According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors that occupies an electronic chip is doubled after 18 months.
Time and time again this law has been proven correct – almost forcefully by tech giants that dominate the computer microchip business (Intel and AMD obviously come to mind).
Moore’s Law isn’t a law of physics or binding that derives out of a strict arithmetic and mathematical module, but one that uses observation and economics as its base.
With technology converging towards the inevitable point of singularity, one can’t help but think that the future of the microchip lies elsewhere, and not in incorporating higher transistor counts and multiple cores.
Evolution is necessary, and apparently Microsoft has come out first to take counter-measures to avoid the doom that lies towards the end of Moore’s Law and its statement.
At the International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA), a paper titled “A Reconfigurable Fabric for Accelerating Large-Scale Datacenter Services” will be presented by Microsoft’s top researchers. This paper focuses on Microsoft’s innovative Cloud technology that, instead of falling into the inevitability that is the outcome of Moore’s Law, simply goes around it.
The system Microsoft has come up with is dubbed as Catapult, which utilizes advance technology that powers its Bing search engine onto clusters of highly efficient, low-power FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) chips attached to the conventional Intel Xeon server processors.
Simply put, instead of the entire workload being dumped on the Xeon processors, these customizable FGPA chips will be adaptive to certain tasks.
Certain data-centers such as Microsoft’s own Bing would aid in offloading well-known processors from the conventional processor, and letting the FPGA take care of them.
According to The Register, a deployment by Microsoft on 1,632 servers was able to increase query throughput by 95 per cent, while the power consumption were only increased by a mere 10 percent.
This brilliant bargain is obviously show-worthy, which is why Microsoft is suggesting it is turning itself into a cloud-first company.
Earlier this year in the Build 2014 conference Microsoft suggested how the Xbox One Cloud could generate performances that would even surpass those of a powerful PC.
The FGPA usage idea wasn’t quite publicly well-known as it is right now, which is why many turned a deaf ear to the claims.
However, seeing Microsoft’s large investment and drive to go forward with this system, there are high chances Microsoft will be using Catapult to empower the Xbox One – Bing will start to utilize the system fully in 2015, and we can expect the Xbox One Cloud service to utilize the flexible technology shortly after.
The idea of the Catapult is to get around the performance cap that is currently being witnessed in processors.
Though smaller and new processors with optimized architectures and additional cores come out every year, the individual core itself isn’t getting any faster – only the multi-tasking aspect is getting stronger.
There is a limit to the amount of transistors that can be added per core with increased speed without drastic consequences, and Microsoft seems to have found the right step to tackle the issue in a clean, energy-friendly way.