The Brave Little Toaster Meets Usenet

Karl L. Swartz - Network Appliance


Usenet volume has been growing exponentially for many years; this growth places ever-increasing demands on the resources of a netnews server, particularly disk space - and file system performance - for the article spool area. Keeping up with this demand became substantially more difficult when it could no longer be satisfied by a single disk, and since netnews is incidental to SLAC's research mission, we wanted to find a solution that could easily scale to meet future growth while requiring minimal system administration effort. In the process of evaluating the various solutions that were proposed, we developed benchmarks to measure performance for this specialized application, and were surprised to find that some of our beliefs and intuition were not supported by the facts.

The alternatives considered by SLAC are described, as are the benchmarks developed to evaluate the alternatives, and the results of those benchmarks. While netnews is the application we examined, our experience will hopefully provide inspiration for others to more carefully evaluate their applications instead of using stock benchmarks that may not correlate well with the intended use. Our results may also break down some biases and encourage the reader to consider alternatives which might otherwise have been ignored.

Presented (PPT, HTML) at the 10th USENIX Large Installation System Administration (LISA X) Conference, Chicago, 29 September - 4 October 1996. (Proceedings, PDF, PS.GZ)

Also published as SLAC-PUB-7254.

This work supported by the United States Department of Energy under contract number DE-AC03-76SF00515.

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