No, it’s not “High Power”, it’s now “Low Power”

You may have heard that servers at Google have been packed so tight they catch fire in the datacenter. Turns out power dissipation is the key – even laptops get hot, and servers stacked are fire hazards. It’s the power, everybody – the limiting factor to communications is power (according to Broadcom). What a difference a few years make. When I was invited to a meeting about InterProphet and SiliconTCP over at a major infrastructure company back then, the gal assigned to evaluate my work laughed at me when I seriously brought up the issue of low power and TCP. Of course, she also wanted to boast about some thesis she’d done on TCP about twenty years after everyone else. One (male) engineer, in hearing the description of the meeting said it was the first all-woman “pissing competition” on record. I told him just because I’m assigned a woman for due diligence because I’m a woman too doesn’t mean I get a free ride – frequently it’s the opposite. Alas, there’s no secret sisterhood in business, but envy is universal.

So, how do you swap hot hotswap servers? The key is low power TCP – you can’t burn out the stack anymore adding more and more processors (not to mention the management overhead) even in the datacenter (sorry Intel). You need to get the lowest power TCP stack possible. And that means a no-processor design.

The nontech “what does a low-power TCP hardware implementation do for me” (what a mouthful) is you get real full video on cellphones without burning out the battery as quickly. Since I’m doing automated full video production these days, that’s kind of my interest too. Paul Baran wrote the basic patents on cellular communications for audio/video. But he couldn’t achieve it fully because of this limit. He was so far ahead of his time it’s amazing. I wonder what he’d think now?

So Silicon Valley isn’t really dead technologically, despite what some people like to say. There are a lot of technology problems still to be solved, discussed in black and white in some legendary patents and papers from people like Baran that created entire industries. It’s all right here. When I read patents, it’s pretty clear to me that “everything *hasn’t* been invented yet”.

Unix was invented when I was in high school. The Internet – gee, it was old hat at Berkeley when I got there. Packet-switching? Baran. Cellular. Baran et. al. But no one man or woman could anticipate *everything* because a lot of the pieces just weren’t in place. So the inventors carefully outlined why things couldn’t work, or came up with nonviable solutions because of these missing pieces. It’s all there – if anyone wants to take the time to read it.

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Lynne

Lynne Jolitz is a Silicon Valley OS pioneer, inventor, and startup founder.

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