Sprockets: Safe extensions for distributed file systems

Daniel Peek, Edmund B. Nightingale, Brett D. Higgins, Puspesh Kumar, and Jason Flinn


Sprockets are a lightweight method for extending the functionality of distributed file systems. They specifically target file systems implemented at user level and small extensions that can be expressed with up to several hundred lines of code. Each sprocket is akin to a procedure call that runs inside a transaction that is always rolled back on completion, even if sprocket execution succeeds. Sprockets therefore make no persistent changes to file system state; instead, they communicate their result back to the core file system through a restricted format using a shared memory buffer. The file system validates the result and makes any necessary changes if the validations pass. Sprockets use binary instrumentation to ensure that a sprocket can safely execute file system code without making changes to persistent state. We have implemented sprockets that perform type-specific handling within file systems such as querying application metadata, application-specific conflict resolution, and handling custom devices such as digital cameras. Our evaluation shows that sprockets can be up to an order of magnitude faster to execute than extensions that utilize operating system services such as fork. We also show that sprockets allow fine-grained isolation and, thus, can catch some bugs that a fork-based implementation cannot.