Tasty Systems Engineering: Thumper, ZFS and Lots of Data

Sometimes systems engineering is a bit like designing the ultimate dessert: it's discovering that peanut butter and chocolate taste great together, and that when you scramble a few of those delights into a bowl full of chocolate ice cream it's heavenly. The systemic sweetness is arrived at incrementally, one good idea building on another one (and yes, you can get this truly heart-unhealthy dessert at Thomas Sweet, if you live near Princeton, NJ, New Brunswick, NJ or Washington, DC. They call it a mix-in, not a mash-up, but it's the same idea).

Only New Year's resolutions to reduce my intake of junk foods would lead to parallels between sucrose engineering and storage systems. I digress from a valuable engineering discussion -- the systems engineering parallel is that the composition of products often yields a new system with characteristics outside the scope of any one of the components taken by itself.

A few weeks ago, I hosted a spirited taping session with Jeff Bonwick, Distinguished Engineer, co-creator of the ZFS filesystem, and CTO of the storage business unit at Sun, Bill Moore, the hardware architect for the X4500 server (also known as "Thumper") and Bob Sokol, fellow Jersey resident and Chief Architect for our Media and Entertainment industry group. Our design roundtable covered how and why Thumper came into existence as a systems product (the peanut butter), why ZFS is the ideal filesystem for it, allowing us to solve for improved reliability, performance and ease of management at the software layer (the chocolate), and how it applies to those industries with some of the most intense and largest-scale data management requirements (ice cream as entertainment).

The podcast of our attempts to contain the data explosion is now available as part of our Innovating@Sun series.

Comments:

I am a huge Patrik Elias fan as well. I know who sold you half of his Elias collection for the Finals ticket quite well. Please e-mail me, we could work on a lot of trades I feel. Thanks, Chris

Posted by Chris on January 04, 2007 at 04:23 PM EST #

You know how and where to find me (I even heard from HJ himself regarding that deal in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel). first.last @ sun.com works well.

Posted by guest on January 05, 2007 at 10:22 AM EST #

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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