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MIT researchers developed a system to recover all data in the event of a crash

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August 26, 2015

Six MIT scientists and software engineers have demonstrated a new solution capable of recovering all data in the event of a complete system crash that was previously constrained to high-end, very complex infrastructure.

In October, the MIT team will showcase the first file system "mathematically guaranteed" to not lose any data during catastrophic system crashes.

Authors Haogang Chen, Daniel Ziegler, Tej Chajed, Adam Chlipala, Frans Kaashoek and Nickolai Zeldovich say the new solution lends itself to more efficient technology and could be applied to create more reliable file systems.

“What many people worry about all the time is building these file systems to be reliable, both when they’re operating normally but also in the case of crashes, power failures, software bugs, hardware errors, what have you,” Zeldovich says in a statement.

He added “Making sure that the file system can recover from a total crash at any point is very challenging because there are so many different places that you could crash.”

"You literally have to consider every instruction or every disk operation and so empirically, people have found lots of bugs in file systems that have to do with crash recovery, and they keep finding more, even in very well tested file systems such as Unix and Linux, because it’s just so difficult to do in the real world.”

The researchers' achievement is in proving the file system's final code and not just schematics, a feat accomplished with a proof assistant tool.

The proofs are checked against the file system rather than "some whiteboard idealization" that lacks formal connection to the code.

The team rewrote the system specifications about ten times but spent the most energy on the definitions of and relations between various system components.

“No one had ever done it before,” Kaashoek says. “It’s not like you could look up a paper that says, ‘This is the way to do it.’ But now you can read our paper and presumably accomplish it a lot faster.”

Source: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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