Intermittent Computation without Hardware Support or Programmer Intervention


Joel Van Der Woude, Sandia National Laboratories; Matthew Hicks, University of Michigan


As computation scales downward in area, the limitations imposed by the batteries required to power that computation become more pronounced. Thus, many future devices will forgo batteries and harvest energy from their environment. Harvested energy, with its frequent power cycles, is at odds with current models of long-running computation.

To enable the correct execution of long-running applications on harvested energy—without requiring special purpose hardware or programmer intervention—we propose Ratchet. Ratchet is a compiler that adds lightweight checkpoints to unmodified programs that allow existing programs to execute across power cycles correctly. Ratchet leverages the idea of idempotency, decomposing programs into a continuous stream of re-executable sections connected by lightweight checkpoints, stored in non-volatile memory. We implement Ratchet on top of LLVM, targeted at embedded systems with high-performance non-volatile main memory. Using eight embedded systems benchmarks, we show that Ratchet correctly stretches program execution across frequent, random power cycles. Experimental results show that Ratchet enables a range of existing programs to run on intermittent power, with total run-time overhead averaging below 60%—comparable to approaches that require hardware support or programmer intervention.

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@inproceedings {199319,
author = {Joel Van Der Woude and Matthew Hicks},
title = {Intermittent Computation without Hardware Support or Programmer Intervention},
booktitle = {12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 16)},
year = {2016},
isbn = {978-1-931971-33-1},
address = {Savannah, GA},
pages = {17--32},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = nov,

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