
or “striped” across the disks in units of 64 kilobytes.
The log iswritten to the disk array in units or “segments” of
960 kilobytes. The file systemforRAID-II is still under development;
it currently handles creation, reads, and writes
of files, but LFS cleaning (garbage collection of free disk
space in the log) has not yet been implemented. Because
we don’t have sufficiently fast network clients, many of the
file server measurements in this section don’t actually send
data over the network; rather, data are written to or read
from network buffers in XBUS memory.
Figure 8 shows performance for random read and write
operations for RAID-II runningLFS. For each request type,
a single process issued requests to the disk array. For
both reads and writes, data are transferred to/from network
buffers, but do not actually go across the network. The
figure shows that for random read requests larger than 10
megabytes, which are effectively sequential in nature, the
file system delivers up to 20 megabytes/second, approximately
68% of the raw sequential hardware bandwidth
described in Table 1. Smaller random reads have lower
bandwidth due to an average overhead of 23 milliseconds
per operation: 4 milliseconds of file system overhead and
19 milliseconds of disk overhead. The file system overhead
should be reduced substantially as LFS performance
The graph also shows random write performance. For
random write requests above approximately 512 kilobytes
in size, the file system delivers close to its maximum value
of 15 megabytes/second. This value is approximately 65%
of the raw sequential write performance reported in Table
1. Random writes perform as well as sequential writes for
much lower request sizes than was the case for read operations.
This is because LFS groups together random write
operations and writes them to the log sequentially. The
bandwidth for small random write operations is better than
bandwidth for small random reads, suggesting that LFS has
been successful inmitigatingthe penalty for smallwrites on
+ + + + + +
x x x
1 10 100 1000 10000
Request Size (KB)
Figure 8: Performance of RAID-II running the LFS file
a RAID Level 5 architecture. Small write performance is,
however, limited because of approximately 3 milliseconds
of network and file system overhead per request.
Figure 8 showed RAID-II performance without sending
data over the network. Next we consider network performance
for reads and writes to a single client workstation;
we have not yet run these tests for multiple clients. Performance
on write operations to RAID-II is limited by the
client; we currently don’t have a client that can deliver
enough bandwidth to saturate the disk array. A SPARCstation
10/51 client on the HIPPI network writes data to
RAID-II at 3.1 megabytes per second. Bandwidth is limited
on the SPARCstation because its user-level network
interface implementation performs many copy operations.
RAID-II is capable of scaling to much higher bandwidth;
utilization of the Sun4/280 workstation due to network operations
is close to zero with the single SPARCstation client
writing to the disk array.
Performance on network reads from the disk array is limited
by our initial network device driver implementation. To
perform a data transfer, we must synchronize operation of
the HIPPI source board and the host. Although the source
board is able to interrupt the host, this capability was not
used in the initial device driver implementation. Rather,
for reasons of simplicity, the host workstation waits while
data are being transmitted fromthe source board to the network,
checking a bit that indicates when the data transfer
is complete. This rather inefficient implementation limits
RAID-II read operations for a single SPARCstation client
to 3.2 megabytes/second. In the implementation currently
being developed, the source board will interrupt the CPU
when a transfer is complete. With this modification, we
expect to deliver the full file system bandwidth of RAID-II
to clients on the network, although the network implementation
on the SPARCstationwill still limit the bandwidth to
an individualworkstation client.
4 Existing File Server Architectures
RAID-II is not the only system offering high I/O performance.
In this section, we highlight some important characteristics
of several existing high-performance I/Osystems
and explain how they relate to the design of RAID-II.
4.1 File Servers for Workstations
File servers for a workstation computing environment
are not designed to provide high-bandwidth file access to
individual files. Instead, they are designed to provide lowlatency
service to a large number of clients viaNFS . A
typical NFS file server is a UNIX workstation that is transformed
into a server by addingmemory, network interfaces,
disk controllers, and possibly non-volatilememory to speed
up NFS writes. All workstation vendors offer NFS servers
of this type. The problem with using a workstation as a file
server is that all data transfers between the network and the
disks must pass across the workstation’s backplane, which
can severely limit transfer bandwidth. It has been shown
that the bandwidth improvements in workstation memory
and I/O systems have not kept pace with improvements in
processor speed .
One way of achieving higher performance than is possible
from a UNIX workstation server is to use specialpurpose
software and hardware. An example is the
FAServer NFS file server . The FAServer does not run
UNIX; instead it runs a special-purpose operating system
and file system tuned to provide efficient NFS file service.
This reduces the overhead of each NFS operation and allows
the FAServer to service many more clients than a
UNIX-based server running on comparable hardware. The
underlying hardware for the FAServer is a standard workstation,
however, so the FAServer suffers from the same
backplane bottleneck as a UNIX workstation when handling
Another special-purpose NFS file server is the Auspex
NS6000 . The Auspex is a functional multi-processor,
meaning that the tasks required to process an NFS request
are divided among several processors. Each processors
runs its own special-purpose software, tailored to the task
it must perform. The processors are connected together
and to a cache memory by a high-speed bus running at
55 megabytes/second. The Auspex does contain a host
workstationthat runsUNIX, but it is not involved in serving
of NFS requests. File data are transferred between the
network and the disks over the high-speed bus without
being copied into the workstation memory. In this sense
the Auspex architecture is similar to that of RAID-II, but
it differs in the use of special-purpose processors to handle
4.2 Supercomputer File Systems
Supercomputers have long used high performance I/O
systems. These systems fall into two categories: highspeed
disks attached directly to the supercomputer and
mainframe-managed storage connected to the supercomputer
via a network.
The first type of supercomputer file system consists of
many fast parallel transfer disks directly attached to a supercomputer’s
I/O channels. Each high-speed disk might
transfer at a rate of 10 megabytes/second; typically, data
might be striped across 40 of these disks. Data are usually
copied onto these high-speed disks before an application
is run on the supercomputer . These disks do not provide
permanent storage for users. The file system is not
designed to provide efficient small transfers.
The other type of supercomputer file system is the
mainframe-managed mass storage system. A typical system,
such as the NASA Ames mass storage system NAStore
, provides both disk and tertiary storage to clients
over a network. The bandwidth of such systems is typically
lower than that of the parallel transfer disk systems.
NAStore, for example, sustains 10 megabytes/second to
RAID-II was designed to perform efficiently on small
file accesses as well as on large transfers. A system similar
in design philosophy to RAID-II is Los Alamos National
Laboratory’s High Performance Data System (HPDS) .
Like RAID-II, HPDS attempts to provide low latency on
small transfers and control operations as well as high bandwidth
on large transfers. HPDS connects an IBM RAID
Level 3 disk array to a HIPPI network; like RAID-II, it has
a high-bandwidth data path and a low-bandwidth control
path. The main difference between HPDS and RAID-II is
that HPDS uses a bit-interleaved, or RAID Level 3, disk
array, whereas RAID-II uses a flexible, crossbar interconnect
that can support many different RAID architectures.
In particular, RAID-II supports RAID Level 5, which can
execute several small, independent I/Os in parallel. RAID
Level 3, on the other hand, supports only one small I/O at
5 Future Directions
5.1 Planned Use of RAID-II
We plan to use RAID-II as a storage system for two new
research projects at Berkeley. As part of the Gigabit Test
Bed project being conducted by the U.C. Berkeley Computer
Science Division and Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
(LBL), RAID-II will act as a high-bandwidthvideo storage
and playback server. Data collected from an electron microscope
at LBL will be sent from a video digitizer across
an extended HIPPI network for storage on RAID-II and
processing by a MASPAR multiprocessor.
The InfoPad project at U.C. Berkeley will use the
RAID-II disk array as an informationserver. In conjunction
with the real time protocols developed by Prof. Domenico
Ferrari’s Tenet research group, RAID-II will provide video
storage and play-back from the disk array to a network of
base stations. These base stations in turn drive the radio
transceivers of a pico-cellular network to which hand-held
display devices will connect.
5.2 Striping Across File Servers: The Zebra File
Zebra  is a network file system designed to provide
high-bandwidth file access by striping files across multiple
file servers. Its use with RAID-II would provide a mechanismfor
striping high-bandwidth file accesses overmultiple
network connections, and therefore across multiple XBUS
boards. Zebra incorporates ideas from both RAID and
LFS: from RAID, the ideas of combining many relatively
low-performance devices into a single high-performance
logical device, and using parity to survive device failures;
and from LFS the concept of treating the storage system as
a log, so that small writes and parity updates are avoided.
There are two aspects of Zebra that make it particularly
well-suitedfor usewithRAID-II. First, the servers inZebra
perform very simple operations, merely storing blocks of
the logical log of files without examining the content of the
blocks. Little communication would be needed between
the XBUS board and the host workstation, allowing data
to flow between the network and the disk array efficiently.
Second, Zebra, like LFS, treats the disk array as a log,
eliminating inefficient small writes.
The RAID-II disk array prototype was designed to deliver
much more of the available disk array bandwidth
to file server clients than was possible in our first prototype.
The most important feature of the RAID-II hardware
is the high-bandwidth data path that allows data to
be transferred between the disks and the high-bandwidth
network without passing through the low-bandwidthmemory
system of the host workstation. We implement this
high-bandwidth data path with a custom-built controller
board called theXBUS board. The XBUS controller uses a
48 crossbar-based interconnect with a peak bandwidth of
160megabytes/second. File system software is also essential
to delivering high bandwidth. RAID-II runs LFS, the
Log-Structured File System, which lays out files in large
contiguous segments to provide high-bandwidth access to
large files, groups small write requests into large write requests
to avoid wasting disk bandwidth, and provides fast
crash recovery. We are pleased with the reliability of the
XBUS controller and disk subsystem. The system has been
in continuous operation for six months with no failures.
Performance results for the RAID-II hardware and the
Log Structure File System are good. The RAID-II hardware
with a single XBUS controller board achieves about
20 megabytes/second for random read and write operations
and 31 megabytes/second for sequential read operations.
This performance is an order of magnitude improvement
compared to our first prototype, but somewhat
disappointing compared to our performance goal of 40
megabytes/second. The performance is limited by the SCSI
disk controller boards and by the bandwidth capabilities of
our disk interface ports. RAID-II performs well on small,
random I/O operations, achieving approximately 400 fourkilobyte
random I/Os per second to fifteen disks. A preliminary
implementation of LFS delivers 21megabytes/second
on large random read operations and 15 megabytes/second
for moderately large random write operations into HIPPI
network buffers on the XBUS board from RAID-II configured
with a single XBUS board. Preliminary network
performance shows that RAID-II can read and write 3
megabytes/second to a single SPARCstation client. This
network interface is currently being tuned; we soon expect
to deliver the full RAID-II file system bandwidth to clients.
If the RAID-II project were developed with the network
hardware available today, ATM network interfaces would
likely be a better choice than HIPPI. The use of HIPPI in
RAID-II had several disadvantages. Connections to HIPPI
remain very expensive, especiallywhen the cost of switches
needed to implement a network is included. While the
bandwidth capabilities of HIPPI are a good match for supercomputer
clients, the overhead of setting up transfers
makes HIPPI a poor match for supporting a large number
of client workstations.
Finally, unless workstation memory bandwidth improves
considerably, we believe a separate high-bandwidth
data path like the XBUS board that connects the disks and
the network directly is necessary to deliver high bandwidth
I/O from a workstation-based network file server. The
use of Log Structured File System software maximizes the
performance of the disk array for bandwidth-intensive applications.
We would like to thank John Ousterhout for his suggestions
for improving this paper and his participation in
the development of RAID-II. We would also like to thank
Mendel Rosenblum, Mary Baker, Rob Pfile, Rob Quiros,
Richard Drewes and Mani Varadarajan for their contributions
to the success of RAID-II. Special thanks to Theresa
Lessard-Smith and BobMiller.
This research was supported by Array Technologies,
IBM, Intel Scientific Computers, CaliforniaMICRO, NSF
(MIP 8715235),Seagate, Storage Technology Corporation,
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