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Dropbox says SMR technology has delivered major data centre cost savings

Written by Wed 31 Jul 2019

The company adopted the high-density storage technology a year ago

Cloud storage firm Dropbox says it has shaved 20 percent off data centre operational costs by adopting SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) storage technology.

The company said by switching to SMR storage it has also increased data centre capacity by hundreds of petabytes and generated significant energy savings.

The updates have been made to the company’s own exabyte infrastructure called Magic Pocket that it has been building since 2016. Dropbox previously stored data on AWS and other cloud providers and identified SMR as a means of expanding Magic Pocket’s capacity while reducing the infrastructure’s footprint.

While SMR technology offers affordable high-density storage compared to PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) drives, until now, slow write speeds have been impeded data centre adoption.

In order to maintain data centre performance and compability with Magic Pocket architecture, Dropbox had to make substantial changes to its software layer before introducing SMR drives, including improving throughput of the networking stack to the disk and creating a dedicated SSD cache to stage sequential writes.

The company then sourced custom SMR drives from third-party suppliers designed with a custom hardware and component ecosystem.

“We’ve been increasing the density of our disk capacity faster than the growth of the data itself, which means at this rate, close to 40 percent of all Dropbox data will be on SMR by the end of 2019, surpassing our predicted goal,” Dropbox wrote in a blog post.

“We’ve also met our expectations in terms of cost savings with more than a 20 percent percent savings overall compared to the last generation storage design. We can now store roughly 10 to 20 percent more data on an SMR drive than on a PMR drive of the same capacity at little to no cost difference. SMR technology is also more energy efficient. We’re using much denser drives, but our power usage has increased only marginally.”

Written by Wed 31 Jul 2019


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