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Mether is a Network Shared Memory (NSM). It allows applications on autonomous computers connected by a network to share a segment of memory.
NSMs offer the attraction of a simple abstraction for shared state, i.e., shared memory. NSMs have a potential performance problem in the cost of remote references, which is typically solved by grouping memory into larger units such as pages, and caching pages. While Mether employs grouping and caching to reduce the average memory reference delay, it also removes the need for many remote references (page faults) by providing a facility with relaxed consistency requirements.
Applications ported from a multiprocessor supercomputer with shared memory to a 16-workstation Mether configuration showed a cost/performance advantage of over 300 in favor of the Mether system. While Mether is currently implemented for Sun-3 and Sun-4 systems connected via Ethernet, other characteristics (such as a choice of page sizes and a semaphore-like access mode useful for process synchronization) should suit it to a wide variety of networks. A reimplementation for an alternate configuration employing packet-switched networks is in progress.
John H. Shaffer, Ronald G. Minnich, and Jonathan M. Smith, "Architecture and Performance of the Mether Network Shared Memory", . January 1995.
Date Posted: 02 July 2007