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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Credit: Robert Barbutti

Sundar Iyer, 31

Making memory at Internet speed

Cisco Systems

PROBLEM: At the heart of the Internet are the routers that direct packets of data to their destinations. But by briefly holding each packet in memory while figuring out where to send it, these specialized computers create a bottleneck. The speed of today's 10-­gigabit-per-secon­d links forces router makers to use fast but expensive static random-access memory (SRAM) instead of slower, cheaper digital random-access memory (DRAM). As connection speeds increase, the amount of SRAM needed will become prohibitively expensive, leading to data loss and limiting applications such as voice calls and videoconferencing.

SOLUTION: As a graduate student at Stanford, Sundar Iyer created a technique that lets equipment makers combine SRAM with DRAM to make routers at once faster, more reliable, less expensive, and more energy efficient. In Iyer's "perfect caching" scheme, each arriving data packet is stored in an SRAM chip. Once every hundred nanoseconds, the cache sends all the packets to the main memory, made from DRAM. Fifty nanoseconds later, another SRAM cache takes only the packets it needs and sends them to their destinations. Iyer founded Nemo Systems to develop the technology in 2003; Cisco bought Nemo in 2005 and is building the system into its next generation of enterprise routers. --Neil Savage

2008 TR35 Winners

Blaise Agüera y Arcas

Building immersive 3-D environments

Dries Buytaert (video)

Simple, flexible Web publishing

Jenova Chen (video)

Gaming with the flow

Tanzeem Choudhury (video)

Inferring social networks automatically

Jack Dorsey (video)

Personal updates made simple

Stefanus Du Toit (video)

Programming for parallel processors

Seth Hallem

Deconstructing software to find bugs

Xian-Sheng Hua

Enhancing video search

Sundar Iyer

Making memory at Internet speed

Farinaz Koushanfar

Locking microchips to prevent piracy

Johnny Lee (video)

Streamlining human-computer interactions

Meredith Ringel Morris (video)

Searching websites jointly

Andrew Ng

Building household robots

Adam Smith (video)

Making sense of e-mail madness

JB Straubel (video)

Engineering electric sports cars

Eric Wilhelm (video)

Putting DIY projects online

Robert Wood (video)

Building robotic flies

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