UPDATE: I had a chat with Intel's John Casey, a spokesperson for the Intel Technology Leadership Group today (15 June). He claims that the link between Moore's Law and processor reliability - that was made in an interview with vnunet.com and in the whitepaper that Intel published about this subject - is far fetched to say the least.
A follow-up to this story has since gone online on vnunet.com.
You want faster, cheaper, smaller processors? Better prepare for more computer crashes too then, an Intel research told vnunet.com during "Research at Intel Day," an open house of Intel Research.
"In the next 10-15 years Moore's Law is going to make platforms more unreliable," Padma Apparao, a staff engineer at Intel's Corporate Technology Group, told vnunet.com. Unreliable chips make faulty calculations and could cause a system to crash, she warned.
With smaller, denser chips physics start playing an increased role. Cosmic rays that constantly bombard the earth can disrupt electronics, especially during cosmic storms. The same goes for alpha particles. These miniscule particles usually don't hit much in today's chips. But as researchers increase the density of a chip (cramming more transistors in them), there is also more to hit. Think of it as the difference between shooting an arrow onto a sports field with players on them, or into the stands in a packed stadium.
There are more issues that scientists don't know how to overcome. Electrical noise will start playing a larger role, as will oxidation and miniscule shifts inside a chip. Finally testing becomes more expensive for more elaborate chip designs, so faulty chips are more likely to slip through the cracks.
But surely Intel must be working on a solution? Apparao developed a technology that will monitor if a chip has gone bad and if needed takes it offline. But that doesn't solve the problem, it just prevents it from completely messing up you system.
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