Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor's Name

Raju Rangaswami

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Murali Vilayannur

Third Advisor's Name

Chen Liu

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ming Zhao

Fifth Advisor's Name

Giri Narasimhan


Operating systems, storage systems, memory caches, consolidation

Date of Defense



Memory (cache, DRAM, and disk) is in charge of providing data and instructions to a computer’s processor. In order to maximize performance, the speeds of the memory and the processor should be equal. However, using memory that always match the speed of the processor is prohibitively expensive. Computer hardware designers have managed to drastically lower the cost of the system with the use of memory caches by sacrificing some performance. A cache is a small piece of fast memory that stores popular data so it can be accessed faster. Modern computers have evolved into a hierarchy of caches, where a memory level is the cache for a larger and slower memory level immediately below it. Thus, by using caches, manufacturers are able to store terabytes of data at the cost of cheapest memory while achieving speeds close to the speed of the fastest one.

The most important decision about managing a cache is what data to store in it. Failing to make good decisions can lead to performance overheads and over- provisioning. Surprisingly, caches choose data to store based on policies that have not changed in principle for decades. However, computing paradigms have changed radically leading to two noticeably different trends. First, caches are now consol- idated across hundreds to even thousands of processes. And second, caching is being employed at new levels of the storage hierarchy due to the availability of high-performance flash-based persistent media. This brings four problems. First, as the workloads sharing a cache increase, it is more likely that they contain dupli- cated data. Second, consolidation creates contention for caches, and if not managed carefully, it translates to wasted space and sub-optimal performance. Third, as contented caches are shared by more workloads, administrators need to carefully estimate specific per-workload requirements across the entire memory hierarchy in order to meet per-workload performance goals. And finally, current cache write poli- cies are unable to simultaneously provide performance and consistency guarantees for the new levels of the storage hierarchy.

We addressed these problems by modeling their impact and by proposing solu- tions for each of them. First, we measured and modeled the amount of duplication at the buffer cache level and contention in real production systems. Second, we created a unified model of workload cache usage under contention to be used by administrators for provisioning, or by process schedulers to decide what processes to run together. Third, we proposed methods for removing cache duplication and to eliminate wasted space because of contention for space. And finally, we pro- posed a technique to improve the consistency guarantees of write-back caches while preserving their performance benefits.





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