On Cascading Failures and Amazon’s Elastic Block Store

This post is one in a series discussing storage architectures in the cloud. Read Network Storage in the Cloud: Delicious but Deadly and Magical Block Store: When Abstractions Fail Us for more insight.

Resilient, adjective, /riˈzilyənt/ “Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”.

In patients with a cough, you know what commonly causes them to keep coughing? Coughing.

Nearly 4 years ago I wrote a post titled “Why EC2 isn’t yet a platform for ‘normal’ web applications” and said that the “No block storage persistence” was a feature of EC2: Making it fine for such things as batch compute on objects in S3 but likely making it difficult for people expecting to use then-state-of-the-art databases.

Their eventual solution was to provide what most people are familiar with, basically a LUN coming off of a centralized storage infrastructure. Thus the command of /mount comes back into use and one can start booting /root partitions from something other than S3. While there was the opportunity to kill centralized SAN-like storage, it was not taken.

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Facebook’s Open Compute: The Data Center is the New Server and the Rise of the Taiwanese Tigers

Today Facebook took the great step of openly talking about their server and datacenter designs at the level of detail where they can actually be replicated by others. Another reason why I call it “great?” Well, it’s interesting that the sourcing and design of these was done by Facebook and with Taiwanese component makers. Nothing new for many of us working in the industry, but it’s something that’s often not discussed in the press when talking about US server companies.

If you take a look at the Facebook Open Compute server page and listen to the video with Frank Frankovsky you’ll hear a few company names mentioned. Many of them might not be familiar to you. Frank is the Director of Hardware Design and Supply Chain at Facebook, and used to be at Dell DCS (the datacenter solutions group) where he was the first technologist. One last piece of trivia: He was the technologist that covered Joyent too. We’ve been lucky enough to have bought servers from him and Steve six years ago and went out for sushi when he was down here interviewing.

So who made the boxes?

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