by Anton Shilov
04/03/2013 | 11:15 PM
The whole semiconductor industry has been developing in accordance with the Moore’s law for nearly fifty years now. A number of companies claim that the necessity for higher performance, power efficiency and communication capabilities inside modern chips will make Moore’s law relevant for a long time. However, Advanced Micro Devices believes that the end of the law is already on horizon as new process technologies do not always maximize economic efficiency these days.
“You can see how Moore's Law is slowing down. The original statement of Moore's Law is the number of transistors that is more economical to produce will double every two years. It has become warped into all these other forms but that is what he originally said,” said John Gustafson, chief graphics product architect at AMD, in an interview with The Inquirer web-site.
Traditionally, both vertically integrated makers of semiconductors as well as contract makers of semiconductors, introduced new process technologies every 18 to 24 months. In the recent years the cadence changed a bit since development of new manufacturing processes and building new fabs became extremely expensive; Intel Corp. keeps introducing new fabrication processes every two years and new product families every year proving the financial viability of Moore's law. The world's biggest chipmaker believes that the new process technologies enable it to integrate more functionality into chips while keeping their prices relatively flat.
However, Intel is among a few companies who produce so large amounts of chips that it can cover development costs. For many companies every transition to a new node costs tens, if not hundreds, millions of dollars. As a result, the difference between actual manufacturing costs becomes less important for many chips. Therefore, AMD believes that it should closely balance the transistor density of its chips so that to maximize economic effects of new manufacturing technologies. Essentially, this results into longer life-cycle of every process technology.
“We [AMD] want to also look for the sweet spot, because if you print too few transistors your chip will cost too much per transistor and if you put too many it will cost too much per transistor. We have been waiting for that transistion from 28nm to 20nm to happen and it is taking longer than Moore's Law would have predicted," said Mr. Gustafson.
The longer life-cycles for process technology nodes effectively means the end of the Moore’s law.
"I am saying you are seeing the beginning of the end of Moore's law," said Mr. Gustafson.
Other players on the market of semiconductors believe that the Moore’s law will continue to drive the industry as the demand for performance of mobile chips and microprocessors to power supercomputers will require increase of transistor counts without increase of power consumption. Moreover, modern system-on-chips are rapidly gaining functionality and are about to start adding all-digital radios in the coming years.