Sunday, January 2, 2011

How much longer will system performance continue to increase?

A number of factors contribute to system performance: the performance of the processor(s), memory, I/O, network, and disks, as well as that of various software components (including OS, middleware, and applications), all have an effect. However, the largest effects have been seen—and will continue to be seen—in the area of processor performance and memory capacity. And as far as microprocessor performance and memory capacity is concerned, there seems little reason to suppose that the technology improvement curve will slow before 2010 or thereabouts; thus, microprocessor suppliers will have enough transistors and frequency capability on hand to keep processor performance on track for quite a while (although if it is not constrained, the increase in thermal dissipation associated with the higher frequencies could be a roadblock to achieving the desired level of performance). Memory capacity increases will make it possible to track the growth in software size and in the amount of data handled; this growth in memory size will make it possible (through the use of cache technologies) to compensate in large part for the lack of equivalent improvements in disk and network access times. But the possibility of abreakdown in the smooth progression of system performance remains, if memory access times and bandwidths get too far out of step with the demands of processor performance.

This drive for growth is driven by software’s insatiable appetite for storage capacity and processing power. And there are no objective reasons to suppose that the appetite or growth will stop. The open questions, however, are the growth rate and the effect that these phenomena will have on the industry.

One could observe, across several information-processing domains, that the industry goes through successive phases: a phase of stability, followed by a phase of disruption. A stability phase is characterized by continuity in architectural concepts and incremental improvements. During such an equilibrium phase, we can observe intense technological developments, often far afield from the mainstream. A disruption is characterized by a sudden questioning of established verities, together with a flood of new ideas coming to a head. New architectural concepts, approaches and products appear; the market makes its choice (not always in favor of the new), and the structure of the industry moves on. A new phase of stability then commences.

Source of Information :  Elsevier Server Architectures 2005
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