IC design is focused on wrong problems

By Lou Covey Editorial Director

The semiconductor design industry is focused on the wrong problems, according to Brad Brech, distinguished engineer at IBM at the ISQED symposium in Santa Clara yesterday.  Stating his position in the most diplomatic terms, that was the upshot of his talk on “sustaining Innovation for Smarter Computing in Data Centers.”

While chip design is focused on increasing speed and computing power, Brech said efficiency and cost control are the biggest concerns of the end customer now.

Brech said the chip industry is still focused on incremental increases in performance but the improvements we see in semiconductors, 200ms to 300ms, is imperceptible to the end user.

“We need to bring a different kind of value to the customer,” he said. “In the 1970s and 80s the airline industry was trying to move people faster between destinations and almost went bankrupt doing it,” he stated.  “There hasn’t been a faster plane put into service in over 20 years, but they have found ways to move more people. We need to do the same thing in IT regarding data.”

Brech stated that 70 percent of the IT budget is devoted to operations and maintenance of data centers while complexity of managing massive amounts of data grows steadily by orders of magnitudes.  He said 22 billion devices are connected to the internet now, downloading and adding data every second.  Applications such as cognitive computing and big data analytics are compounding the problem.

The solution, he stated, is in alternative designs that are cloud ready, data ready and security ready.  Those are the applications technology needs to focus on.