Texas—Here's what we know: Moore's law is in trouble as physics and economics
conspire to hamstring semiconductor scaling.
what we also know: Hardware IT as a trusted source of significant compute-performance
improvements every 18 months is no more. Design priorities—because of the
scaling issues—have shifted in recent years to efficiency and power management
within IT departments.
what we might not realize: Hardware IT performance as the dominant computing design
priority will stage a comeback in the next few years.
least that's what Brad McCredie, chief technology officer for IBM's systems and
technology group, believes. And McCredie should know: He's a PhD who worked
on a number of IBM Power architectures in the ‘90s and early 2000s and has had
a ringside seat to the evolution of IT hardware and customer demands along the
At a talk at the Design
Automation Conference this year in Austin, McCredie laid out the bare and often
uncomfortable facts about shifting design priorities. But he also sketched a
vision of revitalized hardware performance that gets rewarded, as the priority
pendulum swings anew.
in a so-called SKY Talk here, told the DAC audience that in 1996 63 percent of
new server spending was on computing hardware and 30 percent on service
management and administrative costs.
20 percent of budgets are spent on computing hardware and nearly 70 percent on
service management and admin costs.
"Right now, most of Fortune
500 companies look at IT right now as a place to save money. I can't tell you
the number of large company CIOs who say ‘the budgets will go down, the budgets
will go down.' If you can't convince them they will save money, they won't buy
He pointed to the famous
NVidia slide that shows the pricing crossover trends for transistors (where devices
built on the next process node becomes cheaper than the last) essentially
end with the 28-20nm transistor. There is, in other words, no savings to be
had by moving to the next node.
priorities therefore are shifting from high-performance computing with high-performance microprocessors to more efficient designs and power-aware solutions.
trends are happening in automotive and avionics where designers have shifted
from power and performance to efficiency with cars like the Toyota Prius and
the Chevy Volt and planes like the Boeing 787, he added.
McCredie (pictured below left) said:
IT industry is going through the same thing.
If you're doing to drive on the performance angle, that's good. But the rule is
everyone has to get more efficient. We have to innovate along a different
"You can see that also when
you're designing chips: It's more important to get more functions on one piece
of silicon than it is to get more performance out of one piece of silicon."
(For more on silicon-design transformations, please see "NVidia's GPU License Plan Illustrates System-Design Transformation" and "The Rise Of The Subsystem And New IP Providers".)
By 2018, the IT hardware
business will shift back, however, to a hardware- and computing performance-driven
Two words: The Cloud.
Cloud computing has emerged
as a way for companies to drive cost out of their business and gain
efficiencies. In the process, companies have learned a huge lesson thanks to
the likes of Google, Amazon, and Apple. They disrupted advertising, retail and
music distribution by leveraging the Internet. But for them to do it cost-effectively, they
needed to invest in a lot of low-cost IT hardware compute power. In the
process, they created the cloud.
Today, businesses are
realizing that the cloud computing is not just about cost savings but about
"People look and say ‘holy
cow, I can buy a pile of low-cost computers and disrupt an industry and make a
whole lot of money. At that point, IT is viewed as a business weapon to go kick
McCredie estimates that in
five years 65 percent of new compute server spending will be on hardware, with
25 percent going to IT admin costs and 10 percent to power and cooling functions.
Analytics and big data are
enabling people to dive into data, figure something out, and make money off
it, and that's the force that's going to drive more hardware IT spending in the
next five years, McCredie argued.
--Differentiation Through Hardware Is
Not Going Away
--NVidia's GPU License Plan Illustrates System-Design Transformation
-- Samsung DAC 2013 Keynote: EDA, Semis
"Not Well Prepared" for Next Mobile Revolution
--Freescale CEO at DAC 2013: "Internet
of Things" Brings Opportunities, Challenges