Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Andy Bechtolsheim on the Solid State Storage Revolution

At the MySQL conference Andy gives a talk that is up on YouTube.

He gives a good overview of the hardware changes, but doesn't talk about the software challenges, where many of the assumptions and algorithms that are built into all the common operating systems, filesystems and databases are simply wrong. There is a lot of work to be done here. My own work at Sun involved several attempts to point this problem out over the years, and if I had done a better job of getting traction for my ideas, there would be a lot more preparation and research in this area by now. The specific examples include trying to explain the benefits of embedding NVRAM products into servers during the 1990's, and doing extensive testing with solid state disks around 2002. The current size and cost benefits that we see were very predictable, and so are the problems. The SSD's at the time were very expensive, but they were perfectly capable of supporting research and development of new algorithms, and an opportunity was missed.

The next thing that is coming is non-volatile RAM (all the RAM in the system), in case anyone is listening. There need to be fundamental changes in operating systems (user level memory protection models etc.) and we then have the ability to build truly diskless database servers, with safely persistent in-memory databases, in user space, no device drivers.

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