7Mar/160

Questioning the validation of Moore’s Law – Interview with Mark T. BOHR

Intel, Portraits, Hillsboro, Oregon, 08-01-2014

Published in DigiWorld Economic Journal DWEJ No. 100

Interview with Mark T Bohr

Intel Senior Fellow, Technology and Manufacturing Group Director, Process Architecture and Integration Conducted by Gilbert CETTE & Yves GASSOT

 

C&S:  Moore's Law is turning 50. Can you comment on and characterise the progress so far? How important is this in the amazing digital development that we're witnessing? Mark T. BOHR:

Moore's Law is a driving force of technological, economic and social change and is a foundational force in modern life. While most people have never seen a microprocessor, we use countless devices every day that are made possible by microprocessors and Moore's Law. Microprocessors and related technologies have become so integrated into daily life that they've become indispensable, yet nearly invisible.
Against the regular predictions of its demise, Moore's Law endures and remains essential to today's generation, which has come to expect and enjoy the experiences and opportunities defined by the observation.
Moore's Law will enable us to continuously shrink technology and make it more power efficient, allowing Intel and the industry to rethink where – and in what situations – computing is possible and desirable. Computing can disappear into the objects and spaces that we interact with – even the fabric of our clothes or shoes. New devices can be created with powerful, inexpensive technology and combining this with the ability to pool and share more information, new experiences become possible.

Moore, in a recent interview, said he thought that in the coming 5 to 10 years his "law" would be validated… Other observers think it will have seen a period of acceleration in the decade after 1990, followed by a sharp slowdown in the 2000s. Do you share this view? How do you account for the different analyses? Do you think Moore's Law has been slowed down because of the physical limitations to increasing the number of transistors per chip? Because of the 'diversion' of some R&D spending on the part of chip producers toward the fight against heat generation? Because of the exponential and hence unsustainable increase in the R&D spending it would take to extend Moore's Law? Or for other reasons?

The demise of Moore's Law has been predicted many times. Continuing Moore's Law is getting tougher, but we believe we have a lead versus our competitors. We remain confident in our ability to deliver Moore's Law and expect to continue true cost reduction through leading-edge process technology and generating real product improvements that apply across our product portfolio.

What other constraints might contribute to questioning the validation of Moore's Law?

We can't speak for others in the industry. Intel recognizes that the continuation of Moore's Law provides us with a competitive differentiator and the ability to bring higher-performance and lower-cost technologies to market quicker than our competition. Over the last several decades, we've said that we can see Moore's Law continuing for the next 10 years, and that is still the case.

Faced with these difficulties, what are the various alternative options (3-tier architecture, superconductivity technologies, biochips...) that researchers are working on? Which ones do you find the most promising?

In addition to making the features on a chip smaller, Intel is exploring numerous technologies, including:
1) Heterogeneous integration in which elements such as radios and sensors are integrated onto one piece of silicone or package;
2) Three-dimensional manufacturing with multiple layers of transistors;
3) Approaches beyond traditional CMOS including high mobility materials and new transistor structures with improved electrostatics;
4) New ways of computing including neuromorphic, or brain-inspired, computing and in-memory computing.

In 1966, the cost of constructing a plant for a new chip was $14 million. In 1995, it took $1.5 billion. Today we talk in terms of $10 billion… What is the justification for this cost explosion?  Will the trend become established? What impact will this have on the price of components?

Pursuing Moore's Law is getting more expensive in part because the job is getting more difficult. For Intel, the fundamental rationale of Moore's Law continues – even though it's more expensive overall, the price-per-transistor for Intel continues to decrease with each new generation. Intel will continue investing as long as we see a positive return and a competitive advantage.

Intel and some other U.S. firms dominate the microprocessor industry… how do you explain the continued U.S. leadership in this area?

The semiconductor industry started in the U.S. but it certainly isn't a U.S.-only industry today. Intel's chip-making plants can be found in the U.S., Europe, Israel and China and large manufacturers – Samsung and TSMC – are headquartered in Asia. It's a competitive industry, and we're proud that Intel is the world's largest chip company by revenue and is recognized as the leader in the pursuit of Moore's Law.

Mark T. BOHR is an Intel Senior Fellow and director of Process Architecture and Integration at Intel Corporation. He is a member of Intel's Logic Technology Development group located in Hillsboro, Oregon, where he is responsible for directing process development activities for Intel's advanced logic technologies. He joined Intel in 1978 and has been responsible for process integration and device design on a variety of process technologies for memory and microprocessor products. He is currently directing development activities for Intel's 7 nm logic technology. BOHR is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and was the recipient of the 2012 IEEE Jun-ichi Nishizawa Medal and 2003 IEEE Andrew S. Grove award. In 2005 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He holds 73 patents in the area of integrated circuit processing and has authored or co-authored 49 published papers.

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