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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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Moore’s Law defines the history of technology. It held that the number of circuits etched on a given piece of silicon could double every 18 months as far as its author, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, could see. Moore’s Law has spawned constant revolutions since then, not just in computing but in communications, in science, in a host of areas. Moore’s Law applies to radios, and to optical fiber, but there are some areas where it doesn’t apply. In this blog we’ll take a daily look at new implications of Moore’s Law in real time, as it rolls forward to create our future.
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December 21, 2005

Sun COO Endorses Intel

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

jonathan%20schwartz.gifNot literally. Nowhere in this blog item does Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz even mention Intel.

CORRECTION: Jonathan did mention it in passing, in terms of what not to do. Since I've been getting hammered in the comments on this one (no offense, keep hammering) let me add that Intel's market share, and the effort required to turn the entire corporation into the direction of low-power, are vital elements to the story.

But he's complaining about something Intel has turned its entire corporate ship around in order to deal with.

Intel made a big decision in 2005. It would no longer follow Moore's Law toward tighter-and-tighter chip densities, if that meant generating more-and-more heat, and requiring more-and-more power. Instead it would re-define Moore's Law in order to emphasize something better.

And one of those somethings better was low power.

Intel dropped its high power designs and moved forward only with chips based on its old Centrino series. Lower power chips, cooler chips. Not necessarily as fast as what AMD ships, but less greedy on the environment.

Schwartz makes a powerful point here. Energy is a huge expense for everyone in the computer ecosystem. It takes energy to make chips, and it takes energy to run them. The heat created by servers, or even the client machine next to my son's bed, is huge. Multiply it by billions and we're drowning in energy requirements.

So, Jonathan, what if Google switched to using laptops? That's the effect of what Intel is doing. That's a profound change. It will take time to make these things, and time to sell them, and time for us to get used to them.

But we've already gotten part-way there. You're not still using a TV monitor, are you? How much electricity you think a flat panel requires, compared to a CRT? Not a lot.

We're all moving to laptops, even if we're not, thanks to Intel. So when does Sun switch?

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors


1. Jesse Kopelman on December 21, 2005 02:57 PM writes...

Wasn't it AMD that started the move to emphasizing calculation speed/W over raw speed. Also, doesn't a large LCD actually use more power than large CRT? LCDs rely on backlights, which tend to be ineffecient . . .

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2. antonio romero on December 21, 2005 05:50 PM writes...

This article is misinformed. Of course it's right about Sun's endorsement of performance-per-watt, and it's right about Intel's embrace of this new truth, but it's premature (Pentium 4 continues to carry the lead role in servers and desktops for Intel), and it gives Intel credit for leading the way on a trend where they're actually bringing up the rear.

AMD led the way on this, and will continue to be extremely competitive on power and on performance-per-watt. Sun's new Niagra chips are also far ahead of anything Intel has in terms of high-performance, low-power server chips. Google announced plans back on 14 October to buy (some) servers from Sun, the one OEM that doesn't sell any Intel-based servers. Depending on the task, some are likely to be the new Opteron-based Galaxy servers, others the new Ultrasparc T1 (which uses eight slow, simple cores, each of which runs four threads at once). Intel won't be inside Sun's lineup for a good while. (And yes, I know that for now Google is still probably having a lot of servers custom-built inhouse, based on unspecified Intel parts... but if they were using Pentium-Ms, Intel would be crowing about it.)

Besides which, the new low-power dual-core Yonah CPUs from Intel, as impressive as they are, are still only 32-bit, which in the server world greatly limits their value... Low-power 64-bit-capable x86 CPUs from Intel are still months away.

If the dual realities of AMD's success and the failure of P4 chips to scale hadn't hit them over the head, they'd have us using 7GHz Pentium 4 (or, more likely, 4GHz Itanium) chips... and cooking rotisserie chickens with the waste heat.

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3. Yousuf Khan on December 21, 2005 05:53 PM writes...

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by, "nowhere in this blog item does Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz even mention Intel", because he did. He used the Intel Xeon as an example of what not to do: "(Sun's Niagara & Galaxy use) 5 times less power draw than Intel's Xeon".

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4. sharikou on December 21, 2005 06:19 PM writes...

Moving to laptops? What are you talking about? Yonah 32 bit outdated stuff for Google?

Look at SUN's UltraSparc T1, eight 64 bit cores, 72 watts. That's only 9 watts per core. It has 4 memory controllers, runs 32 hardware threads. INTEL stuff needs separate memory controllers, INTEL architecture is 10 years behind SUN.

Intel who? Read this:

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5. Kevin Hutchinson on December 22, 2005 09:54 AM writes...

Watch out for IBM's Cell Processor

It's more than just a videogame chip!

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