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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

Computer system design using a hierarchical approach to performance evaluation

The concept of a hierarchy of performance models is introduced. It is argued that such a hierarchy should consist of models spanning a wide range of accuracy and cost in order to be a cost-effective tool in the design of computer systems. Judicious use of the hierarchy can satisfy the conflicting needs of high accuracy and low cost of performance evaluation. A system design procedure that uses the hierarchy is developed. The concepts developed are illustrated by applying them to a case study of system design. The results of optimizations conducted using a two-level performance model hierarchy and a simple cost model are discussed. In almost all the experiments conducted, the optimization procedure converged to a region very close to a locally optimum system. The efficiency of the procedure is shown to be considerably greater than that of the brute force approach to system design.

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