File Systems & Mass Storage

Instructor: Dr. Ethan Miller (
Time: 5:30 - 6:45 PM, Tuesday & Thursday
Room: ECS 210I (CS Conference Room)
Office hours: 4-5 PM Tue & Thu
Prerequisites: CMSC 421 (at least one of CMSC 611, 621, or 625 preferred)

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In this seminar, we will discuss a wide variety of issues regarding file systems and mass storage. Students in the seminar are responsible for reading each paper before the class in which it is discussed, and are expected to participate actively in class discussions. Each paper will be "presented" by someone in the class (student or professor); this person will briefly summarize the key points in the paper and lead the subsequent discussion.

We will cover the following topics during the semester:

  1. Introduction to File Systems
    1. History
    2. Background
  2. Storage Devices
    1. Disks & disk arrays
    2. Tapes
    3. Benchmarks & performance
  3. Modern Uniprocessor File Systems
    1. Disk layout
    2. Caching policies
  4. Distributed File Systems
    1. Data distribution
    2. Replication & consistency
  5. High-Performance & Parallel File Systems
  6. Tertiary Storage & File Migration
  7. Storage in a Mobile Environment
  8. Extending the File System
  9. File Systems for Multimedia


All students in CMSC 791A must complete a project in an area related to file systems & mass storage. Students may work alone or in groups up to 3 people on any storage-related topic of their choosing. There will be regular checkpoints during the semester to ensure that the project remains on schedule to be completed by the beginning of May. Please see the project information page for specific deadlines and more information.


While I am not scheduling any exams, I may give out a short pop quiz if I find that students have not been reading the papers before coming to class. These quizzes will be short (10 minutes) and should be easy if you've read the material. I'd rather not give out such quizzes, but will do so if many students come to the seminar unprepared on a regular basis.


Grades in the class will be based on three things: participation in class discussions (40%), and the semester project (60%). Note that your project grade includes a score for your presentation and paper, and is thus not based solely on the quality of the research work that went into the project (though quality of research is a strong consideration as well).

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Last updated 27 Apr 1998 by Ethan Miller (