"An ongoing study on datasets of several Petabytes have shown that there can be 'silent data corruption' at rates much larger than one might naively expect from the expected error rates in RAID arrays and the expected probability of single bit uncorrected errors in hard disks," began a recent query on the Linux kernel mailing list asking where the errors might be introduced. Alan Cox replied, "its almost entirely device specific at every level." He then continued on with some general information, tracing the path of the data from the drive, through the cable and bus, into main memory and the CPU cache, as well as over the network, "once its crossing the PCI bus and main memory and CPU cache its entirely down to the system you are running what is protected and how much. Note that a lot of systems won't report ECC errors unless you ask." Alan continued:
"The next usual mess is network transfers. The TCP checksum strength is questionable for such workloads but the ethernet one is pretty good. Unfortunately lots of high performance people use checksum offload which removes much of the end to end protection and leads to problems with iffy cards and the like. This is well studied and known to be very problematic but in the market speed sells not correctness."
Regarding the specific study in question, Alan noted, "for drivers/ide there are *lots* of problems with error handling so that might be implicated (would want to do old [versus] new ide tests on the same h/w which would be very intriguing)."