Hot Potatoes

Politics inside of companies, and between companies, could make the next phase of power savings far more difficult.


Matching hardware to software, and software to hardware, is an interesting discussion. It’s also one that usually happens at a very high-level of abstraction, which renders many of the conclusions less than helpful.

The software stack is not a single thing. It’s a group of things, all incredibly complex in their own right and increasingly in need of some very detailed integration. The fact that complex hardware blocks and entire chips at advanced nodes are pushed out the door before an application is even completely coded, let alone verified, says something about the interaction of code and the entire software coding process.

Despite decades of advancements in software development, the sheer magnitude of interactions and the volume of code still makes it impossible to develop applications quickly. That’s the reason software teams are regularly scheduling time on hardware emulators. They need enormous amounts of number crunching power to handle all the assertions and possible interactions. As a result, trying to get application developers to now think about writing code to more effectively utilize hardware is futile. Hardware will have to be optimized to the applications, and in some cases that may mean specialized chips to run specialized applications.

But looking at software as a whole is like looking at a complex SoC as a single piece of technology. There are many things that make up an SoC, and increasingly not all of them are developed in one place even by the largest IDMs. Software drivers and firmware definitely can be tailored to the hardware, and operating systems may be something of a compromise between the hardware and software teams if they can find a way to work together.

That may be the biggest problem to overcome, because these groups are used to functioning autonomously. Politics inside of companies, and particularly between companies, is the biggest issue in a disaggregated market. Apple’s recent acquisitions speak volumes about this problem. So do Intel’s acquisition of Wind River and Synopsys’ acquisition of the major software prototyping companies.

Still, from a power and performance perspective, working together can result in huge improvements in efficiency of devices. The question is who’s going to drive this effort—and whether they will ever be able to rise above politics and finger-pointing when something goes wrong to achieve better performance and bigger energy savings.