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Meta is saving millions of dollars thanks to this clever memory hack

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Meta is saving millions of dollars thanks to this clever memory hack

Inside Facebook data center



(Image credit: Facebook)

Engineers at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, have revealed how they have been able to offer free memory using a software solution called Transparent Memory Offloading (TMO).

It is now part of the Linux kernel and, in a nutshell, automatically offloads data to other storage tiers (e.g. Samsung’s CX memory expander) that are less costly and more power efficient than memory.

The savings are significant; TMO has been running on millions of Facebook servers for more than a year, saving up to almost a third of memory per server. While that is likely to be insignificant across dozens or even hundreds of servers, Facebook’s immense scale presents a unique challenge. 

Analysis: Facebook’s gargantuan appetite for RAM

The world’s largest social network has nearly three billion monthly active users and millions of servers spread around 21 locations worldwide. Should each server carry  128GB of RAM on average, that would amount to 256 million GB (or 256PB) of RAM which, at an average cost of $4 per GB (DDR4 ECC RAM), is about $1 billion worth of memory. That’s on the assumption that Facebook has at least two million servers (Facebook’s blog quoted “millions of servers” as early as July 2018), with the real number likely to be far higher.

Numbers presented by the team that worked on TMO showed that the cost of memory accounts for a third of Meta’s server bill of materials, with compressed RAM and SSD accounting for less than 11%. More worryingly, the cost burden of RAM (as a percentage of the total infrastructure) has more than doubled since Facebook launched its first generation of servers (it’s currently on the fourth).

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Adopting TMO does come with some drawbacks; most notably, a degradation in performance. But the gains in terms of power and memory savings, far, far outweigh the disadvantages and future iterations combined with hardware improvements (e.g. faster SSD or CXL drives) will offer further mitigation. 

Desire Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.

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Here’s Google’s letter saying employees can relocate to states with abortion rights

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Here’s Google’s letter saying employees can relocate to states with abortion rights

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, Google’s chief people officer Fiona Cicconi sent a staff-wide email to employees on Friday informing them of Google’s response to the ruling. Among other things, the email states that Googlers that they can “apply for relocation without justification,” and that people in charge of the relocation process “will be aware of the situation” in assessing their requests.

The Supreme Court’s ruling does not make abortion illegal throughout the US — instead, it leaves the decision up to individual states. A number of states have immediately restricted abortion rights, including Louisiana, Missouri and Kentucky. Other states, including California, where Google is headquartered, have vowed to protect abortion rights within their borders.

Here’s the letter in full:

Hi everyone,

This morning the US Supreme Court issued a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that rolls back Roe v. Wade.

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This is a profound change for the country that deeply affects so many of us, especially women. Everyone will respond in their own way, whether that’s wanting space and time to process, speaking up, volunteering outside of work, not wanting to discuss it at all, or something else entirely. Please be mindful of what your co-workers may be feeling and, as always, treat each other with respect.

Equity is extraordinarily important to us as a company, and we share concerns about the impact this ruling will have on people’s health, lives, and careers. We will keep working to make information on reproductive healthcare accessible across our products and continue our work to protect user privacy.

To support Googlers and their dependents, our US benefits plan and health insurance covers out-of-state medical procedures that are not available where an employee lives and works. Googlers can also apply for relocation without justification, and those overseeing this process will be aware of the situation. If you need additional support, please connect 1:1 with a People Consultant via [link to internal tool redacted].

We will be arranging support sessions for Googlers in the US in the coming days. These will be posted to Googler News.

Please don’t hesitate to lean on your Google community in the days ahead and continue to take good care of yourselves and each other.

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The Verge has reached out to Google to clarify whether the relocation policy is new, or if it’s be changed due to the Supreme Court’s decision. We will update this story if we hear back.

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Sony studios, major game publishers offer public support for abortion rights

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Sony studios, major game publishers offer public support for abortion rights

enos lives —

Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and more respond to Supreme Court decision.

Kyle Orland

Just some of the game franchises represented by studios coming out in support of reproductive rights today.

Enlarge / Just some of the game franchises represented by studios coming out in support of reproductive rights today.

Last month, Insomniac Games (Spider-Man) CEO Ted Price reportedly told his employees that parent company Sony “will not approve ANY statements from any studio on the topic of reproductive rights.” That is apparently no longer true, as Insomniac and other Sony studios have tweeted statements in support of “reproductive freedom” in the wake of this morning’s Supreme Court decision overturning the longstanding Roe v. Wade precedent on the issue.

“We are human beings who make games,” Insomniac tweeted this morning. “Reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are human rights.”

By the afternoon, many of Sony’s other North American game studios had started tweeting similar messages, including Sucker Punch (Ghost of Tsushima), Naughty Dog (The Last of Us), Santa Monica Studio (God of War), San Diego Studio (MLB: The Show), and Bend Studio (Days Gone). Some of Sony’s European studios, including Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet), Guerilla Games (Horizon), and PlayStation London Studio, have also joined in with tweeted statements of support.

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“Naughty Dog believes reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are basic human rights and essential to the health and wellbeing of everyone,” the studio wrote in its tweet. “We will continue to uphold these values and actively support all our employees in receiving the care they need and want.”

Travel and other support

That bit about “actively support[ing]” employees may be less important for the Santa-Monica-based Naughty Dog since California seems likely to continue protecting abortion access via legislation. For Sony studios in less abortion-friendly states, though (such as Austin, Texas-based Bluepoint Games), the parent company has yet to publicly follow the lead of Microsoft, which committed in early May to fund out-of-state travel for employees that needed it to seek abortion-related care.

Destiny-developer (and soon-to-be-Sony-subsidiary) Bungie led the game industry by offering strong public support for “reproductive choice” last month. Today, Bungie updated its public statement on the issue and outlined its own travel-reimbursement program “for any employee to use when they or a dependent cannot get access to the healthcare they need where they live. We remain undeterred in our commitment to stand up for reproductive choice and liberty.”

In a statement provided to the press, Activision Blizzard reaffirmed its plans, first announced earlier this month, to offer “expanded medical travel benefits” for issues “including reproductive health, gender-affirming treatment, transplant care, and any other medical care… that is not available in a covered person’s state, or within 100 miles of where they live.”

Other major game publishers including Ubisoft, Bethesda, Niantic Labs, and Devolver Digital have tweeted out statements in support of reproductive rights today. And the International Game Developers Association told Ars in a statement that “we believe bodily autonomy and choice over one’s own reproductive and healthcare matters” are crucial to the organization’s mission. “One must be in control of their own health matters in order to successfully manage their career and life.”

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Earlier this month (and amid reported pressure from employees) Electronic Arts tweeted a Pride Month statement that included the phrase “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

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Mars probe running Windows 98 receives software update after two decades

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Mars probe running Windows 98 receives software update after two decades

Windows 98



(Image credit: Future)

Patch management for the latest versions of Windows might the concern of most of us located here on Earth, but meanwhile, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft has received the first update to its Window 98-based system in 19 years.

The mission was first launched to discover of signs of liquid water on Mars, including a suspected 20x30km lake of salty water buried under 1.5 km of ice in the red planet’s southern polar region.

The updates were conducted by engineers from the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), Italy, and were fully funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

What does this mean?

The agency said the upgrade will enable the spacecraft to view Mars and its moon Phobos with better levels of detail.

The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on Mars Express sends low-frequency radio waves down towards the planet using its 40-metre long antenna.

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Most of these waves are reflected from the planet’s surface, but significant amounts travel through the crust and are reflected at boundaries between layers of different materials below the surface, including ice, soil, rock, and water.

By examining the reflected signals, scientists can map the structure below the surface of Mars to a depth of a few kilometres and study properties such as the thickness and composition of its polar ice caps and the properties of volcanic and sedimentary rock layers.

The space agency didn’t go into a great deal of detail regarding the specs of the hardware receiving the update, however Tom’s Hardware speculated it could have a Pentium 90 processor, meaning it could potentially run classic games such as Doom as well as explore the secrets of Mars.

“Previously, to study the most important features on Mars, and to study its moon Phobos at all, we relied on a complex technique that stored a lot of high-resolution data and filled up the instrument’s on-board memory very quickly,” said Andrea Cicchetti, the MARSIS deputy principal investigator and operation manager at INAF.

He added: “By discarding data that we don’t need, the new software allows us to switch MARSIS on for five times as long and explore a much larger area with each pass.”

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Will McCurdy has been writing about technology for over five years. He has a wide range of specialities including cybersecurity, fintech, cryptocurrency, blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, payments, retail technology, and venture capital investment. He has previously written for FStech, Retail Systems, and National Technology News and is an experienced podcast and webinar host, as well as an avid long form feature writer.

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