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The traditional virtual memory system is designed for decades assuming a magnetic disk as the secondary storage. Recently, flash memory becomes a popular storage alternative for many portable devices with the continuing improvements on its capacity, reliability and much lower power consumption than mechanical hard drives. The characteristics of flash memory are quite different from a magnetic disk. Therefore, in this paper, we revisit virtual memory system design considering limitations imposed by flash memory. In particular, we focus on the energy efficient aspect since power is the first-order design consideration for embedded systems. Due to the write-once feature of flash memory, frequent writes incur frequent garbage collection thereby introducing significant energy overhead. Therefore, in this paper, we propose three methods to reduce writes to flash memory. The HotCache scheme adds an SRAM cache to buffer frequent writes. The subpaging technique partitions a page into subunits, and only dirty subpages are written to flash memory. The duplication-aware garbage collection method exploits data redundancy between the main memory and flash memory to reduce writes incurred by garbage collection. We also identify one type of data locality that is inherent in accesses to flash memory in the virtual memory system, intrapage locality. Intrapage locality needs to be carefully maintained for data allocation in flash memory. Destroying intrapage locality causes noticeable increases in energy consumption. Experimental results show that the average energy reduction of combined subpaging, HotCache, and duplication-aware garbage collection techniques is 42.2%.
Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:16 , Issue: 8 )
Date of Publication: Aug. 2008