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Machine Learning Methods for Predicting Failures in Hard Drives: A Multiple-Instance Application

Joseph F. Murray, Gordon F. Hughes, Kenneth Kreutz-Delgado; 6(27):783−816, 2005.


We compare machine learning methods applied to a difficult real-world problem: predicting computer hard-drive failure using attributes monitored internally by individual drives. The problem is one of detecting rare events in a time series of noisy and nonparametrically-distributed data. We develop a new algorithm based on the multiple-instance learning framework and the naive Bayesian classifier (mi-NB) which is specifically designed for the low false-alarm case, and is shown to have promising performance. Other methods compared are support vector machines (SVMs), unsupervised clustering, and non-parametric statistical tests (rank-sum and reverse arrangements). The failure-prediction performance of the SVM, rank-sum and mi-NB algorithm is considerably better than the threshold method currently implemented in drives, while maintaining low false alarm rates. Our results suggest that nonparametric statistical tests should be considered for learning problems involving detecting rare events in time series data. An appendix details the calculation of rank-sum significance probabilities in the case of discrete, tied observations, and we give new recommendations about when the exact calculation should be used instead of the commonly-used normal approximation. These normal approximations may be particularly inaccurate for rare event problems like hard drive failures.

© JMLR 2005. (edit, beta)