Weekly Packet: Nothing Lasts Forever (Especially in Tech)
by September 30, 2016

Filed under: Industry Insights

This week brought Elon Musk’s announcement about his plans to build a sustainable city on Mars. Specifics are scarce, but we’re hoping Musk has considered the quality of WiFi service on Mars, or those travelers might be quite disappointed when they arrive after a six-month flight. Maybe Google’s new Station tools will help. The details are still under wraps, but the goals are easy creation and maintenance of public WiFi spots.

On the theme of Better, Faster, Now, university researchers have found a new way to interpret and extend Moore’s Law. This tenet of modern computing dictates that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years, thus doubling processor speeds every two years, and it’s served us well. But like other pieces of IT we thought might last forever (ISP addresses, anyone?), Moore’s Law is hitting the limits of physics, and the industry is looking for better chip creation. The researchers want circuits to be more flexible, able to be programmed to handle different tasks.

New ideas in computer chips have helped Microsoft scale its Azure cloud services, Bing search engine and power a new search algorithm. The company started using programmable chips called FPGAs when it was clear that the old chip development trajectory wouldn’t cut it for the company’s plans in our ultra-fast, ultra-distributed modern world. It took some years and lots of reprogramming to get the right balance, but Microsoft engineers now say the goal is the chips eventually powering all Microsoft services.

However, this story from Cloud Technology Partners is an excellent reminder that we haven’t nearly solved every technology problem. They point out that transferring data to the cloud can easily require physical moving—the kind we do with boxes and moving trucks. Transferring a terabyte of data from a data center server to a cloud server over the public internet is laughable, and cloud gateway appliances add an expense and don’t save a ton of time. So plenty of IT teams end up using those trusty hard drives and a favorite shipping service to get all that important data hauled off to another data center, where the cloud elves can then get down to business.

There have been lots of artificial intelligence news stories crossing our desks lately, with a predictable amount of worrying about the robots taking over, diluted with reassurances that they won’t. But has anyone thought about robots too adorable to be taken seriously? This Chinese security robot named Anbot certainly fits the bill.

robot

Till next week, when our adorable pet office robot should be all trained up to deliver caffeine on demand. Happy weekend!