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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Farewell to the ITRS semiconductor roadmap

This month saw the last report of the international technology roadmap for semiconductors, the official publication that tracked the march of Moore's Law over the last 25 years. 
By Nick Flaherty

The final installment highlights the challenges over the next 15 years as the advances of silicon technology become more difficult to maintain. With 7nm systems being produced this year, that's still quite a long way to go, and there are major challenge such as extreme ultraviolet (EUV) that have still to be addressed.

That is to to say its the end of the silicon business. If anything, the roll out of the Internet of Things and mass data centres demonstrates the longevity of silicon as the substrate of the modern world. Imagine what you could do in ten years' time with 7nm or 5nm silicon providing with billions of transistors for a dollar. Radio integration and power consumption will still be a major challenge.

Data from the report highlights the need for a change. For example, it sees data centres having nearly 5m processor  cores by 2021, doubling to over 10m by 2029, with significant increases in memory storage and networking performance and power consumption. But this may well start to be overtaken by photonics and quantum computing within that time. 
Predictions for data centre growth to 2029 Source: ITRS

The ITRS will no longer be tracking these developments directly. “For a quarter-century, the Roadmap has been an important guidepost for evaluating and advancing semiconductor innovation,” said John Neuffer, president and CEO of Semiconductor Industry Association. “The latest and final installment provides key findings about the future of semiconductor technology and serves as a useful bridge to the next wave of semiconductor research initiatives.”

While the final ITRS report charts a path for existing technology research, additional research is needed for that transition to an even more connected world, enabled by innovations like IoT where it is the integration and co-existence of technologies that is the challenge rather than the sheer performance. Some of these technology challenges were outlined in a recent SIA-Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) report, “Rebooting the IT Revolution."

“SIA appreciates the hard work, dedication, and expertise of those involved with the ITRS over the years and looks forward to continuing the industry’s work to strengthen semiconductor research and maintain the pipeline of semiconductor innovations that fuel the digital economy,” said Neuffer.

Key learning points from the report will be on the Embedded blog in the coming days. 

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