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Welcome to the era of radical innovation

Patrick Thibodeau | Jan. 8, 2014
Moore's Law created a stable era for technology, and now that era is nearing its end. But it may be a blessing to say goodbye to a rule that's driven the semiconductor industry since the 1960s.

Another innovation that may replace or more likely augment microprocessors is quantum computing, something both NASA and the NSA are working on, as are most other major nations.

The end of Moore's Law was a topic of discussion at the recent SC13 supercomputing conference. Experts see instability and much uncertainty ahead because of its demise.

Marc Snir, director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at the Argonne National Laboratory, and a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told attendees ( see slides ) alternate technologies are not yet ready.

Christopher Willard, chief research officer at Intersect360 Research, said that the era of buying commercial off-the-shelf products to assemble a high performance system is coming to an end. "The market should then be entering a new phase of experimentation, and computer architecture innovations," he said.

The demise of Moore's Law is already evident in the high performance computing world.

If Moore's law was still functioning as it did in the past, the U.S. would have an exascale system in 2018, instead of the early 2020s, as now predicted.

A 1 gigaflop system was developed in 1988 and nine years later work was completed on a 1 teraflop system. In 2008, work on a 1 petaflop system was finished. A petaflop is a thousand teraflops, or one quadrillion floating-point operations per second.

The problem with Moore's Law isn't as urgent for the device makers at CES as it is for HPC scientists.

But there is a shift in themes at CES away from smaller, faster, better to the Internet of Things. The underlying message is: True computing power is measured by the ability of a mobile platform to control and track a multitude of physical and virtual objects over a network. But that message that might work for just so long.

The problem that high performance computing faces in reaching exascale will also eventually visit on the device makers at CES, which was launched in 1967, two years after Gordon Moore delivered the paper outlining Moore's Law.

The problem the device makers at CES face is that Moore's Law ends for everyone.


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