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Understanding the barriers restricting computing progress

Posted: 27 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SRC? computing? IoT? data centre? cloud?

A report has been published based on a workshop funded by Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) and National Science Foundation (NSF). The report details the key factors limiting progress in computing, particularly related to energy consumption, and novel device and architecture research that can overcome these challenges.

The findings and recommendations in the report are in alignment with the nanotechnology-inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing announced on October 20 by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Grand Challenge calls for new approaches to computing that will operate with the efficiency of the human brain. It also aligns with the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) announced by an Executive Order signed by the President on July 29.

Energy efficiency is vital to improving performance at all levels. This includes from devices and transistors to large IT systems, as well from small sensors at the edge of the Internet of Things (IoT) to large data centres in cloud and supercomputing systems.

"Fundamental research on hardware performance, complex system architectures and new memory/storage technologies can help to discover new ways to achieve energy-efficient computing," said Jim Kurose, the assistant director of the NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). "Partnerships with industry, including SRC and its member companies, are an important way to speed the adoption of these research findings."

Performance improvements today are limited by energy inefficiencies that result in overheating and thermal management issues. The electronic circuits in computer chips still operate far from any fundamental limits to energy efficiency, and much of the energy used by today's computers is expended moving data between memory and the central processor.

At the same time as increases in performance slow, the amount of data being produced is exploding. By 2020, an estimated 44 zettabytes of data (1 zettabyte equals 1 trillion gigabytes) will be created on an annual basis.

"New devices, and new architectures based on those devices, could take computing far beyond the limits of today's technology. The benefits to society would be enormous," said Tom Theis, Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI) executive director at SRC.

In order to realise these benefits, a new paradigm for computing is necessary.

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