Currently, DFS name node stores its log and state in local files.
This has the disadvantage that a hardware failure of the name node causes a total data loss.
Several approaches may be used to address this flaw:
1. replicate the name server state files using copy or rsync once in a while, either manually or using a cron job.
2. set up secondary name servers and a protocol whereby the primary updates the secondaries. In case of failure, a secondary can take over.
3. store the state files as distributed, replicated files in the DFS itself. The difficulty is that it becomes a bootstrap problem, where the name node needs some information, typically stored in its state files, in order to read those same state files.
solution 1 is fine for non critical systems, but for systems that need to guarantee no data loss it's insufficient.
Solutions 2 and 3 both seem valid; 3 seems more elegant in that it doesn't require an extra protocol, it leverages the DFS and allows any level of replication for robustness. Below is a proposition for solution 3.
1. The name node, when it starts up, needs some basic information. That information is not large and can easily be stored in a single block of DFS. We hard code the block location, using block id 0. Block 0 will contain the list of blocks that contain the name node metadata - not the metadata itself (file names, servers, blocks etc), just the list of blocks that contain it. With a block identified by 8 bytes, and 32 MB blocks, we can fit 256K block id's in block 0. 256K blocks of 32MB each can hold 8TB of metadata, which can map a large enough file system, so a single block of block_ids is sufficient.
2. The name node writes his state basically the same way as now: log file plus occasional full state. DFS needs to change to commit changes to open files while allowing continued writing to them, or else the log file wouldn't be valid on name server failure, before the file is closed.
3. The name node will use double buffering for its state, using blocks 0 and 1. Starting with block 0, it writes its state, then a log of changes. When it's time to write a new state it writes it to node 1. The state includes a generation number, a single byte starting at 0, to enable the name server to identify the valid state. A CRC is written at the end of the block to mark its validity and completeness. The log file is identified by the same generation number as the state it relates to.
4. The log file will be limited to a single block as well. When that block fills up a new state is written. 32MB of transaction logs should suffice. If not, we could set aside a set of blocks, and set aside a few locations in the super-block (block 0/1) to store that set of block ids.
5. The super-block, the log and the metadata blocks may be exposed as read only files in reserved files in the DFS: /.metadata/* or something.
6. When a name nodes starts, it waits for data nodes to connect to it to report their blocks. It waits until it gets a report about blocks 0 and 1, from which it can continue to read its entire state. After that it continues normally.