Fast Chips, Fast Connections

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-12-03 Print this article Print

OEMs may soon be able to offer more diverse solutions to bandwidth-hungry users.

Chip-to-chip connections should be as easy to scale as connections from city to city. The HyperTransport Technology Consortium (, with royalty-free licensing of its high-speed, input/output hardware specification, gives system builders the same kind of packet-based flexibility inside the box that the Internet has brought to large-scale networks.

OEMs using HyperTransport may soon be able to offer more diverse solutions to the needs of bandwidth- hungry users and enterprises, reversing the trend toward "lumpy" technologies—anchored by highly integrated processors and their chip sets and bus designs—that have given designers few real choices other than "How fast?"

The ingenuity of engineers is like the skill of Grand Prix drivers. If you put those racers in rush-hour traffic, they cant do any more than go with the flow; if you put engineers in a technology environment that gives them few real choices, their progress is equally herdlike, with little differentiation between the results achieved by the best and the worst.

PCs, since around the time of the Intel 486 processor, have given us the same kind of progress as a heavy (if still fast- moving) day on the San Diego Freeway. Processor integration, and the industrys insistence on bug-for-bug compatibility at every level of hardware, have left engineers with little room to show what they can do; product designers have had little incentive to figure out exactly what their customers really want, since a Wintel box is a Wintel box (though Sony offers notable exceptions).

Yes, the Sony laptop that I just ordered is more than four times as fast, with eight times the memory, five times the disk space and three times the full-color pixels of the one that I bought for the same price three years ago. Moores Law still has its pedal to the metal—but with the industry support thats rapidly growing for the HyperTransport protocols, perhaps that progress will start to look more like a race and less like an endless pace lap.

Tell me what hardware maneuvers youd like to see at

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, 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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