[Discuss] Article: The Death of Moore's Law Will Spur Innovation

Ilia Lebedev ilebedev at mit.edu
Fri Apr 3 16:12:00 UTC 2015

This is more or less my field of research, and people have been saying this
in every architecture talk since like 2006. There is not a whole lot of
innovation happening in computing machinery because computer architecture
is currently a fairly dry, conservative field accepting largely incremental

Open source hardware is great! I hope it will become more mainstream and
will receive additional university and industrial support. As things stand
now, there are a few low-level ISA projects (RISC V, OpenRisc) attempting
to encourage open source processor design, a LOT of open source FPGA things
of dubious usability and credibility, and a rich body of excellent open
source systems like Beagle that use non-open components. We will likely see
more and better open systems built using purchased components. These will
be more supported by industry, have better dev tools, better-optimized
kernels (Raspberry Pi is a poster child for this, although their Raspbian
kernel has a long way to go).

Making the entire stack (silicon all the way up to software) open is not
quite realistic considering the absolutely staggering cost of producing a
custom silicon chip (and the high per-unit cost of FPGAs. Yes, they're not
*that* expensive, but they are ~2 orders of magnitude more expensive than
ASIC per unit, as per Rose paper). Furthermore, foundries tasked with the
manufacture of ASICs are extremely secretive with their process: AMD no
doubt has offices full of NDAs and a rigid system in place for the secrecy
of foundry-specific expertise. Academic projects have to sign a hefty NDA
and are prohibited from publishing low-level details of the foundry process
or performance. This is not an atmosphere where open source can thrive.

Wow, this turned into a rant, sorry.

My personal hope is that industry (Google, probably) will invest
significantly into building processors with an open ISA (Risc V, probably)
and publish their full spec. They will rely on cryptography instead of
industrial secrets (*cough* undocumented register wizardry in x86)  to keep
their platforms secure. Companies and organizations will build their
Raspberry Pi and Beagle Bone clones with these semi-open components. The
platforms will run Linux. Everyone will rejoice. The USB, HDMI, Bluetooth,
and other integrated components will remain sketchy, buggy, and closed. The
processor SoCs too will remain proprietary, though well-documented, and
built upon well-audited and open processor design.

On Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 11:47 AM Toni Klopfenstein <
toni.klopfenstein at gmail.com> wrote:

> Just FYI for anyone interested. Interesting article on open-source
> electronics hardware from Bunnie Huang.
> http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/design/the-death-of-moores-law-will-spur-innovation
> _______________________________________________
> discuss mailing list
> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
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