Computing in the RAIN: A Reliable Array of Independent Nodes
Vasken Bohossian, Charles C. Fan, Paul S. LeMahieu, Marc D. Riedel, Lihao Xu and Jehoshua Bruck

In IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Computing, Feb. 2001

Abstract

The RAIN project is a research collaboration between Caltech and NASA-JPL on distributed computing and data storage systems for future spaceborne missions. The goal of the project is to identify and develop key building blocks for reliable distributed systems built with inexpensive off-the-shelf components. The RAIN platform consists of a heterogeneous cluster of computing and/or storage nodes connected via multiple interfaces to networks configured in fault-tolerant topologies. The RAIN software components run in conjunction with operating system services and standard network protocols. Through software-implemented fault tolerance, the system tolerates multiple node, link, and switch failures, with no single point of failure. The RAIN technology has been transferred to Rainfinity, a start-up company focusing on creating clustered solutions for improving the performance and availability of Internet data centers.

In this paper we describe the following contributions: 1) fault-tolerant interconnect topologies and communication protocols providing consistent error reporting of link failures; 2) fault management techniques based on group membership; and 3) data storage schemes based on computationally efficient error-control codes. We present several proof-of-concept applications: a highly-available video server, a highly-available Web server and a distributed checkpointing system. Also we describe a commercial product, Rainwall, built with the RAIN technology.


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