Countering Fragmentation on an Enterprise Storage System

Ram Kesavan, Matthew Curtis-Maury, Vinay Devadas, and Kesari Mishra; NetApp

ACM Transactions on Storage (TOS)
January 2020
Article No.: 25

As a file system ages, it can experience multiple forms of fragmentation. Fragmentation of the free space in the file system can lower write performance and subsequent read performance. Client operations as well as internal operations, such as deduplication, can fragment the layout of an individual file, which also impacts file read performance. File systems that allow sub-block granular addressing can gather intra-block fragmentation, which leads to wasted free space. Similarly, wasted space can also occur when a file system writes a collection of blocks out to object storage as a single large object, because the constituent blocks can become free at different times. The impact of fragmentation also depends on the underlying storage media. This article studies each form of fragmentation in the NetApp® WAFL®file system, and explains how the file system leverages a storage virtualization layer for defragmentation techniques that physically relocate blocks efficiently, including those in read-only snapshots. The article analyzes the effectiveness of these techniques at reducing fragmentation and improving overall performance across various storage media.

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