Martian Storage Management


The problem affecting the Spirit rover on Mars is one that would be familiar to any earth-bound CIO: storage management.

The space required in the rover's Ram memory to manage the data files stored in its flash memory was more than anticipated due to the build-up of files, Ms Trosper told a news conference.

"We have lots and lots of files on the spacecraft," she said. "We've been all the way through cruise [the journey through space], we've been using flash for that whole time. We have some cruise files on the file system.

From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Files 'overloaded' Mars probe
Referenced Tue Jan 27 2004 09:29:50 GMT-0700

The good news, of course is that its a problem that can apparently be fixed. Anyone with a full hard drive knows the drill: sift through the files and find those that can be deleted. The bad news is that it had to happen in the first place.

It often seems to me that operating systems stopped evolving in significant ways back in the 80s. Operating systems exist to manage system resources. Yet, they often do a poor job of managing one of the most important system resources: the file system. A small example: every system administrator knows that one of the first things you do on a new system is to set up cronjobs to manage log files. Why don't operating systems come configured out of the box to manage this problem?

Another example is backup. Setting up a good back-up system is one of the fundamental tasks of the IT shop and the enterprise continues to pay too much for such solutions in terms of hardware and software, certainly, most more expensively, in terms of people and lost work.

At any rate, you can bet that storage management will be a bigger check-list on future interplanetary probe projects. Meanwhile back on Mars, mission controllers are purging unused files from Opportunity's FlashROM before it has similar problems and preparing to upload some test software to confirm that files are what's causing the problem.