MSST 2024
Conference paper

Balancing Costs and Durability for Serverless Data

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Durability features such as replication or erasure coding serve an important role in storage systems, enabling users to store data without fear of loss due to device failures. However, these durability features come with a cost, in terms of storage, network traffic, and computational overheads. For most data, loss is a catastrophic event and so these overheads are acceptable. However, some data tolerates low durability and does not need the high level of durability that most storage systems provide. Identifying the proper level of durability for a piece of data is difficult, especially since it is often not clear how to determine the cost of loss. For some data used in serverless applications, however, this cost is relatively straightforward to calculate: serverless functions are often required to be idempotent, meaning that the data produced by them can be re-created by re-running the function. The cost of losing a piece of data then is merely the cost of re-running the function that originally created the data. In this paper, we explore the tradeoff between the cost of storing data durably and the cost to re-create data. We focus on serverless data because its ability to be recreated makes it possible to assign a cost to its loss. We develop a mathematical model that relates compute costs, storage costs, and application-specific parameters to calculate the cost-optimal placement of data. We also develop an execution framework capable of handling lost data transparently, enabling applications to use lower-durability storage with no additional burden on the developer. Next, we show how different factors such as failure rate and compute costs affect the placement decision. We find that thanks to the relatively short lifetime of serverless data, the probability of data loss even on low-durability storage is fairly low. Finally, we use the model to place data for several applications, including a video-transcoding application and an image-assembly application. We show that our model can predict execution costs within 7% of actual execution costs, and can reduce storage costs by up to 3× while never exceeding baseline costs.