Transactions have been valued for their atomicity and recoverability properties that are useful to several systems, ranging from CAD environment to large-scale databases. Unfortunately, adding transaction support to an existing data repository was traditionally thought to be expensive, mostly due to the fast that the performance of transaction-based systems is usually limited by the performance of the magnetic disks that are used to hold the data repository. A major challenge in transaction-based systems is to decouple the performance of transaction management from the performance of the disks.
In this paper we describe a novel way to improve the performance of transaction management by using the collective main memory (hereafter called remote memory) in a Network of Workstations (NOW) [2, 4, 16]. The main idea behind our approach is to reduce the number of disk accesses by substituting them with (remote) main memory accesses. There are two main areas where remote memory can be used to improve performance of a transaction-based system:
The first of the above issues (reading from remote memory) has been somewhat explored in the areas of file systems [1, 18, 21], paging  and global memory databases for workstation clusters [15, 17]. All previous work suggests that the use of remote main memory as a large file (database) cache results in significant performance improvements. The thrust of this paper is on exploring the second issue: using remote memory to speed up synchronous disk write operations. We believe that transaction-based systems make lots of small synchronous write operations to stable storage, and thus they are going to benefit significantly from any improvements to synchronous disk write operations.
Recent architecture trends in the area of interconnection networks, and Networks of Workstations (NOWs) make it more attractive than ever to use the main memory of remote workstations (within the same workstation cluster) to speedup synchronous disk I/O operations, because the latency of Local Area Networks has significantly decreased over the last few years. Traditional interconnection networks (like Ethernet and FDDI) have latency in the range of several hundred microseconds. ATM networks have latency in the range of a few hundred microseconds , while more recent networks (like SCI  and Memory Channel ) have latency in the range of few microseconds. At the same time, disk latency has remained in the order of a few milliseconds for several years now, and is not expected to improve at a significant rate. Thus, operations dominated by disk latency (i.e. synchronous disk write operations) will remain in the millisecond range. On the contrary, operations dominated by network latency (e.g. synchronous remote memory write operations) may complete within microseconds.
Based on the current architecture trends, we believe that transaction-based systems should make use of the remote main memory of a NOW, in order to avoid (synchronous) disk data transfers and substitute them with (synchronous) network data transfers. To demonstrate our approach, we implemented our approach within two existing transaction-based systems: The EXODUS storage manager , and the RVM (Recoverable Virtual Memory) System . Section 2 describes the design and the implementation of our systems. We have run several benchmarks on top of the modified transaction systems and have observed performance improvements up to two orders of magnitude. We report our performance results in section 3. Section 4 places our work in context by surveying previous work and comparing it with our approach. Finally section 5 concludes the paper.