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Moore's Law and Intel's never-ending "bang for the buck"

Published on  16 July by Jim Peters , Chief Technology Officer, SITA
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Intel announced their quarterly results recently, and they continue to dominate and grow in the microprocessor chip space.

Their chips continue to go faster and do more for less. Moore's Law says that they can double the number of transistors on a chip every two years, and this has thus far held up, though there is plenty of discussion about when physical limitations will come into play.

In 2005 Gordon Moore said:

"In terms of size [of transistors] you can see that we're approaching the size of atoms which is a fundamental barrier, but it'll be two or three generations before we get that far -- but that's as far out as we've ever been able to see. We have another 10 to 20 years before we reach a fundamental limit. By then they'll be able to make bigger chips and have transistor budgets in the billions."

So we have a little more time to keep getting faster, better, cheaper. In that regard, I considered my own "Bang for the Buck" (BFB) equation which simply took the processor speed times the number of processor cores and divided it by the cost. So for example, in 1993 a "P5" Pentium with one core running at 60 Mhz had a BFB score of .06. By comparison quad core i7 running at 2667 Mhz could be purchased in 2008 with a BFB score of 37.5. This is a 625 times increase in the BFB in 15 years!

Of course, the BFB is not scientific, nor particularly accurate in representing the actual speed improvement or workload throughput gains you get as clock speeds go up with more cores for fewer dollars. But it is at least "indicative" of the incredible increase in the amount of processing power that you get for your dollars over the last couple of decades.

What's all this have to do with the Air Transport Industry (ATI)? Well, from the PC's at check-in desks, or inside Kiosks, to the mainframes that run the back-end reservation transactions, this continuous speed/cost equation improvement has been the fundamental enabler of the automation IT provides to the industry. We depend on it to continue to be able to increase productivity and efficiencies. Everything from Revenue Management to eCommerce would never have come about without this underlying continuous improvement in processor speeds and costs. There always seem to be new ideas and innovations which grab that additional power as soon as they can get it. Certainly, the increases in look-to-book ratios and direct customer service over the Internet are all supported by the ability to keep getting more processor power at lower costs.

This may be a technical posting for some, but I think it is important to have some understanding of what is happening "under the covers", and to realize that the ATI, like most industries, survives and thrives due to Moore's Law continuing to crank along.

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