Frangipani: A Scalable Distributed File System

The ideal distributed file system would provide all its users with coherent, shared access to the same set of files,yet would be arbitrarily scalable to provide more storage space and higher performance to a growing user community. It would be highly available in spite of component failures. It would require minimal human administration, and administration would not become more complex as more components were added. Frangipani is a new file system that approximates this ideal, yet was relatively easy to build because of its two layer structure. The lower layer is Petal (described in an earlier paper), a distributed storage service that provides incrementally scalable, highly available, automatically managed virtual disks. In the upper layer, multiple machines run the same Frangipani file system code on top of a shared Petal virtual disk, using a distributed lock service to ensure coherence.
Frangipani is meant to run in a cluster of machines that are under a common administration and can communicate securely. Thus the machines trust one another and the shared virtual disk approach is practical. Of course, a Frangipani file system can be exported to untrusted machines using ordinary network file access protocols.
We have implemented Frangipani on a collection of Alphas running DIGITAL Unix 4.0. Initial measurements indicate that Frangipani has excellent single-server performance and scales well as servers are added.