System Architecture – Subject Overview


It’s a new semester, and we’ve got 3 modules to pick from 6, and getting your choices right can be tricky. This should be a brief introduction to System Architecture and why you should take it, or why you shouldn’t, and hopefully make picking your modules slightly easier.

The subjects covered in System Architecture can be found somewhere between Operating Systems and VLSI Design from last semester. For anyone who took VLSI, it’s a logical step up. After designing and implementing a processor, System Architecture provides techniques to improve on the limitations of the hardware. For those who took Operating Systems, this module goes behind the operating system you examined, providing you with extra techniques used.

The course describes techniques to cope with processors’ recent halt in progression and techniques to communicate with memory which is hundreds of times slower. It discusses how to make systems faster and more efficient without relying on technology. A good summary can be viewed by dividing it into three sections:

  • Techniques to make the processor faster.
    This includes caching, pipelining, multi-threading and multi-core processors.
  • Techniques to make the processor more flexible.
    Things like virtual machines and binary translators.
  • The architecture of permanent storage.
    RAID and Storage Area Networks are covered in this course.

Basically, anyone who took and enjoyed either Operating Systems or VLSI will most likely enjoy going into the architecture of the system in further depth. People who intend to go into processor and system design will find the techniques discussed invaluable. Others may simple find them interesting.

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