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Re: BINDing using a weak reference

From: Eric Sedlar <esedlar@us.oracle.com>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 1999 12:54:55 -0800
Message-ID: <384D741F.44120E3E@us.oracle.com>
To: "Geoffrey M. Clemm" <geoffrey.clemm@rational.com>
CC: w3c-dist-auth@w3.org
I've implemented this type of system before, and the costs of mark and sweep
are enormous when you are talking about large sets of documents living on disk
(like in a relational database).  People generally expect unlink/delete on a
file to work quickly, and applications depend on that not eating up a
tremendous amount of cycles or doing a lot of I/O.  Mark and sweep is also much
more expensive than forbidding the insertion of cycles.

If you wait to do garbage collection asynchronously, searches that do not
traverse the hierarchical namespace but that use other indexes (like keyword
searches, for example) will find things that the user has deleted.  Also,
deferring the garbage collection associated with the unlink breaks the
transactional guarantee when people COMMIT their work.

I can give you a perfectly good set of answers about how to deal with weak
links.  Oracle built a system that implements weak links and forbids cycles as
part of the Internet Filesystem product.  My responses to your issues are
included below, marked with <es> </es>.

--Eric Sedlar

"Geoffrey M. Clemm" wrote:

>    From: "Eric Sedlar" <esedlar@us.oracle.com>
>    It appears that the authors of the advanced collections spec expect that
>    BINDing a resource into a new collection will adjust a reference count
>    on the destination, ensuring that the destination resource persists
>    until all bindings have been explicitly removed.
> As you note below, a mark sweep style algorithm is more appropriate
> if you want to do garbage collection (the spec does not require a
> server to do any garbage collection).
>    The problem with this behavior is dealing with cyclic references.  A
>    server implementer may allow cyclic BINDings,
> Actually, that wording has been revised to say that a server _must_
> implement cycle bindings.
>    in which case DELETE
>    becomes very expensive, since the server must now validate that there is
>    still a valid path to the destination resource from the root, to avoid
>    orphaned cycles.
> Note that orphaned cycles are not forbidden by the spec, so there is
> no requirement to clean up orphaned cycles immediately (e.g. it could
> be a weekly garbage collection run).
>    Alternately, a server implementer can disallow cyclic
>    bindings from being inserted in the first place, which is
>    computationally much cheaper, but which restricts the usefulness of
>    BINDings.  (Like the way UNIX restricts hard links to directories).
> This is now forbidden by the spec.
>    Has any thought been given to a notion of a "weak" binding, which
>    doesn't affect persistence?  As long as weak bindings are automatically
>    deleted when all of the strong bindings are removed, dangling BINDings
>    (the great evil) are avoided.  Especially when a DAV server is
>    implementing something like a user space quota, a strong BINDing implies
>    that the user creating it wants to maintain storage for the object
>    (implying a quota impact), whereas a weak binding would be more like a
>    smart bookmark that would follow a web page when moved and disappear if
>    that page were removed.
> Yes, this was one of the variants discussed, but some of the difficulties
> encountered are:
> - does a server have to delete a weak binding when the last strong
> binding goes away, or can it leave it dangling?

<es>delete the weak binding</es>

> - how can a server ensure that it has write access to all weak bindings

> that might need to be deleted when the last strong binding is deleted?

<es>run the weak link cleanup as setuid root /system/whatever </es>

> - if a weak binding is left dangling, how is this conveyed to a client?

<es> not an issue>

> - does the weak binding track the  resource as it moves, or does it
> just point at a specific URL?

<es> it tracks the resource as it moves </es>

>  - what happens if you issue a LOCK against a URL that contained a
> weak binding?

<es> locking a URL locks the namespace, not the resource.  While you have
locked the URL containing a weak binding, nobody else can use that set of names
in their respective collections.  The resource the locked URL points to may
actually be deleted while the URL to it is locked.  In this case the resource
is deleted when the lock is released.  (Think of the lock like an open file
descriptor, or in database terms, a snapshot in a read-only transaction that
was started when the lock was acquired).  This has the same effect as if
someone deleted that resource the instant the lock was released.

> So we decided that the complexity of defining and supporting a weak binding
> outweighed its benefits.
> Cheers,
> Geoff

<es> My experience on this question that the user benefits of allowing strong
BINDings to form a cycle are minimal if weak BINDings are allowed, and the
performance costs are high.  The distinction between two types of bindings is
useful when you add user quotas.  We call these strong & weak BINDings "saved"
and "unsaved" links--a saved link is a statement by the user that s/he is
willing to pay storage costs for the item linked to, whereas a weak BINDing is
more like a bookmark, useful for categorization and simplifying navigation.
Received on Tuesday, 7 December 1999 16:03:32 UTC

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