Operating System | Allocation of frames

An important aspect of operating systems, virtual memory is implemented using demand paging. Demand paging necessitates the development of a page-replacement algorithm and a frame allocation algorithm. Frame allocation algorithms are used if you have multiple processes; it helps decide how many frames to allocate to each process.

There are various constraints to the strategies for the allocation of frames:

  • You cannot allocate more than the total number of available frames.
  • At least a minimum number of frames should be allocated to each process. This constraint is supported by two reasons. The first reason is, as less number of frames are allocated, there is an increase in the page fault ratio, decreasing the performance of the execution of the process. Secondly, there should be enough frames to hold all the different pages that any single instruction can reference.

Frame allocation algorithms –
The two algorithms commonly used to allocate frames to a process are:

  1. Equal allocation: In a system with x frames and y processes, each process gets equal number of frames, i.e. x/y. For instance, if the system has 48 frames and 9 processes, each process will get 5 frames. The three frames which are not allocated to any process can be used as a free-frame buffer pool.
    • Disadvantage: In systems with processes of varying sizes, it does not make much sense to give each process equal frames. Allocation of a large number of frames to a small process will eventually lead to the wastage of a large number of allocated unused frames.

  2. Proportional allocation: Frames are allocated to each process according to the process size.
    For a process pi of size si, the number of allocated frames is ai = (si/S)*m, where S is the sum of the sizes of all the processes and m is the number of frames in the system. For instance, in a system with 62 frames, if there is a process of 10KB and another process of 127KB, then the first process will be allocated (10/137)*62 = 4 frames and the other process will get (127/137)*62 = 57 frames.

    • Advantage: All the processes share the available frames according to their needs, rather than equally.

Global vs Local Allocation –
The number of frames allocated to a process can also dynamically change depending on whether you have used global replacement or local replacement for replacing pages in case of a page fault.

  1. Local replacement: When a process needs a page which is not in the memory, it can bring in the new page and allocate it a frame from its own set of allocated frames only.
    • Advantage: The pages in memory for a particular process and the page fault ratio is affected by the paging behavior of only that process.
    • Disadvantage: A low priority process may hinder a high priority process by not making available to the high priority process its frames.

  2. Global replacement: When a process needs a page which is not in the memory, it can bring in the new page and allocate it a frame from the set of all frames, even if that frame is currently allocated to some other process; that is, one process can take a frame from another.
    • Advantage: Does not hinder the performance of processes and hence results in greater system throughput.
    • Disadvantage: The page fault ratio of a process can not be solely controlled by the process itself. The pages in memory for a process depends on the paging behavior of other processes as well.



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