Design Con 2015
Breaking News
News & Analysis

Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon

4/25/2008 05:00 AM EDT
6 comments
NO RATINGS
View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Lai
User Rank
Rookie
re: Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon
Lai   5/7/2008 3:04:09 PM
NO RATINGS
This trend has been around for some time. Early this century, designers were already shifting their focus towards better middleware and embedded software to increase the 'value' in the mightly IC chips. Guess it was a spill-over from the Y2K days, and the 2001 recession contributed to the lost interest in accelerating hardware. Anyway, software is always faster to develop than hardware.

AnalogDude
User Rank
Rookie
re: Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon
AnalogDude   5/2/2008 5:45:26 PM
NO RATINGS
It's only natural that software lags behind hardware. It doesn't make sense to develop advanced algorithms if only the cream of the crop silicon can be barely run it. We'll write the code when something can execute it. Take a look at DirectX 10.1, you need at least 2 GPUS to run it and even then the frame rates are too low at high resolutions. So now you have spend time/money overdeveloping at a fast rate just one part (the software) of your system with decelerating returns on your total impact. Balance all three: idea/software/hardware to maximize profit.

mike@eneboe.org
User Rank
Rookie
re: Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon
mike@eneboe.org   4/29/2008 5:15:05 AM
NO RATINGS
Patrick, When in history have we had enough hardware, RAM, storage, bandwidth, or gates? There are a variety of political and market forces that are keeping silicon creativity in abeyance. R&D spending is at almost historic lows; much of the EDA industry has lost its way; Sarbanes Oxley is keeping many public companies from engaging in Series A rounds because of "risk", etc. Many EDA companies do not want to rock their respective boats, so they make incremental changes to keep their tools costly and not TOO productive. Today, the semiconductor industry is basically stuck in an '80s-like situation: chips are programmed in the equivalent of assembly language. In contrast, the current applications SW folks program in 21st century C++, Java, AJAX, etc. Because of the lack of vision in the semiconductor industry, there must be at least 3 orders of magnitude improvement in efficiency for the software folks over the chip guys. Until the architectural abstractions and languages are all upgraded, creative silicon will continue to look like a waste of time and money. Someone with some courage should invest in real innovation instead of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

jmpaul
User Rank
Rookie
re: Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon
jmpaul   4/29/2008 3:24:48 AM
NO RATINGS
I found your article on the irrelevance of silicon interesting. I've been saying for a long time now that we spend too much time chasing performance metrics that no longer make sense for what computers actually do. The basic assumptions of both EDA and Computer Architecture are no longer valid. Emerging computers are "scenario oriented" -- no longer general purpose or application specific. Mobile computers that access the internet are perfect examples. Set top boxes and gaming consoles are others. See the article, "A New Era of Performance Evaluation" in the September, 2007 issue of IEEE Computer for more on this.

Grant Martin
User Rank
Rookie
re: Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon
Grant Martin   4/28/2008 9:17:27 PM
NO RATINGS
Patrick The issue may not be so much the raw horsepower in silicon as what kind of horsepower is needed. In this, I agree with your comment that what we need is a shift from horse power to horse sense. Portable devices in particular need energy-efficient computation and communication, so that every bit of power consumed is going towards the application and very little is wasted. This is exactly where Application-Specific Instruction set Processors (ASIPs) make most sense because of their ability to maximise the intelligent use of the energy resources available in portable and indeed plugged-in devices, while delivering the performance the application requires. As this is the field I am working in, I am of course a little biased, but the importance of minimising energy consumption seems clear no matter where you are coming from. Very interesting opinion piece. Best regards Grant Martin Chief Scientist, Tensilica

patrick.mannion
User Rank
Staff
re: Opinion: The irrelevance of silicon
patrick.mannion   4/28/2008 8:41:11 PM
NO RATINGS
Dead on.

Most Recent Comments
Flash Poll
Like Us on Facebook

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
EE Times on Twitter
EE Times Twitter Feed
Top Comments of the Week