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MIT Research News

April 16, 2019

A novel data-compression technique for faster computer programs

Researchers free up more bandwidth by compressing “objects” within the memory hierarchy.

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office

A novel technique developed by MIT researchers rethinks hardware data compression to free up more memory used by computers and mobile devices, allowing them to run faster and perform more tasks simultaneously.

Data compression leverages redundant data to free up storage capacity, boost computing speeds, and provide other perks. In current computer systems, accessing main memory is very expensive compared to actual computation. Because of this, using data compression in the memory helps improve performance, as it reduces the frequency and amount of data programs need to fetch from main memory.

Memory in modern computers manages and transfers data in fixed-size chunks, on which traditional compression techniques must operate. Software, however, doesn’t naturally store its data in fixed-size chunks. Instead, it uses “objects,” data structures that contain various types of data and have variable sizes. Therefore, traditional hardware compression techniques handle objects poorly.