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Technical Perspective: Toward Reliable Programming For Unreliable Hardware

By Todd Millstein

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 8, Page 82

"It's not a bug; it's a feature!" Though this sentence is often meant as a joke, sometimes a bug really is a feature—when the benefits of tolerating the bug outweigh its negative impact on applications.

Designers of emerging hardware architectures are taking this point of view in order to increase energy efficiency, which is a critical concern across the computing landscape, from tiny embedded devices to enormous datacenters. Techniques such as a low-voltage mode for data-processing components and a low refresh rate for memory components can significantly decrease energy consumption. But they also increase the likelihood of soft errors, which are transient hardware faults that can cause an erroneous value to be computed or retrieved from memory.


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