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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting Things in Order Quickly

Sorting data, getting things in a preselected order, is a fundamental need for computing systems. It allows data to be accessed and delivered efficiently. Writing and analyzing sorting algorithms is one of the first tasks you do when studying computer science. Practitioners rarely write their own sorting methods these days, but sorting methods are still often used as benchmarks for computing efficiency. Now Google announces " ... we were able to sort 1TB (stored on the Google File System as 10 billion 100-byte records in uncompressed text files) on 1,000 computers in 68 seconds. By comparison, the previous 1TB sorting record is 209 seconds on 910 computers...". More details on their blog. These levels of storage quantity are common these days, browsing my local Microcenter I note that 1TB backup drives are inexpensive. It is estimated that the US Library of Congress has nearly 100 Terabytes of printed data.

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