Improving Virtual Appliance Management through Virtual Layered File Systems

Potter, Shaya; Nieh, Jason

Managing many computers is difficult. Recent virtualization trends exacerbate this problem by making it easy to create and deploy multiple virtual appliances per physical machine, each of which can be configured with different applications and utilities. This results in a huge scaling problem for large organizations as management overhead grows linearly with the number of appliances. To address this problem, we present Strata, a system that introduces the Virtual Layered File System (VLFS) and integrates it with virtual appliances to simplify system management. Unlike a traditional file system, which is a monolithic entity, a VLFS is a collection of individual software layers composed together to provide the traditional file system view. Individual layers are maintained in a central repository and shared across all VLFSs that use them. Layer changes and upgrades only need to be done once in the repository and are then automatically propagated to all VLFSs, resulting in management overhead independent of the number of virtual appliances. We have implemented a Strata Linux prototype without any application or operating system kernel changes. Using this prototype, we demonstrate how Strata enables fast system provisioning, simplifies system maintenance and upgrades, speeds system recovery from security exploits, and incurs only modest performance overhead.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Department of Computer Science, Columbia University
Columbia University Computer Science Technical Reports, CUCS-008-09
Published Here
July 15, 2010