the way their systems work,” he says.
A great deal of the complexity in database management systems lies in the
buffer management and query optimization to minimize I/O, and much of
that might be eliminated.
Also, storage systems will greatly
benefit from changes in the way they
access data over a network. Now, when
a storage system accesses remote data
on disk, it must navigate through the
network stack, through file services
software on both the local and remote
machine, then do all that again com-
ing back. “This change in storage per-
formance is going to force us to look at
all these different aspects of computer
system design,” Swanson says. “The
reach of this is going to be surpris-
Swanson and colleagues at other
universities are attempting to “catalyze
these changes” by forming a consor-
tium—not yet named—of storage sys-
tem researchers. They include experts
from the low levels of the OS, through
the application layers, and on up to the
data center and network architectures,
he says. “The idea is to attack all these
layers at once,” says Sawnson, “and
hopefully demonstrate that it’s worth
industry’s time to make these changes
to commercial systems.”
Swanson’s group is looking out
five to eight years, he says. “The end
point of this is you’ll have non-volatile
solid-state storage that’s about as fast
“i can now address
directly from my
like DRaM,” Rajesh
“that’s the broader
vision—a future in
which the memory
system and the
as DRAM,” he notes. “That would be
an increase of about 2,500 times improvement in latency and bandwidth.
This is much faster than Moore’s Law
increases. I think it’s the largest increase in any aspect of system performance, in the shortest time, ever. Fully
exploiting these memories is going to
require making changes throughout
the system, but it’s going to be very exciting time.”
Caulfield, A., De, A., Coburn, J., Mollov, T.,
Gupta, R., and Swanson, S.
Moneta: A high-performance storage
array architecture for next-generation,
non-volatile memories, Proceedings of the
2010 43rd Annual IEEE/ACM International
Symposium on Microarchitecture, Atlanta,
GA, Dec. 4–8, 2010.
Akel, A., Caulfield, A., Mollov, T.,
Gupta, R., and Swanson, S.
Onyx: A prototype phase-change memory
storage array, Proceedings of the 3rd
USENIX Conference on Hot Topics in
Storage and File Systems, Portland, OR,
June 14, 2011.
Mollov, T., et al.
Understanding the impact of emerging
non-volatile memories on high-performance, IO-intensive computing,
Proceedings of the 2010 ACM/IEEE
International Conference for High
Performance Computing, Networking,
Storage and Analysis, new Orleans, LA,
nov. 13–19, 2010.
Lee, B., et al.
Phase-change technology and the future of
main memory, IEEE Micro 3, 1, Jan.–Feb.
Qureshi, K., Srinivasan, V., and Rivers, J.A.
Scalable high performance main memory
system using phase-change memory
technology, ISCA ‘09 Proceedings of the
36th Annual International Symposium on
Computer Architecture, Austin, TX, June
Gary Anthes is a technology writer and editor based in
© 2012 aCM 0001-0782/12/01 $10.00
Undergrads Seek Utility in Tech
a recent survey of technology
preferences among college
undergraduates offers results
both predictable and surprising.
as for the former, it should not
raise eyebrows that the college
computer lab is steadily fading
in relevance on campuses,
especially in this age of
ubiquitous mobile devices.
as for the surprises? It defies
convention that spending on
physical textbooks, as opposed
to digital versions, remains
strong. They are the second-most commonly purchased
item online (clothing is first).
“The adoption of e-textbooks
has progressed slowly,” says
eric weil, managing partner of
student Monitor LLc, which
recently published the survey
research in which 1,200 full-time students at 100 campuses
participated. “They vastly prefer
to buy used textbooks. why
is that? for the same reason
they’ve bought used textbooks
for decades: The highlighting is
already done for them.”
other notable survey findings
˲ ˲ Computer labs are not dead.
More than six of 10 students still
work on school-issued computers at least once a week. However,
only 31% do so at least once a day.
˲ ˲ Old-school tech has not
disappeared. Microsoft word re-
mains the most popular computer
program, used by 72% of students
compared to the second-most
used, skype, at 46%. Google docs
ranks far behind word, accessed
by just 18% of undergraduates.