R.I.P:Moore’s Law?Big Blue doesn’t think so!
Moore’s Law is named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who in 1965 said a silicon chip’s number of transistors, and therefore its processing power, would double every 18 months. The longstanding high-tech principle that processor performance doubles every 18 months came under question last September, when Intel scientist Paul Packan published a paper that stated chip engineers hadn’t found ways around microprocessor design barriers for chips sets to be manufactured after this year. Since then, the Semiconductor Industry Association has predicted that chip performance will continue to increase over the next 15 years, but doubts about the physical limitations of silicon chips remain.
What Gordon said was the model is driven by the cost reductions that are allowed – the science takes the technology into more and more devices and the volume will explode because the cost comes down, so it is an economic model (more than just a scientific model).
Thus it looks as if the industry has reached a threshold point where the cost of making tools required to keep making smaller and smaller components has finally outstripped the ability of vendors to sell them profitably. Hence, is it R.I.P. Moore’s Law?
IBM doesn’t necessarily think it has — Big Blue says other things besides clock speed will work to increase performance.
IBM says it is taking a more holistic approach to its semiconductor research and development. Instead of focusing on clock speed, the company says it is deploying and developing a number of new processor technologies that do the job better.
- Alternate technology involves copper interconnects are more power-efficient conductors than the aluminum interconnects currently in wide use, meaning a chip will take less power and run at a lower temperature for the same clock speed.
- Another way to increase performance is to improve memory capacity and improve its ability to move more data faster to a processor. IBM this week announced new memory technology that increases the amount of data that can be stored in a memory chip. Lange said IBM has developed a way to break a memory density barrier — or SF82 (squared) barrier — by finding a way to completely immerse the memory trench, that part of its memory chip that stores data bits, in silicon and shrinking the size of the trench.
- Increasing memory capacity by making memory cell components smaller and increasing the amount that can be stored in a single chip makes it possible for IBM to build processors with larger amounts of integrated memory. Integrated memory cuts processing time because the chip can fetch data from close at hand, rather than having to reach out to the main memory of a system across a much slower bus. Bus speeds are lagging processor speeds by factors of four or five, a gap that isn’t likely to close any time soon.
- IBM is also working on improving network efficiency by implementing network processors, which it says can analyze data more quickly, for devices such as routers. These check the contents and destinations of packets through specially designed circuits rather than software, improving effectiveness, speed and reliability.
- In terms of advances that do directly affect pure clock speed, meanwhile, Lange said Big Blue has developed chips with features as close together as 0.05 microns in its labs.
- The current industry standard is 0.18 microns and will move to 0.13 microns next year and 0.10 microns in about 2003.