Performance Analysis and Improvement of Storage Virtualization in an OS-Online System


An OS-online system called TransCom is based on a virtual storage system that supports heterogeneous services of the operating system and applications online. In TransCom, OS and software which run in the client are stored on the centralized servers, while computing tasks are carried out by the clients, so the server is the bottleneck of the system performance. This paper firstly analyzes the characteristics of its real usage workload and builds a queuing model to locate the system bottlenecks. According to the study, the disk is the primary bottleneck, so an optimal two-level cache arrangement policy is developed on both the server and the client, which aims to avoid most of the server disk accesses. LRU algorithm is used in the client-side cache. A cache management algorithm called Frequency-based Multi-Priority Queues (FMPQ) proposed in this paper is used in the server-side cache. Experiment results show that the appropriate cache arrangement can significantly improve the capability of the TransCom server.

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Gao, Y. , Zhang, Y. and Zhou, Y. (2012) Performance Analysis and Improvement of Storage Virtualization in an OS-Online System. Journal of Software Engineering and Applications, 5, 912-922. doi: 10.4236/jsea.2012.531106.

1. Introduction

During the last decade, with the rapid advance in the embedded and mobile devices, the traditional general-purpose desktop computing is shifting toward the greatly heterogeneous and scalable cloud computing [1,2], which aims to offer novel pervasive services for users in right place, at right time and by right means with some kinds/ levels of smart or intelligent behaviours. From the scalable service perspective, these pervasive services are highly expected, that a smart ubiquitous computing platform should enable users to get different services via a single light-weight device and a same service via different types of devices. Unfortunately, all of the current technologies cannot achieve the uneven conditioning services. In another word, users are often unable to select their desired service freely via the devices or platforms available to them. A new computing paradigm is proposed, namely, transparent computing [3,4], which aims to solve the problems above. The core idea of this paradigm is to realize the “stored program concept [5]” model in the networking environment, in which the execution and the storage of programs are separated in the different computers. All the OSes, applications, and data of clients are centered on the servers and are scheduled on demand and run on different clients in a “block-streaming” way. All the OS-, application-, and data-streaming can be intercepted, monitored, or audited independent of the clients. Due to the central storage of OSes and applications, the installation, maintenance, and managment are also centralized, leaving the clients light-weighted. A typical transparent computing system is illustrated in Figure 1.

We implemented a prototype of transparent computing, namely, TransCom [6], which is a distributed system based on C/S model. In TransCom, a client is nearly a bare hardware, which is responsible for the execution of programs and the interaction with users. Most programs including OSes and applications executed on the clients are centralized on the server, which is responsible for the storage and the management. In order to fetch the remote programs and data transparently, the virtual disk system (Vdisk) in TransCom extends the local external memory to the disks and the memory on the server.

Unlike the traditional distributed storage systems, Vdisk in TransCom is designed for the remote programs access rather than only the remote data access, which brings Vdisk some unique features as follows. Firstly, Vdisk supports for the remote program loading and paging. Secondly, all the virtual disks are transparent to the native file systems and applications. Thirdly, one program segment can be shared among different clients. At last, each client has a separate disk view.

Since Vdisk is designed for the special purpose, its behaviour is not the same as the traditional distributed

Figure 1. The computing environment of Transparent Computing.

storage systems. Understanding the workload characteristics of Vdisk is a necessary prelude to improve the performance of TransCom. In this paper, a trace-driven analysis method is used to observe I/O characteristics of Vdisk, and the effect of cache on both the server and the client side is discussed. Also an analytical model is built to evaluate the effect of several optimizations on a cache system.

The remaining sections are organized as follows. The overall architecture of the TransCom system is shown in Section 2. In Section 3, we build a queuing network mo-  del to analyse the utilization of resources on the server. In Section 4, we identify the bottleneck on TransCom server and discuss the factors affect the cache hit ratio and the overall performance by simulation. In Section 5, we propose a two-level cache strategy optimization method and provide the experimental results in Section 6. The conclusions and future works are discussed in Section 7.

2. System Overview

TransCom system is based on C/S model, where a single server can support up to tens of clients connected in a network system. Figure 2 shows the overall architecture of a TransCom system with a server and a single client. Without the local hard disk, each client accesses the OS, software and data from the remote virtual disks which simulate the physical block-level storage devices. Vdisk, in essence, is one or more disk image files located on the server and accessed by the client remotely via Network Service Access Protocol (NSAP) [7]. TransCom server, running as an application daemon, maintains a client management process, a disk management process, and all Vdisk image files belonging to all clients in the system.

As seen from its structure in Figure 2, the Vdisk driver is composed of two parts running on the Trans-Com client and TransCom server, respectively. OS-Specific Driver (OSD) is mainly used to provide the interaction interface with a specific Client OS, so that Client OS may perform various operations on the virtual devices as usual. Independent Driver (ID) which runs in TransOS is used to fulfill the Vdisk functions that are irrelevant with a specific Client OS. The interface between OSD and ID is an ordinary hardware-level interface based on the I/O controller and register. Service Initiator is used to locate the TransCom server for ID and to transport the requests for Vdisk operations to relevant handling programs on the TransCom server via NSAP. Waiting for the response from the server, Service Initiator then passes the handling results to ID for further handling. Service Target is used to receive I/O requests from the TransCom client, search relevant database, check the access authority, perform operations to the corresponding Vdisk image files and physical devices, and finally return the results to the TransCom client. NSAP communication protocol is the communication protocol to locate the TransCom server, verify relevant authorization, and transport requests and responses for various I/O operations.

As mentioned above, the Virtual I/O (VIO) path needs to go through the TransCom delivery network (a roundtrip transportation) and the physical I/O operations of the TransCom server. Therefore, a complete VIO operation will take more time than commonly known I/O operations. More often than not, this makes the VIO the bottleneck of system performance. In order to enhance the

Figure 2. Overall architecture of a TransCom system with a server and a single client.

access performance to VIO in the TransCom system, it is necessary to add cache modules along the VIO path through “add-in” mechanism, so as to further improve the read or write performance.

The client cache is used to cache the requests or responses data from the Client OS and remote TransCom servers, and to reduce the I/O response time. The server cache is added based on Service Targets on the TransCom server. After the caching modules are added, in handling VIO requests sent from the TransCom client, the Service Targets will first search the cache for the I/O data requested by the user using the server cache. If the VIO data requested by the user is in the cache, it will directly return the I/O data to the TransCom client. Otherwise, the Service Target will directly operate on the Vdisk image file and its corresponding physical device, acquiring the VIO data requested by the users, updating the content in the cache buffer with the server cache, and then sending the result to the sending queue. The server cache also will determine whether it is needed to pre-read some VIO data into the cache buffer, according to the specific VIO request sent by the user. If it is needed, it will invoke the Service Target to operate directly on the Vdisk image file and its corresponding physical device, so as to read the VIO data beforehand.

Two features distinguish TransCom from previous diskless distributed systems [8-10]. Firstly, TransCom can boot and run heterogeneous OSes and applications, so the Vdisk driver is transparent to both OSes and applications. Secondly, Vdisks perceived by users can be flexibly mapped to the Vdisk image files on the TransCom server. Such flexibility allows TransCom to share OSes and applications to different clients to reduce the overhead of the storage and the management, while still isolating the personal files for the privacy of users.

We study a real usage case deployed in the network and system group in Tsinghua University. The system is set up as the baseline case. The server is Dell PowerEdge 1900 machine, equipped with an Intel Xeon Quad Core 1.6 GHz CPU, 4 GB Dual DDR2 667 MHz RAM, one 160 GB Hitachi 15,000 rpm SATA hard disk, and a 1 Gbps on-board network card. Each client is configured as Intel Dual Core E6300 1.86 GHz machine, with 512 MB DDR 667 RAM and 100 Mbps on-board network card. All the clients and server are connected by an Ethernet switch with 98,100 Mbps interfaces and two 1Gbps interfaces. All clients run the Windows XP Professional SP3. The server runs Windows 2003 Standard SP2, with the software providing the TransCom services.

In this paper, we study and optimize the above system. In the following sections, we will discuss what the bottleneck of this system is and How to improve the system.

3. Model Analysis

In this section, the most critical resources on the server are identified. The measurement data is analysed to build the queuing network performance models. In this section, we describe our models, the inputs, and the experiments conducted to obtain these inputs.

3.1. Models of TransCom System

Since the input requirements of our models dictate the quantities that must be measured, a description of these models is introduced at the beginning. We chose the queuing network performance models, because the models can achieve an attractive combination of the efficiency and the accuracy. There are three components in the specification of a queue network model: service centre description, customer description, and service demands. The service centre description identifies the resources of the system that will be represented in the model, such as disks, CPUs, communication networks, etc. The customer description indicates the workload intensity and the offered load, such as the average number of the requests in the system, the average rate at which requests arrive, the number of users and the average waiting time. The service demands indicate the average amount of the services which each request requires at each service centre.

Once these inputs have been specified, the model can be evaluated using efficient numerical algorithms to obtain the performance measures, such as utilization, residence time, queue length, and throughput. In essence, the evaluation algorithm calculates the effect of the interference, and queues the results when customers who have certain service demands share the system at particular workload intensity. Once created, the model can be used to project the performance of the system under various modifications. System modifications often have straightforward representations as modifications to the model inputs.

In TransCom system, a number of TransCom clients share a server over a local area network. Figure 3 illustrates the models used in our study. The server is represented by three service centres, corresponding to the CPU, the storage subsystem and the network subsystem. The execution of the requests at the CPU depends on the type of operations requested by the client, which may be either control or access operations. For the storage service, the execution of a request to the server is simpler. A user request for a control operation is translated to one or more access requests to the server by the client. The access and control requests at the server are handled in a similar way to an access request to a file service. The storage system is represented by a flow equivalent server centre, which is composed of a memory cache and some disks. Thus, the efficiency of the storage system depends on the effect of the cache system, which is usually presented by the hit rate. Each client workstation is represented by a delay centre, in which the delay time is a sum of latencies during the network transaction and the network stack processing on each client. The model includes one “token” or “customer” corresponding to each client. Each customer cycles between its client and the server via the network, accumulating the services and encountering the queuing delays which are caused by the competition from other customers.

3.2. Customer Characteristics

The I/O requests issued by the clients in the baseline system were traced in Tsinghua University for 4 weeks.


Figure 3. Models of TransCom system. (a) Queuing model of TransCom system; (b) Model of storage system in TransCom system.

There are 15 users, a professor and several graduate students, working on each client with Windows XP from 8 am to 6 pm. The applications used most frequently are the internet browser (IE 7.0), the text editor (Microsoft Office 2007) and the text viewer (Adobe acrobat reader 8.0). Besides, New Era English software, a multimedia application for English self-learning, is often used by students.

Wireshark 1.6 is used to set up a network monitor on the server to capture I/O requests related packets and to extract the required information, such as disk id, user id, requested initial block number, block length, operation command and time of packet issued/received. Note that, because of the limitation of the network packet size, TransCom clients need to split a large I/O request to several small ones. Some fields in each split packets are added to record the initial block number and the length of original requests.

The results of our trace analysis are summarized as follows. Note that a request referenced here is an original request before it is split by TransCom system.

1) The minimal request size is 0.5 KB, and the maximal request size is 64 KB. The average request size is 8 KB.

2) Most of the requests are short in length (70% less than or equal to 4 KB), and 4 KB is the most frequent request size (60%).

3) The proportion of the traffic between the read and the write requests is 1:3, while the proportion of the working set (amount of blocks that be accessed at least once) is 4:5.

4) On average, half of the requests are sequential.

According to the above observations, a 4 KB data is defined as a “typical request”. The service demands at the client are composed of the processes in user mode, and the overhead processes for transferring some 4 KB blocks. Since NSAP is a one-step protocol, the service demands of a client should be a constant when the scale of clients increases.

3.3. Measuring Service Demands

The parameters whose values are required for transferring 4 KB data are the service demands, such as the client CPU, the server CPU, disk and NIC, and the network. These service demands are measured in a series of experiments that transfer large numbers of blocks with the 4 KB block size. These experiments are repeated to ensure the reliability.

The CPU service demands at the clients or the server are measured by a performance monitor, which is a background process provided by Windows in all experiments. The server CPU consumption can be further divided into 3 parts: storage related consumption, network related consumption and I/O server consumption. The storage related consumption is the CPU service time spent on dealing with the cache system and controlling disks. Network related consumption is mainly associated with the overhead on UDP/IP network stack. I/O server consumption is used to calculate the requested image files and the position of the file access pointer.

Since it is complicated and expensive to deploy a monitor on the NIU (Network Interface Unit) to measure the service time of the NIU directly, the service time is estimated by the throughput and the network related consumption. Lots of 4 KB UDP packets are transferred continuously via 1Gbps Ethernet NIC in the server, so we measure the throughput and the network stack consumption on the server CPU, by which the service time on the NIU can be calculated. The disk service time of both the random and sequential accesses is measured by IOMeter. In the experiment, we found that the service demands of the CPU in the client and server were not dependent on the access mode. According to the results of our trace study mentioned above, we assume that a seek time is required once per two disk accesses in our model. The typical parameter describing the cache effect is the hit ratio, which is not easy to be measured in a real usage. The hit ratio is one of the factors, which affect the request response time and the utilization of each service centre.

3.4. Modeling Verification

To make the model simple and effective, several assumptions are proposed, some parts of which have already been mentioned in previous sections.

Assumptions of Service Centre are proposed as follows: 1) Service centres in the model are independent from each other; 2) The buffer of each service centre is unlimited, so no request will be dropped.

Assumptions of workload are proposed as follows: 1) the size of the requests is 4 KB; 2) A seek time happens once per two disk accesses.

To examine whether the assumptions affect the accuracy of our model, the response time of the Vdisk requests calculated by the model is compared with the response time measured in the real system, as shown in Figure 4. The calculated values and the measured values are pretty similar to each other in the both two figures, which prove that the assumptions are reasonable in our scenario. In next section, this model is adopted to conduct the bottleneck analysis of TransCom system, especially, to evaluate the effect of the cache on both the server and the clients.

4. Performance Analysis of the Baseline System

The service demands are measured in the real system, as it is shown in Table 1" target="_self"> Table 1. The disk service demands at the server dominate among the shared resources, our research emphasizes on the investigation of the effect of the memory cache which can be presented by the hit rate.

4.1. Effect of Cache Hit Ratio at Server

The relationship between the server throughput at the heavy load and its cache hit ratio of the storage subsystem is plotted in Figure 5. The throughput isn’t sensitive to the hit ratio when the hit ratio is low, while it improves dramatically when the hit ratio is more than 80%. Besides, the large block size will achieve a higher throughput than the small one.

4.2. Congestion Analysis

Figure 6(a) illustrates the throughput of the server at various loads. A fact can be observed that even the hit ratio is 100%, the server saturates at a rather small scale (about 15 clients). Another metric to evaluate the performance of our system is the latency issued by the clients. It is observed from Figure 6(b) that the access latency can be smaller than the local disk when the hit ratio is higher than a certain threshold. This indicates that remote disk accesses in TransCom may achieve better performance at a light load. According to Figure 6(a) and Figure 6(b), a design, that reduces light-load remote access latency at the expense of increasing service demands, would appear to be inappropriate. Conversely, a

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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