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KSM Runs Into Patent Trouble

Dec 15, 2008, 18:02 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jake Edge)

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"The basic idea behind KSM is to find memory pages that have the same contents, then arrange for one copy to be shared amongst the various users. The kernel does some of this already for things like shared libraries, but there are numerous ways for identical pages to get created that the kernel does not know about directly, thus cannot coalesce. Examples include initialized memory (at startup or in caches) from multiple copies of the same program and virtualized guests that are running the same operating system and application programs.

"Unfortunately, as Dmitri Monakhov points out, the KSM technique appears to be patented by VMware. A patent for "Content-based, transparent sharing of memory units" was filed in July 2001 and granted in September 2004. The abstract seems to clearly cover the ideas behind KSM:

""[...] The context, as opposed to merely the addresses or page numbers, of virtual memory pages that [are] accessible to one or more contexts are examined. If two or more context pages are identical, then their memory mappings are changed to point to a single, shared copy of the page in the hardware memory, thereby freeing the memory space taken up by the redundant copies. The shared copy is ten preferable [sic] marked copy-on-write. Sharing is preferably dynamic, whereby the presence of redundant copies of pages is preferably determined by hashing page contents and performing full content comparisons only when two or more pages hash to the same key.""

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