We noted a few years ago that heat has become a limiting factor in processor speed. At the same time, we have been following the trend to use low-power chips originally designed for other applications in everything from more efficient supercomputers to lower power servers. Despite all this, the heat barrier continues to loom for ICT progress. 'Dark silicon' is its latest manifestation.
The BBC reports on US research: "The 'unified' memory device…combines the speed of DRAM while being able to switch to a more persistent mode of storage. That would potentially enable computer makers to build machines that boot up almost instantly, as the information needed to start up the machine could be stored in fast memory…It could also lead to servers that can be powered down, when not in use. Currently, the servers found in most data centres continue to slurp energy even when their processors are idle because the server memory cannot be turned off without affecting performance."
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports "A group of seven graduate students, from Stanford University and Finland’s Aalto University, created a prototype of a recyclable laptop…the Bloom laptop…is made mostly of materials that can be recycled alongside ordinary household items, like metal, plastic, and glass. Materials like LCD screens and circuit boards, which need to be sent to specialized recycling facilities, can be easily separated in a few steps."
ARPANET pioneer Lawrence Roberts notes that "we’re seeing an explosion in...video applications...[but] traditional IP packet routers...treat the video packets as loose data entities when they ought to treat them as flows." He advocates 'flow routing' to improve network routing and to reduce its power consumption, claiming that "in a traditional router the routing and queuing chips consume 80 percent of the power and space".
Two charts published by tech site Tom's Hardware show that processor performance appears stuck below 4 GHz, while energy consumption has plateaued at 130W. Is the solution to more performance merely cranking up the juice? It's not that easy.