“Federated Array of Bricks” – Deja Vu?

Nov 29, 2006 / By Alex Gorbachev

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StorageMojo keeps producing interesting material. This time it’s about FAB (Federated Array of Bricks). I wonder if this will make the same hype as RAC?

RAC – simple, cheap, effective, application transparent way to assemble rock solid highly available and scalable database environment out of cheap boxes (read bricks).

FAB principles quoted from page 1 (bold marks are mine):

A Federated Array of Bricks (FAB) is a logical
disk system that provides the reliability and performance
of enterprise-class disk arrays, at a fraction of the
cost
and with better scalability.

A Federated Array of Bricks (FAB) is a low-cost alternative
to disk arrays, and is designed to be scalable from
very small to very large systems. FAB achieves this by
composing together storage bricks, where each brick is
a small rack-mounted storage appliance built from commodity
components
including disks, a CPU, NVRAM, and
network cards. FAB systems cost much less than disk arrays
to manufacture and develop, due to the economies
of scale
inherent in volume production, and because FAB
can replace entire array product lines
(amortizing development
costs). Because of these factors, we anticipate that
a FAB system can be built for far less than the equivalent
high-end system
. FAB provides comparable reliability,
achieved through replication: we store the same disk
block on multiple bricks, and we create redundant paths
between all components of the system. FAB performance
scales
by completely distributing all functionality (no centralized
bottlenecks) across the set of available bricks.

I’m afraid the real life sounds more like:

  • RAC — if application is able to partition workload well than it will “go RAC” well or with a bit of efforts can be distributed well without RAC.
  • FAB — if application (database) can partition storage well than it would be able to “go FAB” nicely as well as without it.

Cost saving analogy – compare cost of a brick house vs. price of bricks. It turned out that monolith or prebuilt houses are much cheaper when technology reached certain level.

Dear Reader, what is your perspective?

4 Responses to ““Federated Array of Bricks” – Deja Vu?”

  • This is just a bit of left-hand networks or Pivot3 type thinking (a little ISILONish too). The following slide set shows a more current state of the technology:
    http://www.ysaito.com/fab2003-stanford.pdf

    I’m sure it will have uses, but taking something this far without measurements with commercial workloads is a bad sign.

    All in all, I’m sure ASM will make it all work :-)

    No, honestly, the main problem with these sorts of things is reconfiguration…misery

  • oh, I forgot to mention. There is nothing cheap, simple or freely effective about RAC. People can afford RAC today because they are migrating from systems currently cost more than RAC licensing for the HW maintenance contracts alone. So on paper it looks good to go from an outdated legacy system to a cluster of commodity servers even though RAC costs exponentially more than the commodity hardware. All told, there are large numbers of legacy servers that could be decommissioned today and ran entirely on a single node commodity box. After all, the best UE10K TPC-C number was on the order of 155,000 and there is no shortage of current results from sustems with 4 and fewer sockets doing that kind of a number. Don’t need RAC to beat an aged legacy system…

  • I wonder in Big Iron will be back in Oracle camp or Oracle will continue pushing Project MegaGrid. Let’s see how far Sun will go with its Project Blackbox.

  • Just for reference – here is the newer version of the white paper.

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