WALDIO could mean faster phones and longer battery life
We’ve all experienced it, as time passes our smartphones and tablets seem to get slower and slower. We’ve told ourselves that it’s just all the crap valuable software that we have installed. We’ve told ourselves that applications keep getting bigger and more complex (and ultimately slower). We aren’t wrong. All those things contribute to both actual and perceived slowdowns, but there may be one other contributing factor that is not only slowing us down, but hurting battery life in the process. How much? According to one study, smartphones could be 20 times faster and battery life could be extended by 39 percent if we started doing one thing differently – and it’s got everything to do with WALDIO.
Traditional “hard drives” use rotating disks (called “platters”) that are written to and read from by heads that fly around the platters very quickly. Spinning those platters and physically moving the heads back and forth takes quite a bit of energy, generates a fair amount of heat, and is relatively slow when it comes to writing and retrieving data.
Thankfully, our smartphones don’t use traditional hard drives. All our mobile devices use the same sort of chips to store all our data – flash memory.
Flash memory is an amazing technological breakthrough. It’s found in USB thumb drives; SSD drives in laptops, tablets, and servers; flash chips in our smartphones, tablets, and wearables; and even the microSD cards that some of us can pop into our phones. The specific type of technology that each of these chips use can vary, but they all apparently have the same types of limitations.
When we moved to flash memory instead of rotational drives we saw a HUGE performance increase and battery life got a boost, too! We later found a problem that TRIM (which was introduced into Android 4.3) helped, and kept performance from degrading over time. Apparently there’s another way performance degrades that TRIM doesn’t touch.
Won You-jip, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Hanyang University, found that the more times data is written to and/or deleted from flash memory, the slower it performs. Put another way, the more you use your phone, the worse it gets.
Won You-jip went about trying to resolve that, and if his technology lives up to its (very lofty) claims, we’re in for some super-fast phones with extra battery life to boot!
It’s probably a bit of an over-simplification, but the core of the theory is actually pretty sound: don’t record unnecessary data. According to Won You-jip, Write Ahead Logging Direct IO (WALDIO) says since this newly-developed technology will drastically reduce the amount of data recorded. This should extend the lifespan of our flash memory, reduce the time that it takes to write data to flash memory (because it’s writing less of it), and should extend our battery life as well (since less power will be expended writing to flash memory).
How this is done is a bit complicated. Ultimately, WALDIO works to “resolve the Journaling of Journal Anomaly in Android IO stack” by orchestrating SQLite and the EXT4 filesystem. That way the database’s file-backed journaling activity can be used, rather than the “expensive filesystem intervention”, all without without compromising file integrity should an unexpected filesystem failure occur.
All this reminds me of the database Soup that was used by Apple’s old Newton platform. Rather than a physical file structure, everything was stored in the “soup” – contacts, calendar items, notes, recordings, email – everything. This made access times faster, and made sharing information across applications a bit easier – not to mention that it was delicious!
Mmmmm… Newton soup…
I’ve long been an advocate of using a SQL-ish database as a filesystem backend, but as anyone who knows anything about databases will tell you, storing files as “blobs” inside the database isn’t very fast. WALDIO looks like it could successfully marry databases with file storage, taking the best attributes from each. Whether WALDIO will result in longer-life and faster speeds for our flash storage and better battery life remains to be seen.