Designing Computer Systems with MEMS-based Storage (CMU-CS-00-137)

For decades the RAM-to-disk memory hierarchy gap has plagued computer architects. An exciting new storage technology based on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) is poised to fill a large portion of this performance gap, significantly reduce system power consumption, and enable many new applications. This paper explores the system-level implications of integrating MEMS-based storage into the memory hierarchy. Results show that standalone MEMS-based storage reduces I/O stall times by 4-74X over disks and improves overall application runtimes by 1.9-4.4X. When used as on-board caches for disks, MEMS-based storage improves I/O response time by up to 3.5X. Further, the energy consumption of MEMS-based storage is 10-54X less than that of state-of-the-art low-power disk drives. The combination of the high-level physical characteristics of MEMS-based storage (small footprints, high shock tolerance) and the ability to directly integrate MEMS-based storage with processing leads to such new applications as portable gigabit storage systems and ubiquitous active storage nodes.

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