[arin-ppml] debunking the myth that Moore's law helps

Scott Leibrand scottleibrand at gmail.com
Wed Dec 16 23:41:59 EST 2009

On 12/16/2009 11:24 PM, Leo Bicknell wrote:
> In a message written on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 07:57:58PM -0800, Michel Py wrote:
>> - The bandwidth on the Internet is driven by demand.
>> - The demand is driven by devices that connect, namely computers and now
>> TVs.
>> - The {speed | power | memory} of these devices is directly related to
>> Moore's law.
>> - Michel's law 0.9 says: "A device that is twice as fast or has twice as
>> much memory will consume twice as much bandwidth".
>> Therefore I say: there is a direct relation between Moore's law and
>> Internet bandwidth. Call this simple, simplified, simplistic, whatever.
>> And debunk it please.
> http://singularity.com/images/charts/SuperComputers.jpg
> Computing power seems to double every 1.2 years, roughly.  Note
> that this is loosely coupled to moore's law, but there is a
> relationship.
> Picking an arbitrary spot in time, in 1991 the first 14.4k modem
> was introduced.  That was 18 years ago, or 15 doubling cycles, at
> the speed supercomputers have evolved.
> 14.4kbits * 2^15 is 450 Gigabits.

I'm showing 14400 * 2^15 = 471859200, which is ~450 Megabits, not 
Gigabits.  (Is that right?)

Gigabit Ethernet hardware today costs about the same (order of 
magnitude) as what 14.4k modems cost in 1991.  You can even do GigE over 
SMF (to achieve approximately the same distance range) for not much 
more.  Once we get into the question of what medium is comparable 
(twisted pair copper? cat5? MMF? SMF? PSTN? DWDM?), then obviously the 
question gets a lot more complicated.  But as exponential doubling laws 
go, I think this one holds fairly well so far.  The doubling time may 
not be exactly 1.2 years (I've heard 18 months), but it definitely looks 
like a similar curve to me...


> So if you could afford a 14.4K modem in 1991 which, while expensive
> was something the average joe could afford.  It might cost as much
> as your computer at that time, you should be able to afford a
> 450Gigabit home connection today.
> Video is a prime example.  Quality has improved, but as much due
> to better compression as to more bandwidth.  Turns out we burn a
> bunch of CPU cycles to conserve bandwidth, as bandwidth is vastly
> harder to increase.  It may not seem like YouTube is saving bandwidth,
> but raw 1080i uncompresed video is ~1.5Gbits/sec, while YouTube has
> encoded it as ~12Megabits/sec.  All the CPU is going to make up for
> the fact that we don't have 1.5Gbits/sec to the home.
> So no, twice the speed does not equal twice the bandwidth consumed.
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