Rethinking Memory System Design (and the Computing Platforms We Design Around It)

Distinguished Lecture | IST - anfiteatro FA3 | 11:00

Onur Mutlu,

ETH Zurich


The memory system is a fundamental performance and energy bottleneck in almost all computing systems. Recent system design, application, and technology trends that require more capacity, bandwidth, efficiency, and predictability out of the memory system make it an even more important system bottleneck. At the same time, DRAM and flash technologies are experiencing difficult technology scaling challenges that make the maintenance and enhancement of their capacity, energy efficiency, and reliability significantly more costly with conventional techniques. In fact, recent reliability issues with DRAM, such as the RowHammer problem, are already threatening system security and predictability.

In this talk, we first discuss major challenges facing modern memory systems in the presence of greatly increasing demand for data and its fast analysis. We then examine some promising research and design directions to overcome these challenges. We discuss three key solution directions: 1) enabling new memory architectures, functions, interfaces, via more memory-centric system design, 2) enabling emerging non-volatile memory (NVM) technologies via hybrid and persistent memory systems, 3) enabling predictable memory systems via QoS-aware memory system design. If time permits, we will also discuss research challenges and opportunities in NAND flash memories.


Onur Mutlu is a Professor of Computer Science at ETH Zurich. He is also a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, where he previously held the William D. and Nancy W. Strecker Early Career Professorship. His current broader research interests are in computer architecture, systems, and bioinformatics. He is especially interested in interactions across domains and between applications, system software, compilers, and microarchitecture, with a major current focus on memory and storage systems. A variety of techniques he and his group have invented over the years have influenced industry and have been employed in commercial microprocessors and memory/storage systems. He obtained his PhD and MS in ECE from the University of Texas at Austin and BS degrees in Computer Engineering and Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His industrial experience spans starting the Computer Architecture Group at Microsoft Research (2006-2009), and various product and research positions at Intel Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, VMware, and Google. He received the inaugural IEEE Computer Society Young Computer Architect Award, the inaugural Intel Early Career Faculty Award, faculty partnership awards from various companies, and a healthy number of best paper or “Top Pick” paper recognitions at various computer systems and architecture venues. His computer architecture course lectures and materials are freely available on YouTube, and his research group makes software artifacts freely available online. For more information, please see his webpage at


Leonel Augusto Pires Seabra de Sousa