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Understanding the characteristics of I/O traffic is increasingly important as the performance gap between the processor and disk-based storage continues to widen. Moreover, recent advances in technology, coupled with market demands, have led to new and exciting developments in storage systems, particularly network storage, storage utilities, and intelligent self-optimizing storage. In this paper, we empirically examine the physical I/O traffic of a wide range of server and personal computer (PC) workloads, focusing on how these workloads will be affected by the recent developments in storage systems. As part of our analysis, we compare our results with historical data and re-examine some rules of thumb (e.g., one bit of I/O per second for each instruction per second of processing power) that have been widely used for designing computer systems. We find that the I/O traffic is bursty and appears to exhibit self-similar characteristics. Our analysis also indicates that there is little cross-correlation between traffic volumes of server workloads, which suggests that aggregating these workloads will likely help to smooth out the traffic and enable more efficient utilization of resources. We discover that there is significant potential for harnessing “free” system resources to perform background tasks such as optimization of disk block layout. In general, we observe that the characteristics of the I/O traffic are relatively insensitive to the extent of upstream caching, and thus our results still apply, on a qualitative level, when the upstream cache is increased in size.
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