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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Please stop threatening me with Moore's Law

For as long as I can remember, Moore's Law has been one of the great tech bogeymen. It's going to end, we fret, and the way we write code is going to have to change dramatically! The sky will fall, and we need to prepare ourselves for this end times!
When you hear the same message for well over ten years, its efficacy starts to fade a bit. You start to wonder, when exactly is Moore's Law going to end any more than it already has? When is this going to happen in a way that actually affects me more than it did five years ago? What even IS right around the corner, if the foretold end of performance hasn't much affected me in ten plus years?
The truth of the matter is this: if you care about Moore's Law, you're probably already writing code that combats it, because you care about performance. The trick of Moore's Law, as we all have been beaten over the head about, is parallelism. But why would I wait for the end of Moore's Law to bite me? The times I have cared about performance, I haven't waited. I've parallelized the crap out of code to move performance sensitive code bases from few fast cores to many slow cores. And as soon as I could, I ripped most of it out in favor of a distributed system that was faster and more scalable. And then that was ripped out in favor of smart streaming from SSD. The circle of tech life takes advantage of the latest hotness as needed to get the job done, and I have no reason to believe that Moore's Law is anything more than a factor in that equation.
These days most of us are concerned about a much more complex interaction of performance issues than simple processor speed. We're network sensitive, IO bound, dealing with crazy amounts of data, or simply trying to deal with a ton of simple things at once. We already have systems built to make IO and network calls asynchronous. We're already processing completely separate work independently. Because we can, because even without the terrible end of Moore's Law we care about performance. There's no need to call up the bogeyman to make your case. He's sitting in the next cube, making sure we parallelized all our outgoing requests, and he'd rather you stopped getting so hysterical on his behalf.

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