Being Fast, Cheap and Flexible

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-09-17 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ask Motorola's engineers what they did on their summer vacation. The day after Labor Day, the company announced it had succeeded in growing layers of high- performance gallium arsenide on a foundation wafer of less expensive, physically tougher silicon.

Ask Motorolas engineers what they did on their summer vacation. The day after Labor Day, the company announced it had succeeded in growing layers of high- performance gallium arsenide on a foundation wafer of less expensive, physically tougher silicon.

More than a cool science project, this development promises lower costs for optical communication hardware, as well as affordable microchips at speeds in the tens of gigahertz.

The problem with growing GaAs on silicon is that the crystal structures are different, but adjacent layers want to get along. In the process of trying to adjust to each other, the layers develop cracks. The ingenious solution, which has spurred Motorolas application for 270 patents, involved the development of a material that could bond to both types of crystal as an intermediate layer.

You know whats coming, dont you. I can never resist a good metaphor. When I read about Motorolas development, it reminded me of what Microsoft is trying to do with .Net; what Microsofts own representatives agree with me has not been well communicated. Let me try.

Within an all-Windows environment, Microsofts COM has worked pretty well, but it hasnt done a good job of crossing boundaries into the mixed architectures of the Web. The company wants to preserve the rich interaction of the Windows desktop, while still being sufficiently platform-neutral to compete with technologies such as Java. In short (ahem), the company needs a way to grow a high-performance layer on a flexible foundation.

.Net lets an application developer use the facilities of Windows, including newly unified programming models for teams using more than one programming language, while interacting with non-Windows systems via open protocols.

Both Motorolas chips and Microsofts Web services APIs demonstrate the need to focus on finding ways to make things work together. Things today, in isolation, work pretty well; success tomorrow lies in superior integration.

 
 
 
 
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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