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Maximizing COTS Hardware Performance with CPU Memory Management

By July 23, 2019No Comments5 min read

The world around us is changing and it is heavily dominated by the use of modern technology which in turn, incorporates the use of various electronic devices such as desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices. These products need to be updated as the needs and the requirement of the human race is evolving by every second. As top rated computers are undergoing multiple improvements, the products – software and hardware– related to the computer are also grown extensively. One of the most recent advancements has been related to improving COTS hardware performance.

What is COTS?

COTS refers to Commercially Off-The-Shelf. These computer hardware and software products are made for specific usage purposes of the computer. When the products are marketed to the general public, it is readily available and is also user-friendly in nature.

In contrast, there are custom made products, called proprietary products, which are made due to a special request. They go through the entire process of growth from the beginning in a very short period of time and within a limited budget. As a result of these reasons, the products can be expensive and not very much dependable.

An example of a COTS product includes Microsoft Office. It has been made available invariably for the entire public, who can pay and gain access to its services. Another example is the usage of Antiviruses. The general public buys the license of the antivirus which is uniform to all people.

Growth in the usage of COTS

In recent years, several big businesses have shifted to attaining COTS products in order to improve the functionality of the system and make it risk-free.  Following reasons have been listed for the increase in the usage of COTS:

  • Since the COTS hardware is sold in greater volume, these products can be bought at cheaper rates.
  • COTS offers standardized hardware management, hence the operation engineers only have to learn how to use it once with respect to one type of system.
  • COTS reduces the cost of keeping backups or spares since all devices will have uniform COTS products.
  • The updates in COTS products are much more frequent and always in consistence with the present times.
  • COTS can be used for other non-critical applications once they have been removed from the original device.

Need for maximizing COTS hardware performance

With the dawn of the 21st century, constant advancement in technology has increased the link speeds, for example, the hundred gigabit-per-second-link speeds. However, on the other hand, the rate at which the processors – CPU- were evolving has decreased significantly. Therefore, many processors or servers have a remarkably lesser time to process the input they are getting from a much faster link rate.

Additionally, the memory walls in the computer system have reached their fair share of maximum usage. Hence, a difference is arising in the speed at which a CPU operates and the memory access outside the CPU chip.

That being the case, it has become a matter of urgency to work in the field of increasing the capabilities of the memory management of CPU so that the processors can work as fast as the link speeds. Only then the large enterprises will be able to experience growth in data center traffic.

Maximizing the COTS hardware performance

According to recent studies undertaken by the researchers in association with the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) which is situated in Stockholm. There has been a progress in the usage of the processors by providing an effective answer for efficient memory management. This effective solution is currently going by the name of slice-aware memory management. The process is associated with improving the existing characteristics of the CPU, using it to the best of its capabilities and thereby expanding the usage of existing processors.

The study on memory management

This study is based on memory pyramid which includes the following components:

  • A first-level cache that is private to each core
  • A second-level cache that is also private to each core
  • The third and last level cache that is shared across all the cores

Therefore, the researchers have deduced LLC is recognized with the help of multiple slices which will be interconnected with some topology.

After this, the sellers of CPU are able to record various fragments of memory address space in uniformity with the various slices. However, they are limited by the difference in latency of the different chips.

The solution to memory management

The researchers have tried to reduce that time latency by studying NUCA with respect to a few recently developed processor’s architectures. NUCA refers to Non-Uniform Cache Architecture.

According to NUCA if the data that is being accessed is done so through closer chips, then the latency reduces by a factor of 2.  The researchers have provided with the following diagram in order to establish the advantage of Slice-aware management system as opposed to normal management systems.

Using such a memory management system, the applications have experienced a 20 percent growth in their performance.

The researchers have introduced CacheDirector as well. The Cache Director makes sure that the packet headers being placed in the LLC slice are closer to the application processors. This increases the speed of NFV or Network Function Virtualisation services by 21.5%.


The LLC or Last Level Cache has to be improved if the operation engineers are invested in maximizing the COTS hardware performance. The research in the relevant fields has showcased that such a scenario is possible only when the researchers can find a way to improve the functionality of the processors with respect to the link speed that it is being provided with.

This calls for attention to the Slice-aware memory management that is being studied and carefully utilized with respect to various applications and their LLCs. As the memory management method will be able to unlock various capabilities of the LLC, the applications of such LLC will improve correspondingly.

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