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HDFS Robustness

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The primary objective of HDFS is to store data reliably even in the presence of failures. The three common types of failures are NameNode failures, DataNode failures and network partitions.

Data Disk Failure, Heartbeats and Re-Replication

Each DataNode sends a Heartbeat message to the NameNode periodically. A network partition can cause a subset of DataNodes to lose connectivity with the NameNode. The NameNode detects this condition by the absence of a Heartbeat message. The NameNode marks DataNodes without recent Heartbeats as dead and does not forward any new IO requests to them. Any data that was registered to a dead DataNode is not available to HDFS any more. DataNode death may cause the replication factor of some blocks to fall below their specified value. The NameNode constantly tracks which blocks need to be replicated and initiates replication whenever necessary. The necessity for re-replication may arise due to many reasons: a DataNode may become unavailable, a replica may become corrupted, a hard disk on a DataNode may fail, or the replication factor of a file may be increased.


Cluster Rebalancing

The HDFS architecture is compatible with data rebalancing schemes. A scheme might automatically move data from one DataNode to another if the free space on a DataNode falls below a certain threshold. In the event of a sudden high demand for a particular file, a scheme might dynamically create additional replicas and rebalance other data in the cluster. These types of data rebalancing schemes are not yet implemented.


Data Integrity

It is possible that a block of data fetched from a DataNode arrives corrupted. This corruption can occur because of faults in a storage device, network faults, or buggy software. The HDFS client software implements checksum checking on the contents of HDFS files. When a client creates an HDFS file, it computes a checksum of each block of the file and stores these checksums in a separate hidden file in the same HDFS namespace. When a client retrieves file contents it verifies that the data it received from each DataNode matches the checksum stored in the associated checksum file. If not, then the client can opt to retrieve that block from another DataNode that has a replica of that block.


Metadata Disk Failure

The FsImage and the EditLog are central data structures of HDFS. A corruption of these files can cause the HDFS instance to be non-functional. For this reason, the NameNode can be configured to support maintaining multiple copies of the FsImage and EditLog. Any update to either the FsImage or EditLog causes each of the FsImages and EditLogs to get updated synchronously. This synchronous updating of multiple copies of the FsImage and EditLog may degrade the rate of namespace transactions per second that a NameNode can support. However, this degradation is acceptable because even though HDFS applications are very data intensive in nature, they are not metadata intensive. When a NameNode restarts, it selects the latest consistent FsImage and EditLog to use.