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Showing posts from June, 2013

Antifragility from an engineering perspective

I read Nassim Taleb's "Antifragility: Things That Gain from Disorder" book a while ago, and enjoyed it a lot. I have been thinking about antifragility in engineering systems, and thought it would be good to put what I have come up with so far in writing to be able to contribute to the discussion. There are some nice reviews of the book in various places. My intention here is not to review the book, but to try to look at antifragility from an engineering perspective. Unfortunately, this came out mostly as rambling, but here it is for what it is worth.

Engineered systems:  Let's start with giving examples from the mechanical world. I will try to give examples for three increasingly-superior levels of reliability: robust-yet-fragile < resilient < antifragile.

Robust-yet-fragile. A good example here is the glass. Glass (think of automobile glasses or gorilla glass) is actually very tough/robust material. You can throw pebbles, and even bigger rocks at it, and it won…

RAMCloud reloaded: Log-structured Memory for DRAM-based Storage

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I had written a review about "the case for RAMCloud" paper in 2010.  RAMCloud advocates storing all the data in the RAM over distributed nodes in a datacenter. A RAMCloud is not a cache like memcached and data is not stored on an I/O device; DRAM is the permanent home for data.  Obviously, storing everything in RAM could yield a very high-throughput (100-1000x) and very low-latency (100-1000x) system compared to disk-based systems.

In the last 3 years, the RAMCloud group headed by John Ousterhout at Stanford has done significant work on this project, and this is a good time to write another review on RAMCloud. My review mostly uses (shortened) text form their papers, and focuses on some of the significant ideas in their work.

State of the RAMCloud 
Data model. RAMCloud provides a simple key-value data model consisting of uninterpreted data blobs called objects. Objects are grouped into tables that may span one or more servers in the cluster; a subset of a table stored on a si…

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