FAWN: A Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes

Carnegie Mellon University Parallel Data Lab Technical Report CMU-PDL-08-108, May 2008.

David G. Andersen, Jason Franklin, Amar Phanishayee, Lawrence Tan, Vijay Vasudevan

School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


This paper introduces the FAWN—Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes—cluster architecture for providing fast, scalable, and
power-efficient key-value storage. A FAWN links together a large number of tiny nodes built using embedded processors and small amounts (2–16GB) of flash memory into an ensemble capable of handling 700 queries per second per node, while consuming fewer than 6 watts of power per node. We have designed and implemented a clustered key-value storage system, FAWN-DHT, that runs atop these nodes. Nodes in FAWN-DHT use a specialized log-like back-end hash-based database to ensure that the system can absorb the large write workload imposed by frequent node arrivals and departures. FAWN uses a two-level cache hierarchy to ensure that imbalanced workloads cannot create hot-spots on one or a few wimpy nodes that impair the system’s ability to service queries at its guaranteed rate. Our evaluation of a small-scale FAWN cluster and several candidate FAWN node systems suggest that FAWN can be a practical approach to building large-scale storage for seek-intensive workloads. Our further analysis indicates that a FAWN cluster is cost-competitive with other approaches (e.g., DRAM, multitudes of magnetic disks, solid-state disk) to providing high query rates, while consuming 3-10x less power.

KEYWORDS: cluster, flash, databases, performance, power, efficiency

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