Doing more with less, beating “Moore’s Law”, enabling “Big Data”, and creating new kinds of jobs

Anyone who’s been alive in the last 30 years has seen the incredible on-rush of technology. No doubt you’ve got a mobile phone in your pocket or on a desk nearby. Some time not long ago (I remember the early 1990’s) such miniaturization and efficiency of space was unthinkable.

Underlying the press to do more with less is a concept known as “Moore’s Law”, which posits that “that the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double roughly every two years”. This has enabled chip manufacturers to roughly double the power of microprocessors each year. [A similar law, called Kryder’s law describes how storage space works in a similar way.]

The problem is that the laws of physics now have pressed microchip manufacturers to the point to which “traffic” within the circuit board makes it difficult to get things any smaller. And this is causing a “traffic jam” in the amounts of information that can be processed.

Nevertheless, the Harvard Business Review has a helpful blog post by Hector Ruiz, the former CEO of chip maker (and Intel competitor) AMD, which talks about how chip technology is going to become even smaller and more efficient in spite of the increasing traffic:

To understand where the industry is today and where innovation is headed, it’s helpful to think of the microchip as a metropolitan area and its components as buildings.

Decades of innovation have made the components of a microchip smaller and smaller. Yet chips have grown larger as more and more components are packed onto them to meet increased computing needs — making the interconnections between each minuscule part more spread out.

That “sprawl” is like the suburbs around a city. The same problems that apply to a sprawling metropolitan area apply to the microchip: getting from point A to point B requires increasing time and energy just like driving a congested freeway from a suburban home to a job downtown does. Information travels across bigger microchips with less efficiency at slower speeds, while consuming more power.

We can’t increase the surface area of microchips much more without running into those problems, and we’re getting closer every day to the limits of how small we can make components. So what next?

The trend in urban development today is to build up, bringing people back into city centers and transforming suburbs into functioning city units where jobs, shopping, and homes are as closely connected as possible. That idea applies to microchips in the form of three-dimensional interconnect. It’s the off-ramp to Moore’s Law: In 3D interconnect, engineers stack wafers like the floors of a skyscraper in extreme miniature, with vertical connections (think elevators communicating between floors) in addition to traditional horizontal links.

One key area of growth this will impact is the growth of “big data”. According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Much of that is “unstructured” – in the forms of images and videos stored at such venues as Facebook and YouTube. But increasing volumes of it come in the forms of measurable, actionable information. Gartner has predicted that 1.9 million new IT jobs in the US alone will be created to support “big data” over the next two years.

Eloqua and similar marketing automation programs are enabling marketers to do more with the onrush of data – to accomplish more (and more relevant) “marketing functionality” with fewer people, while at the same time changing the face of what needs to be done.

That bodes well for folks who understand the type of change that’s happening, what it is they’re dealing with.

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