Hybrid Memory Architecture

Aerospike enables use of flash storage (SSD, PCIe, NVMe) in parallel on one machine to perform reads at sub-millisecond latencies at very high throughput (100K to 1M) in the presence of a heavy write load. This use of SSD enables enormous vertical scaleup at a 5x lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than pure RAM.

Aerospike implements a hybrid memory architecture wherein the index is purely in-memory (not persisted), and data is stored only on a persistent storage (SSD) and read directly from the disk. Disk I/O is not required to access the index, which enables predictable performance. Such a design is possible because the read latency characteristic of I/O in SSDs is the same, regardless of whether it is random or sequential. For such a model, optimizations described are used to avoid the cost of a device scan to rebuild indexes.

This ability to do random read I/O comes at the cost of a limited number of write cycles on SSDs. In order to avoid creating uneven wear on a single part of the SSD, Aerospike does not perform in-place updates. Instead, it employs a copy-on-write mechanism using large block writes. This wears the SSD down evenly, which, in turn, improves device durability. Aerospike bypasses the Operating System’s file system and instead uses attached flash devices directly as a block device using a custom data layout.

When a record is updated, the old copy of the record is read from the device and the updated copy is written into a write buffer. This buffer is flushed to the storage when completely full.

The unit of read, RBLOCKS, is 16 bytes in size. This increases the addressable space and can accommodate a single storage device of up to 2TB in size. Writes in units of WBLOCK (configurable, usually 1MB) optimize disk life.

Aerospike operates on multiple storage units of this type by striping the data across multiple devices based on a robust hash function; this allows parallel access to the data while avoiding any hot spots.

Note that SSDs can store an order of magnitude more data per node than DRAM. The IOPS supported by devices keep increasing; for instance, NVMe drives can now perform 100K IOPS per drive. Many 20-30 node Aerospike clusters use this setup and run millions of operations/second 24×7 with sub-millisecond latency.