The cloud has a big problem on its hands: Cloud storage is failure-prone, slow, and infinitely quirky. Anyone whose platform has been taken offline by one of Amazon’s periodic elastic block storage (EBS) outages can vouch for the fact that reliably storing data in the cloud is a very hard problem, and one that we’re only just beginning to solve.
Recently, solid-state disks (SSDs) have arisen as an answer to the performance part of the cloud storage challenge, but there are deeper problems with scalability and synchronization that merely moving the same databases from hard disk to SSD doesn’t necessarily solve. That’s why a group at Stanford has a radical suggestion: Datacenters should just put everything in RAM.
The proposed system, which the researchers are calling RAMcloud, would be a one-size-fits-all solution to the cloud storage problem that would replace the mosaic of SQL, NoSQL, object, and block storage solutions that cloud providers currently use to address different storage niches. And if it achieves the latter goal, then RAMcloud could be the badly needed breakthrough that does for cloud databases what Microsoft Access and Visual Basic did for relational databases by bringing the technology firmly within the grasp of ordinary programmers and analysts.
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