The Advancement of Windows: Michael Fortin - Windows Vista SuperFetch

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Michael Fortin is a Distingushed Engineer and leads the team at Microsoft responsible for the overall performance of Windows (the folks who think up and write the algorithms that help make Windows Vista intelligently performant. Intelligently performant? What does that mean? Tune in...).

I recently sat down with Michael to discuss one of the key new performance enhancing technologies in Windows Vista: SuperFetch. You've probably heard about this aptly-named system-level technology (way to go Marketing. Finally...Smiley), but you probably don't know very much about how it actually works and what it means to Windows in terms of the evolution of the system.

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    The Discussion

    • User profile image
      shoshan
      very cool and interesting issue...
      I wish there were many more videos like this one...

      but why is there so much noise in the background ?

      [C]
    • User profile image
      Charles

      Background noise? LOts of computers. Sensitive mic. The sound seems reasonable to me. Perhaps we need to do some audio processing for great discussions like this.

    • User profile image
      keeron
      Charles,

      Thanks for a quite interesting video! There was so much new talked about Superfetch and memory management in Vista overall (with all the new Ready* technologies).

      few general questions:

      Any idea when and which manufacturers are coming out with devices that work with ReadyBoost/Drive, Superfetch, etc? Also, what sort of USB flash drives are recommended and if there are any vendors specializing their devices just for these improvements in vista?

      I've seen this in few demos and it's been mostly the same scripted demo - where you can see how superfetch/readyboost is behaving .. (i.e. see how much it gained by fetching the pages from the flash/hybrid drive compared to the disk I/Os, etc). The previous video you did on ReadyDrive had this demo I think. Any idea if Vista will have (or has currently) a similar ability for end users (or admins), or there are plans to publish an API or working example to get this information?

      Lastly, if you can talk about it - is Office for example doing anything to provider user presence? When Michael was talking about the user not available at his/her computer (say gone to lunch), Outlook giving out presence info came first to my mind. Mind you, that is a really cool thing, and hopefully if that is the case - more and more applications (trusted ones) can give similar information. I guess he did talk about it when discussing the future improvements for developers.

      - Keeron
    • User profile image
      Chadk
      Like the last video from the performence team: That is such a nice job, you are doing!

      What time on the day was this recorded? It was kinda interresting. In the beginning, it was kinda dark in the room. But in the end, it looked like it was being more sunny outside.
    • User profile image
      Charles
      Chadk wrote:
      Like the last video from the performence team: That is such a nice job, you are doing!

      What time on the day was this recorded? It was kinda interresting. In the beginning, it was kinda dark in the room. But in the end, it looked like it was being more sunny outside.


      This was filmed in the morning. It was a partly cloudy day in Redmond...
      C
    • User profile image
      RobA

      Great video or was that arc-cast Big Smile

      When will Mark Russinovich be honouring us with his presence? It would be good to see Mark in action again. I'm especially interested on what he has to say about the total package of performance enhancements due out in Vista and what in real terms we can hope to see when Vista goes public

      I would be interested to know what enhancements are in RC2 build 5744 just release this weekend..?

      Rob Atkinson

    • User profile image
      figuerres
      Hmmm.....

      IDEA:  add a socket to the MOBO for a highspeed memory device
      perhaps a PCIx or perhaps a more low level - closer to the north bridge / soutbridge level...

      so for example I could stick a 16 Gig flash card on it and get way faster than USB speeds!

      low cost systems could have the socket w/o any card, cards could be
      512 Meg
      1 Gig
      2 gig
      and so on...

      USB is ok but face it... it's not as fast as the system bus by a long ways...

      Let's get that stuff tight - fast as can be!

      Want More Speed!!!!  Wink
    • User profile image
      BryanF
      figuerres wrote:
      Hmmm.....

      IDEA: add a socket to the MOBO for a highspeed memory device
      perhaps a PCIx or perhaps a more low level - closer to the north bridge / soutbridge level...

      so for example I could stick a 16 Gig flash card on it and get way faster than USB speeds!

      low cost systems could have the socket w/o any card, cards could be
      512 Meg
      1 Gig
      2 gig
      and so on...

      USB is ok but face it... it's not as fast as the system bus by a long ways...

      Let's get that stuff tight - fast as can be!

      Want More Speed!!!!
      Towards the ends of the interview, he talks about hardware vendors doing something similar to what you're talking about, with the added bonus that persisted data can be trusted across hibernation transitions. Of course, it sounds like the amount of flash installed is fixed, so you can't swap it out for something with a larger quantity over time, but you still get the speed benefit of running off of PCI-X.
    • User profile image
      Causam
      Good work!Wink
    • User profile image
      staceyw
      Fantastic!  That kinda stuff is *the value proposition for me. 
    • User profile image
      staceyw
      This is also very interesting for app developer from the standpoint of what you don't have to do now.  You don't have to provide internal cache anymore (i.e. file cache, etc) - just let the system do it.  That is huge.  Cool stuff. 
    • User profile image
      staceyw
      Another cool thing I could right at the moment.  How about a a *simple object store backed by SuperFetch and Ready-*.   This would allow me to have a List<MyObject> (for example) that reads and writes to object store and I don't have to serialize or write to disk every time.  Something like:

      // Note SuperStore has persistent user types that are defined.
      // Also has CAS security.
      if ( ! SuperStore.Contains(typeof(List<MyObject>) )
         SuperStore.Add(typeof(List<MyObject>))
      List<MyObject> list = SuperStore.MyList;

      /* Now use add/remove elements.  Example: Bind list to DataSource and allow user to adds/remove items from DataGridView.  Data is *stored each time, so I don't take writes for each column changed. */

      private void FormClosing(...)
      {
          // Exit app. Ensure flushed. May not need.
          SuperStore.MyList.Flush();
      }

      Serialization could be .Net binary, xml, or native mem image.  File layout is abstracted - so we don't care how it is stored.  Also, note we are not dealing with any serialization or streams.  This would be great when you don't really need a DB, but yet you don't really want xml files either (as you have to persist the whole collection every time there is any change), but something in-between and fast and simple.
    • User profile image
      brien

      EXCELLENT video.  Many hosts of MS videos don't seem to understand their topic, or communicate it well.  I didn't catch his name, but the 'dude in the red shirt' is a good speaker.

    • User profile image
      MarcusT
      I agree, I was expecting to find it pretty interesting, but it was even moreso - very well explained, suitable for audiences of all levels of technical knowledge, and engaging too, despite no real visual element!

      Michael not only knows his stuff but he's able to communicate it effectively with a natural manner. Seems like a good bloke (as we say over here in England)... and congrats to him on his new title! Smiley

      Would make a good podcast... or should I say "ZuneCast"?! Tongue Out

      Anyway, I'll definitely be looking forward to buying a new laptop in a year or two which incorporates all the technologies he touched on, although must admit that I had a WTF moment when he was going through his ideal PC's specs... only 2GB of (main/volatile) RAM?! I'm sure the multimedia applications of the future will need more headspace than that... I'll take the 32GB option please! Wink

      Finally, what screensaver was running in the background? Can I download it or do I have to wait for Vista?!
    • User profile image
      Lon^
      Indeed an excellent vid. Cant wait to see the performance improvements especially from the  internal flash. Makes me think changing to vista may be worth it after all although of course I will have to see the benchmarks first Smiley.

      I think when he said 2GB he meant in the near future i.e. 6 - 12 months, obviously in the distant future 32GB like you say will hopefully be standard. For now with RAM prices so (relatively) high, this technology should fill the gap and stop us having to use the ancient and slow hd so much!

      As for that screensaver I think the executable format has changed so out of the box you wont be able to use it on XP although someone has probably hacked it to work from the betas.
    • User profile image
      Olaf van der Spek
      So what is the name of the function one should use to tell the OS that you're about to create a file of 8 gb?

      And are there any plans on 'virtual partitioning' that'd allow me to tell the FS that I'd like my 200 gbyte of large media files at the back of the disk and all other files at the front of the disk, based on path or filesize?
    • User profile image
      brien
      This guy rocks, but he needs a properly spelled title.  Isn't it spelled, "Distinguished" not "Distingushed".

    • User profile image
      salvapatuel

      Great interview!

      As developer it will be great to have an interface to play with super fetch, it will save me a lot of time. But at the same time I understand that malicious code can do a lot of damage if it gains access to this technology. [6]

       

    • User profile image
      Setsunaaa
      Very interesting, I love to hear guys who know what they talk about.

      The only thing that happened to me with superfetch is that it ran havoc a week ago (caching 9 GB game data files before logon, with 4 GB of physical RAM), which could be resetted by deleting C:\Windows\Prefetch\Ag*.db.

      Otherwise superfetch works really very well, I can only recommend to leave it on.
    • User profile image
      Randy51

      Great stuff ... however it concerns me when Michael talks about on-motherboard flash memory only being available to OEMs.  This seems to preclude home system builders like myself from choosing the best possible mobo.  I hope that companies like Asus, MSI and Gigabyte are part of the group that Michael considers as OEMs.

      From a hardware point of view, plugable flash that can be upgraded as the technology improves would be helpful for us small time techies but is the high speed imporvement (ie. 50microseconds to 1 millisecond) which comes from the improved connection on the mobo able to deliver those speeds without a permanent connection..???

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