Multithreading in Focus: Performance & Power Efficiency

Posted by: Thom Denholm

We're constantly on the lookout for ways to help our customers boost performance and improve power efficiency, and often our inspiration comes by way of the conversations we have with them. Recently, several of these discussions highlighted user scenarios where the complexity of the application would benefit from an enhancement to the classic Dynamic Transaction Point™ technology found in our Reliance Nitro file system. Here are a couple examples of the user scenarios I'm talking about, specifically for multi-threaded environments:

In a multi-threaded system, the activity among threads can be unpredictable, sometimes requiring multiple writes by the file system to the media within milliseconds. Each write requiring its own transaction commit or flush by the file system takes a toll on performance with no real reliability benefit.

Another challenge in a multi-threaded system is power efficient utilization of the processor when the file system is configured to commit data after specific time intervals. These transactions "wake up" the processor just to generate a request, even though no actual commits or flushes occur if there was no disk activity since the last transaction point. This unnecessary activation of an inactive processor is a waste of valuable power. By suspending thread activity until new disk activity occurs, battery life could be extended significantly.

Understanding how customers use the configurable transaction points of our Reliance Nitro file system was instrumental in improving Reliance Nitro. Below is a little background on Reliance Nitro and Dynamic Transaction Point technology:

The Reliance Nitro file system is a highly reliable, power interrupt-safe transactional file system. Keeping the reliability intact without risking loss or corruption of data means that customers have the flexibility to configure when a "transaction" (i.e. a set of operations that constitute a change as a whole), is to be written to the storage media from cache. This can even be done during operation of the device (run time), and includes the following options:

(a) Timed: Transacts or commits to storage media after a specified time interval (e.g., commit data to storage media every 10 milliseconds).  

(b) Automatic: Transacts every time a file system event happens (e.g., handheld scanner commits every time the database file is written to (file_close)).

(c) Application-controlled: Transacts every time all conditions are met (e.g., several files that are dependent on each other and need to be updated together have been all changed.)

Using these options in combination gives customers the flexibility to choose under exactly which conditions they want to transact and protect important data, precision that enables total control over the balance between performance and protection for any use case.

Our efforts to address the needs of our multi-threaded customers described at the beginning of this blog post have led us to the next big breakthrough in embedded file system design, and the next big feature for Reliance Nitro. I will be blogging more about this feature soon!

Also coming soon, keep an eye out for our 2012 Customer Survey, another way we seek to continuously improve our understanding of what our customers need. We sincerely hope to get your feedback on the survey, but don't hesitate to contact us anytime if you have suggestions for improvement.

Learn More About Dynamic Transaction Point technology

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