Current data storage systems use only one storage server to process information, making them slow to retrieve information to display for the user. A backup server only becomes active if the main storage server fails. A new approach — fast, linearizable, network-accelerated client reads, or FLAIR — optimizes data storage systems by using all the servers within a given network. Therefore, when a user makes a data request, if the main server is full, another server automatically activates to fill it.
The key enabler for FLAIR is the recent introduction of programmable networks. Since the invention of computers, networks that connect storage servers in any system were rigid and inflexible. FLAIR leverages a new networking technology to build a smart network layer that can find the fastest way to fulfill information retrieval requests, up to 2.5 times faster than classical methods.
The FLAIR protocol reads from follower replicas with minimal changes to current leader-based consensus protocols without using leases, all the while preserving linearizability. In developing the protocol, researchers first had to prove its correctness and formally verify it to ensure the approach will not return bad results. They found that FLAIR increased retrieval speeds by anywhere from 35 to 97 percent.
FLAIR can significantly improve the performance of databases and data processing engines, which are the back-ends for health systems, banking systems, and financial transactions. It will also be applicable to any modern computer application hosted on the cloud such as online documents, social networks, and emails.