Jason J. Gullickson

Jason J. Gullickson


JSFS’s scalability limits center around two things:

1.  The memory-resident superblock

2.  Maximum memory available to a single Node.js process

The memory-resident superblock means that memory utilization grows in-step with storage pool size.  This design choice was selected to focus on performance as opposed to absolute scalability.  JSFS outperforms other deduplicating file systems in terms of memory efficiency (RAM-to-storage ratio) but this still limits maximum storage based on available system memory.

The first problem wouldn’t be quite so bad if not for the second one.  If the maximum JSFS storage pool size was limited to the amount of memory in a 64 bit address space this would seldom be a showstopper, however Node.js imposes a per-process memory limit that is significantly lower than what a 64 bit system can address.  It’s hard to get an authoritative answer about the limit but from what I’ve read it’s at most 4GB and possibly as low as 2GB .

When I settled on the memory-resident superblock I wasn’t aware of this limitation of Node.js.  Even so I did consider other implementations that not only eliminate the memory-resident superblock (and associated scalability limits) but also make it possible to leverage multithreading more, which can help work-around Node.js’s per-process memory limits.

The reason I didn’t pursue these options, aside from not knowing about Node.js’s memory limits was that they would make some of the features I wanted to include in JSFS either more complex or potentially impossible.

Now that I’m aware of the memory issues I must adopt one of these other designs in order to scale JSFS for one of my core use cases.  That said I don’t want to throw away functionality for systems that don’t have the scalability requirements I’m facing with this one case.

So my plan is to fork the project, and since the forked version will have fewer features, I’m calling it JSFS- (as opposed to JSFS+).  This might seem counterintuitive as this fork will be capable of handling much more storage (and potentially more load as well), but I want to make it clear that it is not a “superior” version of JSFS, but simply a more specialized one.

I do want to maintain API-level compatibility between JSFS and JSFS-, as well as federation support to the degree that it makes sense.  There will however be a few features that will have to go, and there may also be a performance penalty when compared to JSFS, at least when storage pool sizes are below a certain threshold.

I haven’t completed the design for the new version yet, but right now it’s clear that the “directory” functions (returning an index of files stored within a namespace or path) will probably have to go.  It’s also likely that versioning will be eliminated as well (although this is less certain).  Write performance is likely to take a hit as the inode data previously stored in- memory will be written out to disk (although with this new distributed superblock design, synchronous writes may not be required).  Read times are likely to be slower too although there may be some ways to work around this.

Since there will be no more monolithic superblock it will be possible to split reads and writes off into separate processes which will help improve performance on multi-core systems (as well as reduce the impact of the Node.js memory limit).  It remains to be seen exactly how far I can go with this before the overhead of each process become inefficient, but it’s at least more parallelizable in theory compared to the memory-resident superblock.

I hope to begin working on JSFS- within the next week.  I don’t expect it to take more than a few days to complete the coding, but testing is another matter (especially at the scales in targeting.

I’ll post updates here as the project progresses

// jjg