Contiguous Memory Allocation Techniques
Whenever a process has to be allocated space in the memory, following the contiguous memory allocation technique, we have to allot the process a continuous empty block of space to reside. This allocation can be done in two ways:
- Fixed-size Partition Scheme
- Variable-size Partition Scheme
Let us look at both of these schemes in detail, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Fixed-size Partition Scheme
In this type of contiguous memory allocation technique, each process is allotted a fixed size continuous block in the main memory. That means there will be continuous blocks of fixed size into which the complete memory will be divided, and each time a process comes in, it will be allotted one of the free blocks. Because irrespective of the size of the process, each is allotted a block of the same size memory space. This technique is also called static partitioning.
In the diagram above, we have 3 processes in the input queue that have to be allotted space in the memory. As we are following the fixed size partition technique, the memory has fixed-sized blocks. The first process, which is of size 3MB is also allotted a 5MB block, and the second process, which is of size 1MB, is also allotted a 5MB block, and the 4MB process is also allotted a 5MB block. So, the process size doesn’t matter. Each is allotted the same fixed-size memory block.
It is clear that in this scheme, the number of continuous blocks into which the memory will be divided will be decided by the amount of space each block covers, and this, in turn, will dictate how many processes can stay in the main memory at once.
Note: The number of processes that can stay in the memory at once is called the degree of multiprogramming. Hence, the degree of multiprogramming of the system is decided by the number of blocks created in the memory.
The advantages of a fixed-size partition scheme are:
- Because all of the blocks are the same size, this scheme is simple to implement. All we have to do now is divide the memory into fixed blocks and assign processes to them.
- It is easy to keep track of how many blocks of memory are left, which in turn decides how many more processes can be given space in the memory.
- As at a time multiple processes can be kept in the memory, this scheme can be implemented in a system that needs multiprogramming.
Though the fixed-size partition scheme has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages:
- As the size of the blocks is fixed, we will not be able to allot space to a process that has a greater size than the block.
- The size of the blocks decides the degree of multiprogramming, and only as many processes can remain in the memory at once as the number of blocks.
- If the size of the block is greater than the size of the process, we have no other choice but to assign the process to this block, but this will lead to much empty space left behind in the block. This empty space could’ve been used to accommodate a different process. This is called internal fragmentation. Hence, this technique may lead to space wastage.
Variable-size Partition Scheme
In this type of contiguous memory allocation technique, no fixed blocks or partitions are made in the memory. Instead, each process is allotted a variable-sized block depending upon its requirements. That means, whenever a new process wants some space in the memory, if available, this amount of space is allotted to it. Hence, the size of each block depends on the size and requirements of the process which occupies it.
In the diagram above, there are no fixed-size partitions. Instead, the first process needs 3MB memory space and hence is allotted that much only. Similarly, the other 3 processes are allotted only that much space that is required by them.
As the blocks are variable-sized, which is decided as processes arrive, this scheme is also called Dynamic Partitioning.
The advantages of a variable-size partition scheme are:
- As the processes have blocks of space allotted to them as per their requirements, there is no internal fragmentation. Hence, there is no memory wastage in this scheme.
- The number of processes that can be in the memory at once will depend upon how many processes are in the memory and how much space they occupy. Hence, it will be different for different cases and will be dynamic.
- As there are no blocks that are of fixed size, even a process of big size can be allotted space.
Though the variable-size partition scheme has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages:
- Because this approach is dynamic, a variable-size partition scheme is difficult to implement.
- It is difficult to keep track of processes and the remaining space in the memory.