The Tail at Store: A Revelation from Millions of Hours of Disk and SSD Deployments


February 22, 2016


Mingzhe Hao, Gokul Soundararajan, Deepak Kenchammana-Hosekote, Andrew A. Chien and Haryadi S. Gunawi

14th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST '16) Santa Clara, CA. 

We study storage performance in over 450,000 disks and 4,000 SSDs over 87 days for an overall total of 857 million (disk) and 7 million (SSD) drive hours. We find that storage performance instability is not uncommon: 0.2% of the time, a disk is more than 2x slower than its peer drives in the same RAID group (and 0.6% for SSD). As a consequence, disk and SSD-based RAIDs experience at least one slow drive (i.e., storage tail) 1.5% and 2.2% of the time. To understand the root causes, we correlate slowdowns with other metrics (workload I/O rate and size, drive event, age, and model). Overall, we find that the primary cause of slowdowns are the internal characteristics and idiosyncrasies of modern disk and SSD drives. We observe that storage tails can adversely impact RAID performance, motivating the design of tail-tolerant RAID. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the most extensive documentation of storage performance instability in the field.


The definitive version of the paper can be found at:

The slides presented at the conference can be found at: