Some reflections from the IBM Edge2013 conference…
Even some non-geeky people are familiar with Moore’s Law, which stated that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double every two years. In practice, the timeframe was usually closer to 18 months, but the law has held up remarkably well for 47 years. But trends in miniaturization threaten Mr. Moore’s namesake.
According to a presentation at the Edge conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, IBM has reduced the size of a magnetic memory bit to just 12 atoms. That’s atoms, as in the basic building blocks of nature. Operating at the atomic level implies that they won’t be able to do this indefinitely, doesn’t it? Once they get down to one atom, that’s it. They try getting smaller than that, and we’ve got more important things to think about than miniaturization in the computer industry. Like mushroom clouds.
There are practical implications to this, which we’re living with already. Data no longer carries an economically meaningful payload, which means marketers like Google and Amazon (and government agencies like the NSA) have been able to amass unprecedented stores of information on, well, just about everything. Inevitably, storage costs will continue to plummet, which means many other organizations will be able to join the Big Data game. The winners will be those companies wielding the most sophisticated real-time analytics. (It ain’t the size of your data mountain, it’s what you do with it.)
Data analytics is a major IBM focal point in the coming years. Given that literally no one in the industry matches Blue’s legacy in the hardware space, it is worth a double take when they place such a huge bet somewhere else.