Logical Block Addressing - Overview

Overview

In logical block addressing, only one number is used to address data, and each linear base address describes a single block.

The LBA scheme replaces earlier schemes which exposed the physical details of the storage device to the software of the operating system. Chief among these was the cylinder-head-sector (CHS) scheme, where blocks were addressed by means of a tuple which defined the cylinder, head, and sector at which they appeared on the hard disk. CHS did not map well to devices other than hard disks (such as tapes and networked storage), and was generally not used for them. CHS was used in early MFM and RLL drives, and both it and its successor Extended Cylinder-Head-Sector (ECHS) were used in the first ATA drives. However, current disk drives use zone bit recording, where the number of sectors per track depends on the track number. Even though the disk drive will report some CHS values as sectors per track (SPT) and heads per cylinder (HPC), they have little to do with the disk drive's true geometry.

LBA was first introduced in SCSI as an abstraction. While the drive controller still addresses data blocks by their CHS address, this information is generally not used by the SCSI device driver, the OS, filesystem code, or any applications (such as databases) that access the "raw" disk. System calls requiring block-level I/O pass LBA definitions to the storage device driver; for simple cases (where one volume maps to one physical drive), this LBA is then passed directly to the drive controller.

In RAID devices and SANs and where logical drives (LUNs) are composed via LUN virtualization and aggregation, LBA addressing of individual disk should be translated by a software layer to provide uniform LBA addressing for the entire storage device.

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