Virtual memory


Virtual memory
Virtual memory combines active RAM and inactive memory in disk form into a large range of contiguous addresses.

In computing, virtual memory is a memory management technique developed for multitasking kernels. This technique virtualizes a computer architecture's various forms of computer data storage (such as random-access memory and disk storage), allowing a program to be designed as though there is only one kind of memory, "virtual" memory, which behaves like directly addressable read/write memory (RAM).

Most modern operating systems that support virtual memory also run each process in its own dedicated address space, allowing a program to be designed as though it has sole access to the virtual memory. However, some older operating systems (such as OS/VS1 and OS/VS2 SVS) and even modern ones (such as IBM i) are single address space operating systems that run all processes in a single address space composed of virtualized memory.

Systems that employ virtual memory:

  • use hardware memory more efficiently than do systems without virtual memory.[citation needed]
  • make the programming of applications easier:

Memory virtualization is a generalization of the concept of virtual memory.

Virtual memory is an integral part of a computer architecture; all implementations (excluding[dubious ] emulators and virtual machines) require hardware support, typically in the form of a memory management unit built into the CPU. Consequently, older operating systems, such as those for the mainframes of the 1960s, and those for personal computers of the early to mid 1980s (e.g. DOS),[1] generally have no virtual memory functionality,[dubious ] though notable exceptions for mainframes of the 1960s include:

and the Apple Lisa is an example of a personal computer of the 1980s which features virtual memory.

Embedded systems and other special-purpose computer systems that require very fast and/or very consistent response times may opt not to use virtual memory due to decreased determinism; virtual memory systems trigger unpredictable interrupts that may produce unwanted "jitter" during I/O operations. This is because embedded hardware costs are often kept low by implementing all such operations with software (a technique called bit-banging) rather than with dedicated hardware. In any case, embedded systems usually have little use for complicated memory hierarchies.

Contents

History

In the 1940s and 1950s, all larger programs had to contain logic for managing primary and secondary storage, such as overlaying. Virtual memory was therefore introduced not only to extend primary memory, but to make such an extension as easy as possible for programmers to use.[2] To allow for multiprogramming and multitasking, many early systems divided memory between multiple programs without virtual memory, such as early models of the PDP-10 via registers. Paging was first developed at the University of Manchester as a way to extend the Atlas Computer's working memory by combining its 16 thousand words of primary core memory with an additional 96 thousand words of secondary drum memory. The first Atlas was commissioned in 1962 but working prototypes of paging had been developed by 1959.[2](p2)[3][4] In 1961, the Burroughs Corporation independently released the first commercial computer with virtual memory, the B5000, with segmentation rather than paging.[5][6]

Before virtual memory could be implemented in mainstream operating systems, many problems had to be addressed. Dynamic address translation required expensive and difficult to build specialized hardware; initial implementations slowed down slightly access to memory.[2] There were worries that new system-wide algorithms utilizing secondary storage would be less effective than previously used application-specific algorithms. By 1969, the debate over virtual memory for commercial computers was over;[2] an IBM research team led by David Sayre showed that their virtual memory overlay system consistently worked better than the best manually controlled systems.[citation needed] The first minicomputer to introduce virtual memory was the Norwegian NORD-1; during the 1970s, other minicomputers implemented virtual memory, notably VAX models running VMS.

Virtual memory was introduced to the x86 architecture with the protected mode of the Intel 80286 processor, but its segment swapping technique scaled poorly to larger segment sizes. The Intel 80386 introduced paging support underneath the existing segmentation layer, enabling the page fault exception to chain with other exceptions without double fault. However, loading segment descriptors was an expensive operation, causing operating system designers to rely strictly on paging rather than a combination of paging and segmentation.

Paged virtual memory

Nearly all implementations of virtual memory divide a virtual address space into pages, blocks of contiguous virtual memory addresses. Pages are usually at least 4 kilobytes in size; systems with large virtual address ranges or amounts of real memory generally use larger page sizes.

Page tables

Page tables are used to translate the virtual addresses seen by the application into physical addresses used by the hardware to process instructions; such hardware that handles this specific translation is often known as the memory management unit. Each entry in the page table holds a flag indicating whether the corresponding page is in real memory or not. If it is in real memory, the page table entry will contain the real memory address at which the page is stored. When a reference is made to a page by the hardware, if the page table entry for the page indicates that it is not currently in real memory, the hardware raises a page fault exception, invoking the paging supervisor component of the operating system.

Systems can have one page table for the whole system, separate page tables for each application and segment, a tree of page tables for large segments or some combination of these. If there is only one page table, different applications running at the same time use different parts of a single range of virtual addresses. If there are multiple page or segment tables, there are multiple virtual address spaces and concurrent applications with separate page tables redirect to different real addresses.

Paging supervisor

This part of the operating system creates and manages page tables. If the hardware raises a page fault exception, the paging supervisor accesses secondary storage, returns the page that has the virtual address that resulted in the page fault, updates the page tables to reflect the physical location of the virtual address and tells the translation mechanism to restart the request.

When all physical memory is already in use, the paging supervisor must free a page in primary storage to hold the swapped-in page. The supervisor uses one of a variety of page replacement algorithms such as least recently used to determine which page to free.

Pinned pages

Operating systems have memory areas that are pinned (never swapped to secondary storage). For example, interrupt mechanisms rely on an array of pointers to their handlers, such as I/O completion and page fault. If the pages containing these pointers or the code that they invoke were pageable, interrupt-handling would become far more complex and time-consuming, particularly in the case of page fault interrupts. Hence, some part of the page table structures is not pageable.

Some pages may be pinned for short periods of time, others may be pinned for long periods of time, and still others may need to be permanently pinned. For example:

  • The paging supervisor code and drivers for secondary storage devices on which pages reside must be permanently pinned, as otherwise paging wouldn't even work because the necessary code wouldn't be available.
  • Timing-dependent components may be pinned to avoid variable paging delays.
  • Data buffers that are accessed directly by, say, peripheral devices that use direct memory access or I/O channels must reside in pinned pages while the I/O operation is in progress because such devices and the buses to which they are attached expect to find data buffers located at physical memory addresses; regardless of whether the bus has a memory management unit for I/O, transfers cannot be stopped if a page fault occurs and then restarted when the page fault has been processed.

In IBM's operating systems for System/370 and successor systems, the term is "fixed", and pages may be long-term fixed, or may be short-term fixed. Control structures are often long-term fixed (measured in wall-clock time, i.e., time measured in seconds, rather than time measured in less than one second intervals) whereas I/O buffers are usually short-term fixed (usually measured in significantly less than wall-clock time, possibly for a few milliseconds). Indeed, the OS has a special facility for "fast fixing" these short-term fixed data buffers (fixing which is performed without resorting to a time-consuming Supervisor Call instruction). Additionally, the OS has yet another facility for converting an application from being long-term fixed to being fixed for an indefinite period, possibly for days, months or even years (however, this facility implicitly requires that the application firstly be swapped-out, possibly from preferred-memory, or a mixture of preferred- and non-preferred memory, and secondly be swapped-in to non-preferred memory where it resides for the duration, however long that might be; this facility utilizes a documented Supervisor Call instruction).

Virtual-real operation

In OS/VS1 and similar OSes, some parts of systems memory are managed in virtual-real mode, where every virtual address corresponds to a real address, specifically interrupt mechanisms, paging supervisor and tables in older systems, and application programs using non-standard I/O management. For example, IBM's z/OS has 3 modes (virtual-virtual, virtual-real and virtual-fixed).[7][page needed]

Thrashing

When paging is used, a problem called "thrashing" can occur, in which the computer spends an unsuitable amount of time swapping pages to and from a backing store, hence slowing down useful work. Adding real memory is the simplest response, but improving application design, scheduling, and memory usage can help.

Segmented virtual memory

Some systems, such as the Burroughs B5500,[8] do not use paging; instead, they use segmentation, dividing virtual address spaces into variable-length segments. A virtual address here consists of a segment number and an offset within the segment. The Intel 80286 supports a similar segmentation scheme as an option, but it is little used. Segmentation and paging are meldable by dividing each segment into pages; systems with this memory structure, such as Multics and IBM System/38, are usually paging-predominant, segmentation providing memory protection.[9][10][11]

In the Intel 80386 and later IA-32 processors, the segments reside in a 32-bit linear, paged address space. Segments can be moved in and out of that space; pages there can "page" in and out of main memory, providing two levels of virtual memory; few if any operating systems do so, instead using only paging. Early non-hardware-assisted x86 virtualization solutions combined paging and segmentation because x86 paging offers only two protection domains whereas a VMM / guest OS / guest applications stack needs three.[12]:22 The difference between paging and segmentation systems is not only about memory division; segmentation is visible to user processes, as part of memory model semantics. Hence, instead of memory that looks like a single large vector, it is structured into multiple spaces.

This difference has important consequences; a segment is not a page with variable length or a simple way to lengthen the address space. Segmentation that can provide a single-level memory model in which there is no differentiation between process memory and file system consists of only a list of segments (files) mapped into the process's potential address space.[13]

This is not the same as the mechanisms provided by calls such as mmap and Win32's MapViewOfFile, because inter-file pointers do not work when mapping files into semi-arbitrary places. In Multics, a file (or a segment from a multi-segment file) is mapped into a segment in the address space, so files are always mapped at a segment boundary. A file's linkage section can contain pointers for which an attempt to load the pointer into a register or make an indirect reference through it causes a trap. The unresolved pointer contains an indication of the name of the segment to which the pointer refers and an offset within the segment; the handler for the trap maps the segment into the address space, puts the segment number into the pointer, changes the tag field in the pointer so that it no longer causes a trap, and returns to the code where the trap occurred, re-executing the instruction that caused the trap.[14] This eliminates the need for a linker completely[2] and works when different processes map the same file into different places in their private address spaces.[15]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Windows Version History". Microsoft. Last Review: July 19, 2005. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/32905. Retrieved 2008-12-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Denning, Peter (1997). "Before Memory Was Virtual" (PDF). In the Beginning: Recollections of Software Pioneers. http://cs.gmu.edu/cne/pjd/PUBS/bvm.pdf. 
  3. ^ R. J. Creasy, "The origin of the VM/370 time-sharing system", IBM Journal of Research & Development, Vol. 25, No. 5 (September 1981), p. 486
  4. ^ Atlas design includes virtual memory
  5. ^ Ian Joyner on Burroughs B5000
  6. ^ Cragon, Harvey G. (1996). Memory Systems and Pipelined Processors. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 113. ISBN 0867204745. http://books.google.com/?id=q2w3JSFD7l4C. 
  7. ^ "z/OS Basic Skills Information Center: z/OS Concepts" (PDF). http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/zoslnctr/v1r7/topic/com.ibm.zconcepts.doc/zconcepts.pdf. 
  8. ^ Burroughs. Burroughs B5500 Information Processing System Reference Manual. 1021326. 
  9. ^ (PDF) GE-645 System Manual. January 1968. pp. 21–30. http://computer-refuge.org/bitsavers/pdf/ge/GE-645/GE-645_SystemMan_Jan68.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  10. ^ Corbató, F.J.; and Vyssotsky, V. A.. "Introduction and Overview of the Multics System". http://www.multicians.org/fjcc1.html. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  11. ^ Glaser, Edward L.; Couleur, John F.; and Oliver, G. A.. "System Design of a Computer for Time Sharing Applications". http://www.multicians.org/fjcc2.html. 
  12. ^ J. E. Smith, R. Uhlig (August 14, 2005) Virtual Machines: Architectures, Implementations and Applications, HOTCHIPS 17, Tutorial 1, part 2
  13. ^ Bensoussan, André; Clingen, CharlesT.; Daley, Robert C. (May 1972). "The Multics Virtual Memory: Concepts and Design". Communications of the ACM 15 (5): 308–318. doi:10.1145/355602.361306. http://www.multicians.org/multics-vm.html. 
  14. ^ "Multics Execution Environment". http://www.multicians.org/exec-env.html. 
  15. ^ Organick, Elliott I. (1972). The Multics System: An Examination of Its Structure. MIT Press. ISBN 0262150123. 

Further reading

  • Hennessy, John L.; and Patterson, David A.; Computer Architecture, A Quantitative Approach (ISBN 1-55860-724-2)

External links

This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • virtual memory — ➔ memory * * * virtual memory UK US noun [U] (also virtual storage) IT ► the ability of a computer to use space on its hard drive as if it were part of its RAM (= the memory used to run programs): »You can speed up your shutdowns by verifying… …   Financial and business terms

  • virtual memory — noun uncount COMPUTING space on a computer s HARD DRIVE that the software can use as a temporary place to store information …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • virtual memory — noun (computer science) memory created by using the hard disk to simulate additional random access memory; the addressable storage space available to the user of a computer system in which virtual addresses are mapped into real addresses • Syn:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • virtual memory —    A memory management technique that allows information in physical memory to be swapped out to a hard disk if necessary.    This technique provides applications with more memory space than is actually available in the computer. True virtual… …   Dictionary of networking

  • virtual memory — virtualioji atmintis statusas T sritis automatika atitikmenys: angl. virtual memory; virtual storage vok. virtueller Speicher, m rus. виртуальная память, f pranc. mémoire virtuelle, f …   Automatikos terminų žodynas

  • virtual memory — virtualioji atmintis statusas T sritis informatika apibrėžtis Programiniu būdu sukurta tariamoji atmintis, kurią kompiuterio programos naudoja kaip ↑operatyviąja atmintį. Iš tikrųjų tik dalis virtualiosios atminties yra operatyviojoje atmintyje.… …   Enciklopedinis kompiuterijos žodynas

  • virtual memory — N UNCOUNT Virtual memory is a computing technique in which you increase the size of a computer s memory by arranging or storing the data in it in a different way. [COMPUTING] …   English dictionary

  • virtual memory — noun Date: 1959 a section of a hard drive that can be used as if it were an extension of a computer s random access memory called also virtual storage …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • virtual memory — (also virtual storage) noun Computing memory that appears to exist as main storage although most of it is supported by data held in secondary storage …   English new terms dictionary

  • virtual memory —    or virtual storage    A technique that simulates the availability of additional workstation memory in order to let users run multiple programs concurrently …   IT glossary of terms, acronyms and abbreviations


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.