Guru's World 11/2002: Moore's Law Fri, Nov-01-2002
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Introduction:(8893 Reads)
The rate hasn't quite bit doubled in subsequent years after Mr. Moore's statement was made back in 1965, but Mr. Moore was fairly close considering that, up until recently, data density has actually been doubling at a rate of once every 18 to 24 months.

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Moore's Law is the name given to the observation made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits will double every year.

Making transistors smaller is very beneficial to the IC industry. Smaller transistors operate faster, interconnections are smaller, the power is lower, and system reliability is increased since more functions ca be integrated into a single place. Also, the cost is cheaper as more transistors can be produced on a single wafer.

The rate hasn't quite bit doubled in subsequent years after Mr. Moore's statement was made back in 1965, but Mr. Moore was fairly close considering that, up until recently, data density has actually been doubling at a rate of once every 18 to 24 months.

For example, in the eighteen months going from the 1.8u Intel Pentium III processor to the 1.3u Pentium 4 processor, transistor count went from just over 28 million to 55 million.

AMD seems to work in bursts. Still following Moore's Law, if not so much as a law per se, but as a means to "keep up" and occasionally whiz by Intel, AMD processors have gone from 9 million transistors in the K6 in 1998 to 22 million transistors when the Athlon came out not two years later. Now with the current .13u Athlon, even though die size is nearly half what it was with the .25u Athlon and clock speeds have quadrupled and cache and instruction sets have nearly doubled, transistor count has only gone up by 60% in over three years time.

Gartner is a research and advisory firm that researches and consults their clients whom are businesses that wish to better understand the technology industry and how it effects them.

Last month, ZDNet's Dan Farber covered the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando where it was revealed by Gartner that if the industry is continued to move at the rate it is currently defined by Moore's Law that "by 2008 the typical desktop computer will have 4 to 8 CPUs running at 40 GHz, 4 to 12 gigabytes of RAM, 1.5 terabytes of storage, and 100Gbit LAN technology. By 2011, processors will clock at 150 GHz and 6 terabytes of storage will be common."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's already late 2002, right?

I don't want to be a pessimist here. Let's say, I'm a realist.

Multiple processors have almost always been in use, and have been in wide use, even by some "power users" on their home computers, on the x86 platform since early 1993. There was nothing like WFW on a dual Socket 4 board with a pair of 66 MHz CPU's. In this period spanning nearly ten years however, you would rarely see a PC with more than two processors. That said, I must ask why it would be expected that in only 5 years time the "typical desktop" would have 2 to 4 times more CPU's than what the power user, mega enthusiast's computer would have today?

I mean, come on... Pentium 4's can not be run SMP, Xeon's are expensive ($200 for a 2GHz and over $300 for a motherboard) and Athlon's, despite the fact that the ability to run multiprocessor has always been inherent to the chip, have only been made available for a dual processor platform for a year and a half! Let's get the AMD Hammer out on the streets before we start assessing how many CPU's are going to go into your wife's new machine, ok?

And how about that 40 GHz clock speed? Although the number is consistent with Moore's Law, it's a bit hard to fathom right now. Especially considering that CPU speeds have just recently doubled in under a year's time, yet we're all using software that works perfectly fine with a mere 1GHz CPU and a nice video card and plenty of RAM.

Why don't we focus on taking the same speed CPU's we have now, and make them better. We can give them extra instruction sets so they can run faster without cranking up the clock speed and then figure out a way to make them run cooler so we don't need a GE90 jet engine to cool them.

For some reason, the idea of 4 to 12GB of RAM does not surprise me. People will likely migrate to this much memory simply because of memory prices. Albeit RAM prices are far from the lowest it's been in a year; RAM is still relatively cheap and an easy upgrade. The fact that motherboards have gone from accepting 256MB per slot to 512MB per slot to 1GB per memory slot just in the last three years really helps this cause.

Unfortunately, most users wanting to upgrade their memory are bound by their operating system. I will probably get about a dozen calls or emails a day from customers who have computers that work fine with 512MB of RAM, but freak out when they put a gigabyte or two of RAM in it. Just when they have me convinced that their motherboard is bad, it is revealed to me that they are only using Windows 98.

Sure, there's Windows 2000 and then Windows XP, but I believe the last consensus showed that the majority of "typical desktop" users were still using Windows 98. It took four years just to migrate the majority of "typical desktop" users out of Windows 95. Let's say it takes just as long to migrate people into using Windows XP. Windows XP only supports up to 2GB of RAM. I guess we all know what the solution is going to have to be if we're expected to have 4 to 12GB of RAM... Linux.

1.5 terabytes of storage certainly sounds like a great idea, but it seems that we're already at a point where people have much more drive space than they really need, and it's clouding judgment. And, if you have a drive with 1.5 terabyte of data on it, and that drive fails, all you have is a 1.5 terabyte doorstop.

Don't get me wrong here. You know how many MP3's and DIVX movies you can fit on a 1.5 terabyte drive? Whew! The problem is that the drive manufacturers are making these larger drives cheaper than ever so the user of the "typical desktop" will buy them up in spades. And when I say "cheaper", I do not just mean lower priced. Unfortunately, the quality of these drives have gone completely out the window, hence the movement to give hard drives only a one year warranty instead of the three year warranties they used to have.

I don't think the industry really understands that what they should do is either make the drives more dependable or guarantee every Joe End-user out there a certain degree of fault tolerance. Maybe equip every motherboard with a RAID controller and sell every hard drive as a pair so RAID1 can be run on every PC.

Quite frankly, I would rather have a solid state drive half the size of what Gartner is projecting will become the norm for the typical hard disk drive. Give me reliability and speed in a hard drive and you can keep your excessive capacities.

100Gbit LAN would be nice, but I think we need to get everyone off of dial up first. Just make it a priority to network the whole country and THEN we can work on faster connectivity. As it is, cable modem at it's best is just under 1.5Mbps. That's 1.5% of my home networks total bandwidth capability. That's .15% slower than the 1Gbps cards that have been available for the last two years and can now be had for under $50!

I'm not complaining about my cable modem service, but we've got a lot of other networks out there that we need to upgrade before the typical desktop gets a 100Gbit Ethernet adapter!

I think it's reasonable to ask the industry to refocus a little. I mean, I would love to have a $132,000 394 horsepower BMW Z8 to zip around town and score it for only $20,000, but in retrospect, there's no place to put the groceries and installing the infant seat is going to be a bitch! Let's take the focus off of raw speed and insane memory capacities and focus one making a computer a better car to drive around town.

So, to recap: My computer shopping list for 2008 consists of a CPU with all of the instruction sets, but runs at normal clock speeds with only passive cooling. I want higher bus speeds for my RAM. None of this "theoretical bandwidth" stuff like DDR and RAMBUS, either. I want RAM that has an actual 533 MHz front side bus... or faster! I want Serial ATA RAID for my hard drives, or better yet... Solid state drives running at the same clock speed as my system memory. I want an operating system that doesn't lock up or crash and unified drivers that don't give me compatibility issues when used in conjunction with other devices and their drivers. I want to be able to use as little or as much RAM as I can afford regardless of my operating system. I not only want to play a game in real time with other computers at a LAN party, but play a game with a buddy in India in real time. And to top it all off, I want 60 frames per second on a 30" flat screen.

After this is all taken care of, I would certainly love to sit down and discuss my multiple 40 GHz CPU's.

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