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Into The Cold And Darkness


The need for speed is limitless. There is far more data to process, and there is competition on a global scale to process it fastest and most efficiently. But how to achieve future revs of improvements will begin to look very different from the past. For one thing, the new criteria for that speed are frequently tied to a fixed or shrinking power budget. This is why many benchmarks these days... » read more

AI’s Impact On Power And Performance


AI/ML is creeping into everything these days. There are AI chips, and there are chips that include elements of AI, particularly for inferencing. The big question is how well they will affect performance and power, and the answer isn't obvious. There are two main phases of AI, the training and the inferencing. Almost all training is done in the cloud using extremely large data sets. In fact, ... » read more

Less Food, More Thought


A trillion "things" are expected to be connected to the Internet sometime in the next decade. No matter how power-efficient these things are, they probably will require enough coin-sized lithium batteries to drain the world's supply of element No. 3 on the Periodic Table. They also will increase the demand for power everywhere, and that's even before tacking on electric vehicles, the edge, robo... » read more

Another Brick Or Two In The Chip Design Wall


Physical challenges come and go in the semiconductor world. But increasingly, they also stick around, showing up in inconvenient places at the worst time. The chip industry has confronted and solved some massive challenges over the years. There was the 1 micron lithography wall, which was supposed to be impenetrable. That was followed by the 193nm litho challenge, which cost many billions of... » read more

Speed Returns As The Key Metric


For the foreseeable future, it's all about performance. For the past decade or so, power and battery life have been the defining characteristics of chip design. Performance was second to those. This was particularly important in smart phones and wearable devices, where time between charges was a key selling point. In fact, power-hungry processors killed the first round of smart watches. But ... » read more

Where 5G Works, And Where It Doesn’t


The rollout of 5G hype has begun. Companies are building 5G chipsets for mobile devices, and they are working on the infrastructure that will allow massive amounts of data to move freely between devices. There is little doubt that more bandwidth is required everywhere. Files are growing in size, particularly with streaming video and images and various flavors of AI and machine learning. This... » read more

Playing Into China’s Hands


The fallout over blacklisting Huawei in particular, and China in general, has set the tone for a nasty global race. But it is almost certain to produce a different result than the proponents of a trade war are expecting. The idea behind tariffs and the blacklisting of Huawei is to starve China of vital technology. So far, the impact has been minimal. Reports from inside of China are equa... » read more

Bottlenecks For Edge Processors


New processor architectures are being developed that can provide two to three orders of magnitude improvement in performance. The question now is whether the performance in systems will be anything close to the processor benchmarks. Most of these processors doing one thing very well. They handle specific data types and can accelerate the multiply-accumulate functions for algorithms by distri... » read more

More Memory And Processor Tradeoffs


Creating a new chip architecture is becoming an increasingly complex series of tradeoffs about memories and processing elements, but the benefits are not always obvious when those tradeoffs are being made. This used to be a fairly straightforward exercise when there was one processor, on-chip SRAM and off-chip DRAM. Fast forward to 7/5nm, where chips are being developed for AI, mobile ph... » read more

Power Budgets At 3nm And Beyond


There is high confidence that digital logic will continue to shrink at least to 3nm, and possibly down to 1.5nm. Each of those will require significant changes in how design teams approach power. This is somewhat evolutionary for most chipmakers. Five years ago there were fewer than a handful of power experts in most large organizations. Today, everyone deals with power in one way or another... » read more

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