Is Moore’s law dying?

Moore’s Law

Every electronic engineer who wants to grow as a Chip Design expert in the semiconductor industry start’s his career with this big question ‘Is Moore’s law dying?’, but ends-up completing his journey without seeing the death of Moore’s law. That’s what I am also experiencing in my journey while working with the previous and next generation chip designers. So I thought it’s good to share the data as an evidence and show you how we are continuing our journey with Moore’s law. This will help you to understand the history and future of semiconductor industry.

Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. This aspect of technological progress is important as the capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s Law. The law was described as early as 1965 by the Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore after whom it is named. Based on Moore’s observations from 1959 to 1965, he predicted that the growth will continue for at least 10 years, but astonishingly it holds true for more than half a century now.

The transistor count is the number of transistors on an integrated circuit (IC). Transistor count is the most common measure of IC complexity, although there are caveats. For instance, the majority of transistors are contained in the cache memories in modern microprocessors, which consist mostly of the same memory cell circuits replicated many times. The rate at which transistor counts have increased generally follows Moore’s law, which observed that the transistor count doubles approximately every two years. As of 2017, the largest transistor count in a commercially available single-chip processor is 19.2 billion – AMD’s Ryzen-based Epyc. In other types of ICs, such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), Xilinx’s Everest/Versal has the largest transistor count, containing around 50 billion transistors.

Despite all the rumors of Moore’s law dying or falling behind, it seems that most of the semiconductor industry continues to push forward to new process nodes and increasingly complex designs. As a result, companies find themselves in an almost never-ending mode of preparing for and transitioning to the next node.

For foundries, that preparation centers on new devices, new process tools, and new process flows. At the same time, they must ensure that qualified design enablement tools and decks will be available to their customers. Design companies focus on defining circuit functionality and performance targets, while also ensuring they have and are ready to use the design software and hardware they need to enable design signoff in reasonable turnaround times.

The classic metric for measuring the forward momentum of the semiconductor industry is the integrated circuit (IC) transistor count in a design. Moore’s law describes the empirical observation that, historically, transistor count/IC has approximately doubled every two years. Lately, there always seem to be voices in the background claiming that Moore’s law is dying, but the empirical evidence continues to show otherwise.

Figure : shows the latest composite graph of the transistor count of the most well-known IC chips over time. The data shows a consistent slope of increase throughout four and half decades, with the most modern chips pushing close to 20 trillion transistors.


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