The Computer Memory

The Computer Memory

Memory is an important component of computing and is a technology that is constantly being improved. Computer memory exists in three main forms; Cache Memory, Primary Memory/Main Memory(volatile also known as short-term memory) and Secondary Memory(non-volatile also known as long-term memory or NVM), however, our focus will be centered around non-volatile(Secondary Memory). What is computer memory and what is the main difference between volatile and non-volatile?

Computer memory is any physical hardware device that facilitates storage information temporarily or permanently. Volatile or short-term memory refers to a component in which its’ contents are erased when power is turned off, whilst non-volatile is the opposite; memory content is still available even after power is turned off, an example of this is the computer’s hard drive.

In a report by Caulfield et al. (2010), he declared that Non-volatile memory has been a cause for concern by system designers decades ago. He states that Non-volatile storage was painfully slow and designer had gone at length to find a workaround. Since then there have been advances in technology, with the introduction of solid state drives. These drives are set to revolutionize storage in systems(computer, phones, tablets, etc) for high-performance computing.

I personally bought a Samsung T1 Portable 1TB USB 3.0 External SSD, I was astonished has to its’ capability and small size. The drive is as small as my credit card, yet it’s capacity is 100 times more than a flash drive about 2 years ago. Caulfield et al. (2010) stated that “Solid-state storage technologies promise to resolve these problems and enable high-performance systems that are faster, cheaper, and agiler than those we build today.”.

With this emerging advancement in non-volatile memory technology, one would suspect that the architecture of computing will drastically change to facilitate the advances. Designers and Manufacturers will be able to rely more heavily on non-volatile memory for not only data processing or storage; I/O system but fast computing, calculations and System Characteristics(which includes Reliability, Security, Privacy, and Forensics). Thus, making the computing experience much more noticeable and enjoyable. Furthermore “NVRAM has the potential to influence the design of major operating system components, program and OS execution models, and the performance and reliability characteristics of the overall system.” (Bailey et al., 2009).

After researching and analyzing the possibilities I came to the conclusion that System Characteristics has the greatest implication. Not only will users be able to store a larger amount of data on all device platform, but it also raises a security concern. Will data encryption be mandatory for applications using said technology? Bailey et al. (2009) claim that “Non-volatility could also improve forensic capabilities” however if the forensic logs are not properly protected or collected this could lead to further concerns.

In conclusion, whilst non-volatile memory is making leading in the advancement of technology it also rises of risk. Users will be able to save an enormous amount of information on a single drive which if failed could be decremental. From my previous experience with large storages, it not fun losing that much information in one go.

References:

Caulfield, A.M.; Coburn, J.; Mollov, T.; De, A.; Akel, A.; Jiahua He; Jagatheesan, A.; Gupta, R.K.; Snavely, A.; Swanson, S.. 2010 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage & Analysis (SC) , 2010, p1-11, 11p. Publisher: IEEE.

Bailey, K., Ceze, L., Gribble, S.D. and Levy, H.M., 2011, May. Operating System Implications of Fast, Cheap, Non-Volatile Memory. In HotOS 2009, Vol. 13, pp. 1-5.


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