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Thread: Why it is so imporatnt to have Computer Caches?

  1. #1

    asif pk

    Why it is so imporatnt to have Computer Caches?

    If you have been shopping for a computer, then you have heard the word "cache." Modern computers have both L1 and L2 caches, and many now also have L3 cache. You may also have gotten advice on the topic from well-meaning friends, perhaps something like "Don't buy that Celeron chip, it doesn't have any cache in it!"

    It turns out that caching is an important computer-science process that appears on every computer in a variety of forms. There are memory caches, hardware and software disk caches, page caches and more. Virtual memory is even a form of caching.

    A Simple Example: Before Cache

    Caching is a technology based on the memory subsystem of your computer. The main purpose of a cache is to accelerate your computer while keeping the price of the computer low. Caching allows you to do
    your computer tasks more rapidly.
    To understand the basic idea behind a cache system, let's start with a super-simple example that uses a librarian to demonstrate caching concepts. Let's imagine a librarian behind his desk. He is there to give you the books you ask for. For the sake of simplicity, let's say you can't get the books yourself -- you have to ask the librarian for any book you want to read, and he fetches it for you from a set of stacks in a storeroom (the library of congress in Washington, D.C., is set up this way). First, let's start with a librarian without cache.

    The first customer arrives. He asks for the book Moby Dick. The librarian goes into the storeroom, gets the book, returns to the counter and gives the book to the customer. Later, the client comes back to return the book. The librarian takes the book and returns it to the storeroom. He then returns to his counter waiting for another customer. Let's say the next customer asks for Moby Dick (you saw it coming...). The librarian then has to return to the storeroom to get the book he recently handled and give it to the client. Under this model, the librarian has to make a complete round trip to fetch every book -- even very popular ones that are requested frequently. Is there a way to improve the performance of the librarian?

    Yes, there's a way -- we can put a cache on the librarian. In the next section, we'll look at this same example but this time, the librarian will use a caching system.

    A Simple Example: After Cache

    Let's give the librarian a backpack into which he will be able to store 10 books (in computer terms, the librarian now has a 10-book cache). In this backpack, he will put the books the clients return to him, up to a maximum of 10. Let's use the prior example, but now with our new-and-improved caching librarian.
    The day starts. The backpack of the librarian is empty. Our first client arrives and asks for Moby Dick. No magic here -- the librarian has to go to the storeroom to get the book. He gives it to the client. Later, the client returns and gives the book back to the librarian. Instead of returning to the storeroom to return the book, the librarian puts the book in his backpack and stands there (he checks first to see if the bag is full -- more on that later). Another client arrives and asks for Moby Dick. Before going to the storeroom, the librarian checks to see if this title is in his backpack. He finds it! All he has to do is take the book from the backpack and give it to the client. There's no journey into the storeroom, so the client is served more efficiently.

    What if the client asked for a title not in the cache (the backpack)? In this case, the librarian is less efficient with a cache than without one, because the librarian takes the time to look for the book in his backpack first. One of the challenges of cache design is to minimize the impact of cache searches, and modern hardware has reduced this time delay to practically zero. Even in our simple librarian example, the latency time (the waiting time) of searching the cache is so small compared to the time to walk back to the storeroom that it is irrelevant. The cache is small (10 books), and the time it takes to notice a miss is only a tiny fraction of the time that a journey to the storeroom takes.

    From this example you can see several important facts about caching:

    Cache technology is the use of a faster but smaller memory type to accelerate a slower but larger memory type.

    When using a cache, you must check the cache to see if an item is in there. If it is there, it's called a cache hit. If not, it is called a cache miss and the computer must wait for a round trip from the larger, slower memory area.

    A cache has some maximum size that is much smaller than the larger storage area.

    It is possible to have multiple layers of cache. With our librarian example, the smaller but faster memory type is the backpack, and the storeroom represents the larger and slower memory type. This is a one-level cache. There might be another layer of cache consisting of a shelf that can hold 100 books behind the counter. The librarian can check the backpack, then the shelf and then the storeroom. This would be a two-level cache.
    Computer Caches
    A computer is a machine in which we measure time in very small increments. When the microprocessor accesses the main memory (RAM), it does it in about 60 nanoseconds (60 billionths of a second). That's pretty fast, but it is much slower than the typical microprocessor. Microprocessors can have cycle times as short as 2 nanoseconds, so to a microprocessor 60 nanoseconds seems like an eternity.
    What if we build a special memory bank in the motherboard, small but very fast (around 30 nanoseconds)? That's already two times faster than the main memory access. That's called a level 2 cache or an L2 cache. What if we build an even smaller but faster memory system directly into the microprocessor's chip? That way, this memory will be accessed at the speed of the microprocessor and not the speed of the memory bus. That's an L1 cache, which on a 233-megahertz (MHz) Pentium is 3.5 times faster than the L2 cache, which is two times faster than the access to main memory.

    Some microprocessors have two levels of cache built right into the chip. In this case, the motherboard cache -- the cache that exists between the microprocessor and main system memory -- becomes level 3, or L3 cache.

    There are a lot of subsystems in a computer; you can put cache between many of them to improve performance. Here's an example. We have the microprocessor (the fastest thing in the computer). Then there's the L1 cache that caches the L2 cache that caches the main memory which can be used (and is often used) as a cache for even slower peripherals like hard disks and CD-ROMs. The hard disks are also used to cache an even slower medium -- your Internet connection.

  2. #2
    nice info asif....

  3. #3
    very nice info...

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