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Dino Londis: The New Obsolescense and Accelerating Moore’s Law

aNewDomain.net—I remember the day I uncrated a shipment of brand new Pentium IIIs.

Back then, Intel’s 32-bit microprocessors were pretty impressive. But I couldn’t help thinking that someday, someone would be thrilled to get rid of them because they were too slow. Obsolete. Useless for the newest software. Intel and Microsoft practically ensured it with every new release of DOS and, later, Windows.

This used to be terrifically upsetting. Now it’s thrilling. The day has come.

The concept of obsolescence is now forever changed. The rate of change itself is accelerating as a result of Moore’s law, which is based on an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965.

Moore noted that transistors per square inch had doubled every year since their invention and he predicted the trend would continue for the foreseeable future. To put it another way: Moore’s Law states that processor power doubles every 18 to 24 months and the price for the same tech halves. But now it’s speeding up.

obsolescence

Image credit: Dino Londis

Doubling in power today amounts to much more than just twice the processing capability. It’s now increasing exponentially as new technology is developed. There’s an old story that illustrates the power of the exponent. Here’s how I heard it:

The King of India promised to reward the man who invented chess with anything he wanted. The inventor — not surprisingly, a fairly intelligent guy — said that he wanted one grain of rice for the first square of the chess board. For the second, he wanted double that amount, then double that for the third and so on. Thinking this sounded reasonable, the king agreed.

The rice accrued on the first half of the board was manageable. But by the second half the king ran out of rice, and by the time he got to the last square there wasn’t enough rice in the entire world to fulfill the inventor’s request.

With regard to processing power, some argue that we have entered the second half of the chess board-and-rice story. Doubling in power has far greater impact today than it did when I uncrated those Pentium III processors. And the next generation of hardware will be even more powerful than it is now.

The upshot of all this exponential advancement? It’s changing the way businesses think about their obsolescence strategy.

For businesses who outsource most of their hardware needs, the cloud is becoming more and more important. But those who manage their own hardware requirements should seriously consider the increasing rate of obsolescence.

Hardware on the floor may be able to run everything today, and even next year. But that shouldn’t be the sole measure of its value. Your competition is probably buying new equipment right now that could potentially double its ability to compete.

It is essential for IT pros to create and maintain an obsolescence strategy that takes the current rate of change into consideration. The life cycle of hardware begins on the day of deployment, and it’s getting shorter and shorter after that.

A good obsolescence plan should also be creative, and take the changing hardware landscape into account. You could replace a tower with a tower, sure. But could a tablet, or some yet-to-be invented hardware perform the same function at half the cost? The key is to stay informed of new technologies and imagine how they could be adapted into your organization.

The ultimate question is: Will your existing hardware and software do the same as these new technologies?

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