Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ailing and Failing...

Since some time (a couple of weeks or so) i have started evangelizing a new idea. The idea goes in the exact opposite direction of the current trend. The idea is to use as small a harddisk as possible! Currently, 250+GB harddisks have become common. Many of the new machines are fitted with those. But, what i've learnt the hard way is - bigger the disk, bigger the data loss! It is better to use a small disk and 'flush' the content to optical media when the disk gets full. Recently, one of my HDDs failed without any prior signs of failure. Similar thing happened to my colleague's (Nikhil's) HDD at the office. Before lunch, it was fine. After lunch, gone.
Now, i'm using an 80GB disk(which also is quite a lot). I've stuffed it with movies and songs, so that, i do not have space to store downloaded stuff and photos and documents etc on it. That way, i'll have no option but to burn a DVD and make space for more data :) I know, this is as silly as keeping one's clock ahead to be on time :P But, this is the way i'm doing it right now. I do not trust magnetic media any more, especially the high capacity ones.
I wonder, how the likes of Google or Facebook or Rackspace maintain all their disks. Its a bit easier for Google or FB. Its their own data, and the servers are totally in their control. They can backup critical data whenever they want, or run SMART daemons to log disk health. But, what about providers like rackspace ? They cannot run backup cron jobs on their clients' machines. Too much of i/o or n/w traffic at an improper time can bog it down. I don't know how they deal with disk crashes. Actually, i'm curious about what their SLA terms are, when it comes to downtime due to disk failures.

From my experience, i would say that, the MTTF has reduced as the sizes of disks are increasing. My earlier drives were robust and lasted longer than newer, bigger ones, and some of my friends have a similar experience. Are companies cutting corners to keep the costs down ? Who knows ? The good part is, generally there are 3+ year warranties with the disks, so the consumer is not hit financially. The bad part of a disk failure is that, suddenly you are left without an OS. The worse part is that, you lose data. And, the worst part is that, your data goes into the hands of the company when you send your disk for replacement . If the disk has only had an electronic problem, then there is a very high chance that your data becomes accessible. Of course, the company will have rules regarding handling consumer data, but...

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W0lf said...

Hey Pranav,
Nice post. Very systemsy :). You might have already read this paper, but if you haven't, its interesting, and it addresses some of the issues you're thinking about:


Pranav said...

Hi W0lf,
Thanks for the comments :)
And, ya, i've read the paper.