, Volume 12, Issue 2-3, pp 182-208

Coding techniques for handling failures in large disk arrays

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A crucial issue in the design of very large disk arrays is the protection of data against catastrophic disk failures. Although today single disks are highly reliable, when a disk array consists of 100 or 1000 disks, the probability that at least one disk will fail within a day or a week is high. In this paper we address the problem of designing erasure-correcting binary linear codes that protect against the loss of data caused by disk failures in large disk arrays. We describe how such codes can be used to encode data in disk arrays, and give a simple method for data reconstruction. We discuss important reliability and performance constraints of these codes, and show how these constraints relate to properties of the parity check matrices of the codes. In so doing, we transform code design problems into combinatorial problems. Using this combinatorial framework, we present codes and prove they are optimal with respect to various reliability and performance constraints.

This paper is a revised and expanded version of material that appeared at the Third International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS III), Boston, MA, March 1989. The work here was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers MIP-8715235 and CCR-8411954, as well as an AT&T Bell Labs GRPW grant, a Siemens Corporation grant, and an IBM graduate fellowship.
Communicated by Jeffrey Scott Vitter.