Difference between sequential write and random write

Memory ManagementOperating SystemDiskVirtual MemorySolid State-Drive

Memory Management Problem Overview

What is the difference between sequential write and random write in case of :- 1)Disk based systems 2)SSD [Flash Device ] based systems

When the application writes something and the information/data needs to be modified on the disk then how do we know whether it is a sequential write or a random write.As till this point a write cannot be distinguished as "sequential" or "random".The write is just buffered and then applied to the disk when we will flush the buffer.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

Memory Management Solutions

Solution 1 - Memory Management

When people talk about sequential vs random writes to a file, they're generally drawing a distinction between writing without intermediate seeks ("sequential"), vs. a pattern of seek-write-seek-write-seek-write, etc. ("random").

The distinction is very important in traditional disk-based systems, where each disk seek will take around 10ms. Sequentially writing data to that same disk takes about 30ms per MB. So if you sequentially write 100MB of data to a disk, it will take around 3 seconds. But if you do 100 random writes of 1MB each, that will take a total of 4 seconds (3 seconds for the actual writing, and 10ms*100 == 1 second for all the seeking).

As each random write gets smaller, you pay more and more of a penalty for the disk seeks. In the extreme case where you perform 100 million random 1-byte writes, you'll still net 3 seconds for all the actual writes, but you'd now have 11.57 days worth of seeking to do! So clearly the degree to which your writes are sequential vs. random can really affect the time it takes to accomplish your task.

The situation is a bit different when it comes to flash. With flash, you don't have a physical disk head that you must move around. (This is where the 10ms seek cost comes from for a traditional disk). However, flash devices tend to have large page sizes (the smallest "typical" page size is around 512 bytes according to wikipedia, and 4K page sizes appear to be common as well). So if you're writing a small number of bytes, flash still has overhead in that you must read out an entire page, modify the bytes you're writing, and then write back the entire page. I don't know the characteristic numbers for flash off the top of my head. But the rule of thumb is that on flash if each of your writes is generally comparable in size to the device's page size, then you won't see much performance difference between random and sequential writes. If each of your writes is small compared to the device page size, then you'll see some overhead when doing random writes.

Now for all of the above, it's true that at the application layer much is hidden from you. There are layers in the kernel, disk/flash controller, etc. that could for example interject non-obvious seeks in the middle of your "sequential" writing. But in most cases, writing that "looks" sequential at the application layer (no seeks, lots of continuous I/O) will have sequential-write performance while writing that "looks" random at the application layer will have the (generally worse) random-write performance.


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Content TypeOriginal AuthorOriginal Content on Stackoverflow
QuestionKaizenView Question on Stackoverflow
Solution 1 - Memory ManagementWill RobinsonView Answer on Stackoverflow