Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Moore's Law is alive and well" — but is that enough?

On Monday, with the announcement of the new Top 500 list of the world's fastest supercomputers, we wrote briefly about the challenges computer scientists across the globe face in achieving exascale supercomputers by the end of the decade. To put the scale of this challenge into perspective, China's Milky Way 2 supercomputer, the fastest in the world today by a significant margin, is capable of reaching 34 petaFLOPS. Plus, there's the small matter of energy efficiency still to tackle if exascale supercomputers are going to become a realistic proposition.

Yesterday evening, Stephen S. Pawlowski of Intel gave a keynote speech at ISC'13 entitled 'Moore's Law 2020'. "People are always saying that Moore's Law is coming to an end, but transistor dimensions will continue to scale two times every two years and improve performance, reduce power and reduce cost per transistor," he says. "Moore's Law is alive and well."

"But getting to Exascale by 2020 requires a performance improvement of two times every year," Pawlowski explains. "Key innovations were needed to keep us on track in the past: many core, wide vectors, low power cores, etc."

"Going forward, scaling will be as much about material and structure innovation as dimension scaling". He cites potential future technologies, such as graphene, 3D chip stacking, nanowires, and photonics, as ways of achieving this.

Pawlowski argues for less focus on achieving a good score on the Top 500 list by optimising performance for the Linpack benchmark. Instead, he says, there needs to be more focus on creating machines suited to running scientific applications. "Moore's Law continues, but the formula for success is changing," concludes Pawlowski.

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