Margo I. Seltzer, Gregory R. Ganger, M. Kirk McKusick, Keith A. Smith, Craig A. N. Soules, Christopher A. Stein

Journaling Versus Soft Updates: Asynchronous Meta-data Protection in File Systems

Abstract

The UNIX Fast File System (FFS) is probably the most widely-used file system for performance comparisons. However, such comparisons frequently overlook many of the performance enhancements that have been added over the past decade. In this paper, we explore the two most commonly used approaches for improving the performance of meta-data operations and recovery: journaling and Soft Updates. Journaling systems use an auxiliary log to record meta-data operations and Soft Updates uses ordered writes to ensure meta-data consistency.

The commercial sector has moved en masse to journaling file systems, as evidenced by their presence on nearly every server platform available today: Solaris, AIX, Digital UNIX, HP-UX, Irix, and Windows NT. On all but Solaris, the default file system uses journaling. In the meantime, Soft Updates holds the promise of providing stronger reliability guarantees than journaling, with faster recovery and superior performance in certain boundary cases.

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