Highly available storage with minimal trust

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Date

2012-05

Authors

Mahajan, Prince

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Abstract

Storage services form the core of modern Internet-based services spanning commercial, entertainment, and social-networking sectors. High availability is crucial for these services as even an hour of unavailability can cost them millions of dollars in lost revenue. Unfortunately, it is difficult to build highly available storage services that provide useful correctness properties. Both benign (system crashes, power out- ages etc.) and Byzantine faults (memory or disk corruption, software or configuration errors etc.) plague the availability of these services. Furthermore, the goal of high availability conflicts with our desire to provide good performance and strong correctness guarantees. For example, the Consistency, Availability, and Partition- resilience (CAP) theorem states that a storage service that must be available despite network partitions cannot enforce strong consistency. Similarly, the tradeoff between latency and durability dictates that a low-latency service cannot ensure durability in the presence of data-center wide failures. This dissertation explores the theoretical and practical limits of storage services that can be safe and live despite the presence of benign and Byzantine faults. On the practical front, we use cloud storage as a deployment model to build Depot, a highly available storage service that addresses the above challenges. Depot minimizes the trust clients have to put in the third party storage provider. As a result, Depot clients can continue functioning despite benign or Byzantine faults of the cloud servers. Yet, Depot provides stronger availability, durability, and consistency properties than those provided by many of the existing cloud deployments, without incurring prohibitive performance cost. For example, in contrast to Amazon S3’s eventual consistency, Depot provides a variation of causal consistency on each volume, while tolerating Byzantine faults. On the theoretical front, we explore the consistency-availability tradeoffs. Tradeoffs between consistency and availability have proved useful for designers in deciding how much to strengthen consistency if high availability is desired or how much to compromise availability if strong consistency is essential. We explore the limits of such tradeoffs by attempting to answer the question: What are the semantics that can be implemented without compromising availability? In this work, we investigate this question for both fail-stop and Byzantine failure models. An immediate benefit of answering this question is that we can compare and contrast the consistency provided by Depot with that achievable by an optimal implementation. More crucially, this result complements the CAP theorem. While, the CAP theorem defines a set of properties that cannot be achieved, this work identifies the limits of properties that can be achieved.

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