The Farsite project: a retrospective

The Farsite file system is a storage service that runs on the desktop computers of a large organization and provides the semantics of a central NTFS file server. The motivation behind the Farsite project was to harness the unused storage and network resources of desktop computers to provide a service that is reliable, available, and secure despite the fact that it runs on machines that are unreliable, often unavailable, and of limited security. A main premise of the project has been that building a scalable system requires more than scalable algorithms: To be scalable in a practical sense, a distributed system targeting 10^5 nodes must tolerate a significant (and never-zero) rate of machine failure, a small number of malicious participants, and a substantial number of opportunistic participants. It also must automatically adapt to the arrival and departure of machines and changes in machine availability, and it must be able to autonomically repartition its data and metadata as necessary to balance load and alleviate hotspots. We describe the history of the project, including its multiple versions of major system components, the unique programming style and software-engineering environment we created to facilitate development, our distributed debugging framework, and our experiences with formal system specification. We also report on the lessons we learned during this development.

PDF file

In  ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review 41 (2)

Publisher  Association for Computing Machinery, Inc.
Copyright © 2007 by the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than ACM must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers, or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Request permissions from Publications Dept, ACM Inc., fax +1 (212) 869-0481, or The definitive version of this paper can be found at ACM’s Digital Library --


> Publications > The Farsite project: a retrospective