COWCache: effective flash caching for Copy-on-Write virtual disks

Jianyu Fu, Youyou Lu, Jiwu Shu, Guangming Liu, Ming Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Host-side flash caching emerges as an effective solution for improving the performance of virtual machines (VMs) in cloud computing environment. However, for VMs with the commonly used Copy-on-Write (COW) virtual disks, flash caching in fact has negative impacts since it brings lots of unnecessary cache writes, hurting both the VM performance and the flash endurance. This paper presents COWCache, a COW-aware caching solution that addresses this problem by co-designing flash caching with COW-based virtual disks. First, COWCache designs a new architecture that bridges the semantic gap between flash caching and virtual disk management for realizing the VMs’ real data locality. Second, it separately manages COW metadata with fine-grained caching and journaling to improve the metadata caching efficiency. Third, it provides a novel decoupled Copy-on-Write mechanism, which decouples the amplified data requests from the critical I/O path and only admits the data with real VM locality into flash cache. COWCache also introduces a new data structure, the virtual cache map, to mitigate the memory footprint overhead for indexing the cached data in flash. Evaluations show that COWCache improves the application performance by up to 122.7% and reduces the flash cache writes by up to 78.5% compared to traditional flash caching solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-639
Number of pages17
JournalCluster Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Caching
  • Copy-on-Write
  • Flash memory
  • Virtual disk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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