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Communications of the ACM


Beyond Efficiency

crashed computer

Crashed computers are a common sight.

Credit: Deepak Sarda

Computer science often emphasizes processing efficiency, leaving robustness to be addressed separately. However, robustness requires redundancy, which efficiency eliminates. For safer and more scalable computing, we must embrace and manage this trade-off.

You've seen them: Crashed computers, frozen on the job (see Figure 1). Fortunately, the result is seldom worse than user inconvenience or owner embarrassment. Still, as computer scientists we wonder why the computer inside the machine is so often the weakest link.


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