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Mark D. Hill

Is Transactional Memory an Oxymoron?

Computer Sciences Department
University of Wisconsin—Madison

Transactional memory (TM) was invented 15 years ago [1]. Recently, however, TM activity has exploded [2], as the proliferation of multicore chips has provoked researchers to revisit support for parallel programming. Since some regard me as a TM expert, most of my talk will summarize TM’s goals and implementation options, primarily by developing a taxonomy and using Wisconsin LogTM [3, 4] as a case study. In particular, I will consider TM implementations via software, hardware, and hybrids, as well as important design choices, such as how to buffer TM writes and when to detect TM conflicts.

I will conclude with forward-looking comments regarding TM and database transactions. In theory, the two concepts have many similarities. In practice, however, they differ substantially. First, today’s TM exclusively targets concurrency, while database transactions seek reliability first. Second, TM implementations focus in operations with caches and memory, while database transactions deal more with the more substantial access gap between memory and disks. Finally, I will speculate on cross-fertilization opportunities between TM and database transactions. I will not provide answers here, in part because you are the database experts. Nevertheless, I hope to encourage us all to ask the right questions.


Mark D. Hill is professor in both the Computer Sciences Department and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also co-leads the Wisconsin Multifacet and LogTM projects. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an ACM Fellow and a Fellow of the IEEE. His past work ranges from refining multiprocessor memory consistency models to developing the 3C model of cache behavior (compulsory, capacity, and conflict misses). He is a co-author—with actual database experts—of two VLDB papers [1999 and best paper 2001].

Justin Zobel

Principal Research Fellow, NICTA
University of Melbourne

Databases and the Silification of Health

Developments in databases and computing are helping to create a revolution in health and in biomedical research. Many aspects of medicine are increasingly data-centric, from basics such as record-keeping to diagnosis and biological discovery. Drivers of change include massive curated biological data sets, consolidations of medical knowledge into systematised online repositories, innovations in data linkage, change of practice in hospitals, and new diagnostic technologies. However, the volumes of data means that new database and computational innovations are required if the data's value is to be fully exploited. This talk reviews the biomedical mechanisms that are creating data and explores achievements and challenges for database researchers in future health.


Professor Justin Zobel is leading the Computing for Life Sciences initiative within National ICT Australia's Victorian Laboratory. He received his PhD from the University of Melbourne and for many years was based in the School of CS&IT at RMIT University, where he led the Search Engine group. He is an Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Information Retrieval, an associate editor of ACM Transactions on Information Systems and of Information Processing & Management, and was until recently Treasurer of ACM SIGIR. In the research community, he is best known for his role in the development of algorithms for efficient text retrieval. He is the author of "Writing for Computer Science" and his interests include search, bioinformatics, fundamental data structures, and research methods.