File Access Performance of Diskless Workstations
This paper studies the performance of single-user workstations that access files remotely over a local area network. From the environmental, economic, and administrative points of view, workstations that are diskless or that have limited secondary storage are desirable at the present time. Even with changing technology, access to shared data will continue to be important. It is likely that some performance penalty must be paid for remote rather than local file access. Our objectives are to assess this penalty and to explore a number of design alternatives that can serve to minimize it. Our approach is to use the results of measurement experiments to parameterize queuing network performance models. These models then are used to assess performance under load and to evahrate design alternatives. The major conclusions of our study are: (1) A system of diskless workstations with a shared file server can have satisfactory performance. By this, we mean performance comparable to that of a local disk in the lightly loaded case, and the ability to support substantial numbers of client workstations without significant degradation. As with any shared facility, good design is necessary to minimize queuing delays under high load. (2) The key to efficiency is protocols that allow volume transfers at every interface (e.g., between client and server, and between disk and memory at the server) and at every level (e.g., between client and server at the level of logical request/response and at the level of local area network packet size). However, the benefits of volume transfers are limited to moderate sizes (8-16 kbytes) by several factors. (3) From a performance point of view, augmenting the capabilities of the shared file server may be more cost effective than augmenting the capabilities of the client workstations. (4) Network contention should not be a performance problem for a lo-Mbit network and 100 active workstations in a software development environment.