Moore’s law predicts that processor speeds will double, and costs halve, every two years. It’s been a staple of the IT industry for half a century, and predictions of its end are nearly as old. But now the figures are also suggesting that, finally, transistor doubling is slowing down.
The limits reached are not physical—it seems that chips will be able to be made smaller and more densely packed with transistors for some time yet—but they’re no less real for that. The issue is the economics of producing them. They’re becoming increasingly expensive.
What the costs tell us
There’s plenty this tells us about the limits of exponential growth and how even impressively long-lived predictions must end. But the problem is practical, and the practical implications are far more useful for businesses. In fact, it can give an insight into how business IT is changing, and will continue to change.
Every IT department is operating in an environment where it must justify every cost. A shift in economics is a shift in the fundamental choices that will be made all over the world. Choices that are already being made: in particular the move from the desktop to cloud and server computing.
The integrated workplace
The economic problem driving this change is that the speed of processors in desktop computers is becoming less relevant. Instead, racks of servers and data centres are doing much of our computing. As most businesses will find, individual computers are giving way to networks.
For companies, even those who are already moving in this direction, it provides an opportunity to assess their situation. It’s not to say that everyone will entirely remove powerful individual computers, but those computers will have to have strong justifications for their relative expense.
What you need to do
As processor speed becomes less critical, the major driving force for upgrades might well become connectivity. Access to processing ability housed elsewhere, whether in servers or data centres, will be the major mark of excellence in a device.
What does this mean for your business? Hopefully it should be good. IT provision will be more scalable, more integrated, and should be cheaper due to economies of scale. The advantages of greater speed and big data through the cloud should be within reach of most businesses.
Outsourcing will also allow companies to keep up to date with technology through subscription services. This should help cashflow, reducing upfront expenditure, and allows you to pay for exactly what you need. Consequently smart companies will have a clear idea of what they require in order to balance competing interests and make the most of new tech in a competitive market.
So while Moore’s predictions about microchips might be coming to a close, it’s not going to slow down the pace of innovation in IT—it’s just going to shift the focus. The critical thing is to make sure you keep your technology working for you.
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