Computer Systems Architecture

Published:

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Objectives:

Computer architecture is a vibrant and ever changing field; this assignment will attempt to convey that to students. The primary objective of this group assignment is to provide an understanding of the principles underlying the structure of computer hardware by illustrating and developing an understanding of the various engineering, scientific and economic tradeoffs necessary in the design and implementation of computer systems. Additionally, this assignment emphasizes the ability to work within a team and to respond to the challenging requirements through cooperative activity.

Instructions:

  1. The assignment consists of FOUR (4) questions.
  2. Working in groups of three (3), you will select only one (1) of these questions.
  3. Each question is in multiple parts and must be divided equally among the team members.
  4. No marks will be awarded for the entire assignment if any part of it is found to be copied directly from printed materials or from another student.
  5. All submissions should be made on or before the due date.
  6. Any late submissions after the deadline will not be entertained.
  7. Zero(0) mark will be awarded for late submission, unless extenuating circumstances are upheld.

Questions:

In groups of three (3), select one (1) question from the list below.

Question 1: General Architecture

The microprocessor is the heart of any normal computer, whether it is a desktop machine, a server or a laptop. A microprocessor -- also known as a CPU or central processing unit -- is a complete computation engine that is fabricated on a single chip. Each member of your group will select and investigate one of the following :

A. Discuss the major trends affecting microprocessor performance and design in recent years.

B. What are the major differences between microprocessor design goals for desktop, server, and embedded systems?

C. The frequency of the microprocessor is often used to compare the performances of different personal computers. E.g.  a Pentium 133MHz PC is supposed to be faster than a Pentium 75MHz one. This method however does not always hold, especially among computers from different manufacturers. Instead, a method called benchmarking is widely used. You are to research the various types and uses of benchmarking programs available.

D. As a group, you will use the knowledge acquired from your lectures and additional readings,  to select a computer in the two scenarios below. List any assumptions you made when justifying your selection e.g. computer use.

  • i) A has a 3GHz. Processor and 512 KB cache, whereas B has a 2GHz processor with a 3 MB cache. Both have the same kind of RAM clocked with 400 MHz. Which of the two computers would you prefer and why?
  • ii) You have the choice of buying two different computers X and Y.  X has an ALU that is twice as fast as normal while Y has two ALUs at the normal speed. Which of the two computers would you prefer and why? If any part of your answer depend on aspects of the software being run (e.g., Instruction level parallelism), explain how.

Question 2: Advanced Architecture

The performance of modern CPUs is intrinsically tied to its architecture. Over the past half century, there have been many major advances in CPU design that have dramatically improved performance. 

A. Each member of your group will select and investigate one of the following architectures:

  • − (Very Long Instruction Word) VLIW,
  • − Superscalar,
  • − Superpipeling,
  • − Multithreaded,
  • − (Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing) EPIC
  • − Multicore,
  • − Multiprocessing

Your research may include the following :

  • i) a brief description of the design
  • ii) reasons for its development
  • iii) how it works
  • iv) how it differs from the Von Neumann architecture taught in class
  • v) which CPU vendor uses it
  • vi) success (or failure) of the design

B. As a group, you will summarize the results of your research by producing a table comparing

  • i) the similarities and differences.
  • ii) the advantages and disadvantages

of the three approaches

Question 3 : Memory Architecture

A computer usually consists of different types and performance levels of memory. Your group will select a computer system (e.g. x86, AMD K*, Mac etc) and investigate the three major types of memory found in the system i.e. registers, cache and RAM. Each member of your team will select and investigate one of the following :

A. the use of registers in a modern computer. Your research may include the following :

  • i) reasons for registers
  • ii) types of registers
  • iii) register size
  • iv) register organization

B.  the use of cache in a modern computer. Your research may include the following :

  • i) reasons for cache
  • ii) how cache works
  • iii) levels of cache
  • iv) cache memory organization
  • v) write strategies for cache memories

C.  the use of RAM in a modern computer. Your research may include the following :

  • i) reasons for RAM
  • ii) how RAM works
  • iii) types of RAM

D.  As a group, you will summarize the results of your research by describing the principle and the benefits of a memory hierarchy formed by these memory types. Your summary will include :

  • i) why a memory hierarchy is required
  • ii) how a memory hierarchy works

Question 4 : Buses

If you've ever opened up a computer and looked inside or read the specifications for a system, you've probably heard terms like PCI, ISA, EISA, or even NuBus mentioned when discussing the computer's bus. Your group will select a computer system (e.g. x86, AMD K*, Mac etc) and investigate the major types of buses found in the system. Each member of your team will select and investigate one of the following

A. bus characteristics:

  • i) bus width, bus speed,
  • ii) the different types of buses and bus lines
  • iii) advantages/disadvantages of a "bus" to a "network".

B. bus arbitration: 

  • i) purpose of arbitration.
  • ii) how does the arbitration protocol work
  • iii) multiplexing

C. bus topology:

  • i) point-to-point
  • ii) multipoint

D.   As a group, you will summarize the results of your research by describing the principle and the benefits of a bus hierarchy formed by these bus types. Your summary will include :

  • i) why a bus hierarchy is required
  • ii) how a bus hierarchy works
  • iii) additional hardware circuitry required

Guidelines for the Report:

Your completed documentation should include the following:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Gantt Chart
  3. Work Breakdown Structure (breakdown of tasks among the members)
  4. Abstract
  5. Introduction
  6. Chapters/sections
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Frequently Ask Question (FAQ).
  9. Minutes of mandatory meetings
  10. Bibliography or References.

Document the results of your group's work in a professional and systematic manner, in the form of a computerized report.

The total word count of the report should range from 2500 to 3000 words. You must include a word count at the end of the report. The report should be in 1.5 spacing, with an appropriate cover sheet. It shall be comb-bound, with a clear plastic sheet on the front page. Students are required to include the student marking matrix as the first page of their document.


 

Computer Systems Architecture (CSA)

Group and Individual Marks

Student's Particulars

Intake:

Question

Total Number of Pages:

Group No:

Student

Particulars

Name

Student ID

TM

1

Group Leader

2

Member

3

Member

4

Member

Lecturer's Use only

Group (30%)

Marks Allocated (%)

Marks

Obtained (%)

Total / Grading

Group Work:      Documentation

10

                             Summary

15

                             References

5

Individual (70%)

Student 1 Name :

1

Presentation

10

Research

20

Analysis

20

Reflection

20

Student 2 Name :

2

Presentation

10

Research

20

Analysis

20

Reflection

20

Student 3 Name :

3

Presentation

10

Research

20

Analysis

20

Reflection

20

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