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Emerging storage technologies such as flash memories, phase-change memories, and spin-transfer torque memories are poised to close the enormous performance gap between disk-based storage and main memory. We evaluate several approaches to integrating these memories into computer systems by measuring their impact on IO-intensive, database, and memory-intensive applications. We explore several options for connecting solid-state storage to the host system and find that the memories deliver large gains in sequential and random access performance, but that different system organizations lead to different performance trade-offs. The memories provide substantial application-level gains as well, but overheads in the OS, file system, and application can limit performance. As a result, fully exploiting these memories' potential will require substantial changes to application and system software. Finally, paging to fast non-volatile memories is a viable option for some applications, providing an alternative to expensive, powerhungry DRAM for supporting scientific applications with large memory footprints.
Date of Conference: 13-19 Nov. 2010