Is This a New Golden Age of Innovation?

2899482713_75ae9251cc_zBy Tate Cantrell

The Greeks of old described the development of man — starting with a painful decline from the Golden Age down through the ages of Silver and Bronze to the age of Iron, where we slave away without the enlightenment of legends. We are in the midst of a new Golden Age, and as with many societal advancements today, at the core of this is the power to compute.

In fact, access to computing resources has never been easier, and new forms of collaboration have given us opportunities to innovate like never before. Previous old and stale business models, like taxis and hotels, are no longer out-of-date, but are now revived with new services and collaboration. Social collaboration gives us nearly instant feedback on the satisfaction of our constituents, paving the way for the tenets of a Golden Age: peace, harmony, stability and prosperity.

So, how did we arrive at this technological enlightenment? At some point, technology crossed over and began to influence sociology, but how? Well in a single word: silicon. From the concept defined in the early Turing machines of World War II fame, to the first transistors of silicon, to today’s massively powerful super chips, the history of technology and its influence on our social ethos has been all about a more efficient approach to using silicon atoms. As we harnessed these atoms into smaller transistors, we have produced faster computers and, over the decades, developers have created an abundance of platforms on which to build the next new product.

But our need for computing is now outstripping the viability of Moore’s Law; 14nm chips are already delivering, and 5nm chips are on the horizon as soon as 2020. Single atom transistors are already a scientific reality. Where else can we go except for sub-atomic units and quantum physics as a source for further innovation at the computational level? As we search for methods to keep manifest destiny moving forward, we see that the economics will eventually put the brakes on Moore’s Law, just as Gordon Moore himself predicted so many years ago. Because as with anything that has a price and a value, the price will begin to limit production once the value per unit of price fails to impress.

So where do we go from here? Thankfully the innovators of today are less wed to their chips. In fact, the young developers care more about how quickly infrastructure scales to meet the needs of the application than of the size of the traces in the chips that are running their processes. They want a streamlined building block of computing and the ability to be able to rapidly deploy these building blocks as quickly as the demand for their products allow. With compute being a commodity, the true innovators are going for mass production.

The data center is now a factory in the purest sense. Raw material comprised of data and a defined work output ­ information. The tool converting raw material into useful information is energy. In fact, as the compute resources become commoditized in form and function, the providers of this commodity will become wholly concerned with the variable costs that make up the production of these computational building blocks. And in an ever-increasing amount, energy is becoming a larger share of the variable costs required to convert data into new ideas.

In fact, the true limits of compute and our Golden Age of innovation are not in the science of silicon, but in our ability as a society to procure dependable, sustainable sources of energy. Streamlined computing, coupled with renewable energy sources, is­ the recipe for the ultimate goal of any Golden Age: ­ peace, harmony, stability and prosperity.

Image credit: Flickr/symic

Tate Cantrell is Chief Technology Officer at Verne Global where he is responsible for the technical direction for the company and oversees the design and construction of all aspects of the facilities at Verne’s 100% renewably powered data center campus.  A well-known and respected speaker in the industry, Tate will be presenting at the Bloomberg Enterprise Technology Summit in New York City on April 24.

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