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Memory Management (CSC325 Module 3 SLP)

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Operating Systems and Environments: Memory Management (CSC325 Module 3 SLP)


Module 3 - SLP


Virtual Memory

Virtual memory is a technique that allows the execution of processes that are not completely in memory. One major advantage of this scheme is that programs can be larger than physical memory. Further, virtual memory abstracts main memory into an extremely large, uniform array of storage, separating logical memory as viewed by the user from physical memory.

This technique frees programmers from the concerns of memory-storage limitations. Virtual memory also allows processes to share files easily and to implement shared memory. In addition, it provides an efficient mechanism for process creation. Virtual memory is not easy to implement, however, and may substantially decrease performance if it is used carelessly


The memory-management is necessary because of one basic requirement: The instructions being executed must be in physical memory. The first approach to meeting this requirement is to place the entire logical address space in physical memory. Dynamic loading can help to ease this restriction, but it generally requires special precautions and extra work by the programmer.

The requirement that instructions must be in physical memory to be executed seems both necessary and reasonable; but it is also unfortunate, since it limits the size of a program to the size of physical memory. In fact, an examination of real programs shows us that, in many cases, the entire program is not needed. For instance, consider the following:

Programs often have code to handle unusual error conditions. Since these errors seldom, if ever, occur in practice, this code is almost never executed.

Arrays, lists, and tables are often allocated more memory than they actually need. An array may be declared 100 by 100 elements, even though it is seldom larger than 10 by 10 elements. An assembler symbol table may have room for 3,000 symbols, although the average program has less than 200 symbols.

Certain options and features of a program may be used rarely. For instance, the routines on U.S. government computers that balance the budget have not been used in many years.

Even in those cases where the entire program is needed, it may not all be needed at the same time.

The ability to execute a program that is only partially in memory would confer many benefits:

A program would no longer be constrained by the amount of physical memory that is available. Users would be able to write programs for an extremely large virtual address space, simplifying the programming task.

Because each user program could take less physical memory, more programs could be run at the same time, with a corresponding increase in CPU utilization and throughput but with no increase in response time or turnaround time.

Less I/O would be needed to load or swap user programs into memory, so each user program would run faster.

Thus, running a program that is not entirely in memory would benefit both the system and the user.

Virtual memory involves the separation of logical memory as perceived by users from physical memory. This separation allows an extremely large virtual memory to be provided for programmers when only a smaller physical memory is available (Figure 9). Virtual memory makes the task of programming much easier, because the programmer no longer needs to worry about the amount of physical memory available; she can concentrate instead on the problem to be programmed.

Diagram showing virtual memory that is larger than physical memory

Figure 9. Diagram showing virtual memory that is larger than physical memory

The virtual address space of a process refers to the logical (or virtual) view of how a process is stored in memory. Typically, this view is that a process begins at a certain logical address—say, address 0—and exists in contiguous memory, as shown in Figure 10. Recall from Module 3 Case, though, that in fact physical memory may be organized in page frames and that the physical page frames assigned to a process may not be contiguous. It is up to the memory-management unit (MMU) to map logical pages to physical page frames in memory.

Virtual address space

Figure 10. Virtual address space

Note in Figure 10 that we allow the heap to grow upward in memory as it is used for dynamic memory allocation. Similarly, we allow for the stack to grow downward in memory through successive function calls. The large blank space (or hole) between the heap and the stack is part of the virtual address space but will require actual physical pages only if the heap or stack grows.

Virtual address spaces that include holes are known as sparse address spaces. Using a sparse address space is beneficial because the holes can be filled as the stack or heap segments grow or if we wish to dynamically link libraries (or possibly other shared objects) during program execution. In addition to separating logical memory from physical memory, virtual memory allows files and memory to be shared by two or more processes through page sharing. This leads to the following benefits:

System libraries can be shared by several processes through mapping of the shared object into a virtual address space. Although each process considers the libraries to be part of its virtual address space, the actual pages where the libraries reside in physical memory are shared by all the processes (Figure 11). Typically, a library is mapped read-only into the space of each process that is linked with it.

Similarly, processes can share memory. Two or more processes can communicate through the use of shared memory. Virtual memory allows one process to create a region of memory that it can share with another process. Processes sharing this region consider it part of their virtual address space, yet the actual physical pages of memory are shared, much as is illustrated in Figure 11.

Pages can be shared during process creation, thus speeding up process creation.

Shared library using virtual memory

Figure 11. Shared library using virtual memory

Demand Paging

Consider how an executable program might be loaded from disk into memory. One option is to load the entire program in physical memory at program execution time. However, a problem with this approach is that we may not initially need the entire program in memory. Suppose a program starts with a list of available options from which the user is to select. Loading the entire program into memory results in loading the executable code for all options, regardless of whether or not an option is ultimately selected by the user. An alternative strategy is to load pages only as they are needed. This technique is known as demand paging and is commonly used in virtual memory systems. With demand-paged virtual memory, pages are loaded only when they are demanded during program execution. Pages that are never accessed are thus never loaded into physical memory.

A demand-paging system is similar to a paging system with swapping (Figure 12) where processes reside in secondary memory (usually a disk). When we want to execute a process, we swap it into memory. Rather than swapping the entire process into memory, though, we use a lazy swapper. A lazy swapper never swaps a page into memory unless that page will be needed. In the context of a demand-paging system, use of the term “swapper” is technically incorrect. A swapper manipulates entire processes, whereas a pager is concerned with the individual pages of a process. We thus use “pager,” rather than “swapper,” in connection with demand paging.

Transfer of a paged memory

Figure 12. Transfer of a paged memory to contiguous disk space

1. Basic Concepts

When a process is to be swapped in, the pager guesses which pages will be used before the process is swapped out again. Instead of swapping in a whole process, the pager brings only those pages into memory. Thus, it avoids reading into memory pages that will not be used anyway, decreasing the swap time and the amount of physical memory needed.

With this scheme, we need some form of hardware support to distinguish between the pages that are in memory and the pages that are on the disk. The valid–invalid bit scheme can be used for this purpose. When this bit is set to “valid,” the associated page is both legal and in memory. If the bit is set to “invalid,” the page either is not valid (that is, not in the logical address space of the process) or is valid but is currently on the disk. The page-table entry for a page that is brought into memory is set as usual, but the page-table entry for a page that is not currently in memory is either simply marked invalid or contains the address of the page on disk. This situation is depicted in Figure 13.

Page table

Figure 13. Page table when some pages are not in main memory

Notice that marking a page invalid will have no effect if the process never attempts to access that page. Hence, if we guess right and page in all pages that are actually needed and only those pages, the process will run exactly as though we had brought in all pages. While the process executes and accesses pages that are memory resident, execution proceeds normally.

But what happens if the process tries to access a page that was not brought into memory? Access to a page marked invalid causes a page fault. The paging hardware, in translating the address through the page table, will notice that the invalid bit is set, causing a trap to the operating system. This trap is the result of the operating system’s failure to bring the desired page into memory. The procedure for handling this page fault is straightforward (Figure 14):

We check an internal table (usually kept with the process control block) for this process to determine whether the reference was a valid or an invalid memory access.

If the reference was invalid, we terminate the process. If it was valid but we have not yet brought in that page, we now page it in.

We find a free frame (by taking one from the free-frame list, for example).

We schedule a disk operation to read the desired page into the newly allocated frame.

When the disk read is complete, we modify the internal table kept with the process and the page table to indicate that the page is now in memory.

We restart the instruction that was interrupted by the trap. The process can now access the page as though it had always been in memory.

In the extreme case, we can start executing a process with no pages in memory. When the operating system sets the instruction pointer to the first instruction of the process, which is on an on-memory-resident page, the process immediately faults for the page. After this page is brought into memory, the process continues to execute, faulting as necessary until every page that it needs is in memory. At that point, it can execute with no more faults. This scheme is pure demand paging: never bring a page into memory until it is required.

A crucial requirement for demand paging is the ability to restart any instruction after a page fault. Because we save the state (registers, condition code, instruction counter) of the interrupted process when the page fault occurs, we must be able to restart the process in exactly the same place and state, except that the desired page is now in memory and is accessible. In most cases, this requirement is easy to meet. A page fault may occur at any memory reference. If the page fault occurs on the instruction fetch, we can restart by fetching the instruction again. If a page fault occurs while we are fetching an operand, we must fetch and decode the instruction again and then fetch the operand.

As a worst-case example, consider a three-address instruction such as “add” the content of A to B, placing the result in C. These are the steps to execute this instruction:

Fetch and decode the instruction (“add”).

Fetch A.

Fetch B.

Add A and B.

Store the sum in C

If we fault when we try to store in C (because C is in a page not currently in memory), we will have to get the desired page, bring it in, correct the page table, and restart the instruction. The restart will require fetching the instruction again, decoding it again, fetching the two operands again, and then adding again. However, there is not much repeated work (less than one complete instruction), and the repetition is necessary only when a page fault occurs.

The major difficulty arises when one instruction may modify several different locations. For example, consider the IBM System 360/370 MVC (move character) instruction, which can move up to 256 bytes from one location to another (possibly overlapping) location. If either block (source or destination) straddles a page boundary, a page fault might occur after the move is partially done. In addition, if the source and destination blocks overlap, the source block may have been modified, in which case we cannot simply restart the instruction.

This problem can be solved in two different ways. In one solution, the microcode computes and attempts to access both ends of both blocks. If a page fault is going to occur, it will happen at this step, before anything is modified. The move can then take place; we know that no page fault can occur, since all the relevant pages are in memory. The other solution uses temporary registers to hold the values of overwritten locations. If there is a page fault, all the old values are written back into memory before the trap occurs. This action restores memory to its state before the instruction was started, so that the instruction can be repeated.

This is by no means the only architectural problem resulting from adding paging to an existing architecture to allow demand paging, but it illustrates some of the difficulties involved. Paging is added between the CPU and the memory in a computer system. It should be entirely transparent to the user process. Thus, people often assume that paging can be added to any system. Although this assumption is true for a non-demand-paging environment, where a page fault represents a fatal error, it is not true where a page fault means only that an additional page must be brought into memory and the process restarted.

2. Performance of Demand Paging

Demand paging can significantly affect the performance of a computer system. To see why, let’s compute the effective access time for a demand-paged memory. For most computer systems, the memory-access time, denoted ma, ranges from 10 to 200 nanoseconds. As long as we have no page faults, the effective access time is equal to the memory access time. If, however, a page fault occurs, we must first read the relevant page from disk and then access the desired word.

Let p be the probability of a page fault (0 ≤ p ≤ 1). We would expect p to be close to zero—that is, we would expect to have only a few page faults. The effective access time is then

effective access time = (1− p)× ma + p× page fault time.

To compute the effective access time, we must know how much time is needed to service a page fault. A page fault causes the following sequence to occur:

Trap to the operating system.

Save the user registers and process state.

Determine that the interrupt was a page fault.

Check that the page reference was legal and determine the location of the page on the disk.

Issue a read from the disk to a free frame:

Wait in a queue for this device until the read request is serviced.

Wait for the device seek and/or latency time.

Begin the transfer of the page to a free frame.

While waiting, allocate the CPU to some other user (CPU scheduling, optional).

Receive an interrupt from the disk I/O subsystem (I/O completed).

Save the registers and process state for the other user (if step 6 is executed).

Determine that the interrupt was from the disk.

Correct the page table and other tables to show that the desired page is now in memory.

Wait for the CPU to be allocated to this process again.

Restore the user registers, process state, and new page table, and then resume the interrupted instruction.

Not all of these steps are necessary in every case. For example, we are assuming that, in step 6, the CPU is allocated to another process while the I/O occurs. This arrangement allows multiprogramming to maintain CPU utilization but requires additional time to resume the page-fault service routine when the I/O transfer is complete.

In any case, we are faced with three major components of the page-fault service time:

1. Service the page-fault interrupt.

2. Read in the page.

3. Restart the process.

The first and third tasks can be reduced, with careful coding, to several hundred instructions. These tasks may take from 1 to 100 microseconds each. The page-switch time, however, will probably be close to 8 milliseconds. (A typical hard disk has an average latency of 3 milliseconds, a seek of 5 milliseconds, and a transfer time of 0.05 milliseconds. Thus, the total paging time is about 8 milliseconds, including hardware and software time.) Remember also that we are looking at only the device-service time. If a queue of processes is waiting for the device, we have to add device-queueing time as we wait for the paging device to be free to service our request, increasing even more the time to swap.

With an average page-fault service time of 8 milliseconds and a memory-access time of 200 nanoseconds, the effective access time in nanoseconds is

effective access time = (1− p)× (200) + p (8 milliseconds)

= (1− p)× 200 + p× 8,000,000

= 200 + 7,999,800 × p.

We see, then, that the effective access time is directly proportional to the page-fault rate. If one access out of 1,000 causes a page fault, the effective access time is 8.2 microseconds. The computer will be slowed down by a factor of 40 because of demand paging! If we want performance degradation to be less than 10 percent, we need to keep the probability of page faults at the following level:

220 > 200 + 7,999,800 × p,

20 > 7,999,800× p,

p < 0.0000025.

That is, to keep the slowdown due to paging at a reasonable level, we can allow fewer than one memory access out of 399,990 to page-fault. In sum, it is important to keep the page-fault rate low in a demand-paging system. Otherwise, the effective access time increases, slowing process execution dramatically.

Mobile operating systems typically do not support swapping. Instead, these systems demand-page from the file system and reclaim read-only pages (such as code) from applications if memory becomes constrained. Such data can be demand-paged from the file system if it is later needed. Under iOS, anonymous memory pages are never reclaimed from an application unless the application is terminated or explicitly releases the memory.

To learn more about virtual memory, check the following sites:

Virtual memory at http://www.cs.uic.edu/~jbell/CourseNotes/OperatingSystems/9_VirtualMemory.html

Operating System – Virtual Memory at http://www.tutorialspoint.com/operating_system/os_virtual_memory.htm

Virtual Memory at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=By1ncGq2swY

Virtual Memory at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTPEqibL4Pg

Virtual Memory at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3akTtCu_F_k

SLP Assignment

Under what circumstances do page faults occur? Describe in detail the actions taken by the operating system when a page fault occurs.

Consider a system that uses pure demand paging.

When a process first starts execution, how would you characterize the page-fault rate?

Once the working set for a process is loaded into memory, how would you characterize the page-fault rate?

Assume that a process changes its locality and the size of the new working set is too large to be stored in available free memory. Identify some options system designers could choose from to handle this situation.


Memory Management Name: Institution: Course: Date: INTRODUCTION Memory management is a crucial element of computer system functionality. The dynamics of memory allocations plays a major role in the way a computer is able to handle different tasks. Memory faults affect functionality by interrupting the operating systems processes, however computer systems are designed with memory management mechanisms to correct the faults. PAGE FAULTS A page fault occurs when a processes tries to access a page that has not yet been brought into memory. At the same time if the processes try to access a page that has been marked invalid, a page fault is bound to occur. Immediately a page fault occurs, the operating system runs into a trap, as it is unable to bring the desired page to memory. When the operating system runs into a trap from a missing page, the first step is checking the internal table, to ascertain if the reference was valid or invalid. In the case that the r


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