Technalysis Research
 
Previous Blogs

November 25, 2014
Rediscovering High Resolution AV

November 18, 2014
Making Makers Mainstream

November 11, 2014
Going Vertical

November 4, 2014
A New Wearables Forecast

October 28, 2014
The Next Evolution for Wearables: Business

October 21, 2014
Size Does Matter...When it Comes to Screens

October 14, 2014
Insider Extra: Does Windows Stand a Chance With Enterprise Mobile Apps?

October 14, 2014
Does Big Data Equal Big Brother?

October 7, 2014
Is Windows Still Relevant?

September 30, 2014
Tablet and Smartphone Futures: Specialization

September 23, 2014
Is the App Ecosystem Sustainable?

September 16, 2014
The Wearable-Identity Connection

September 9, 2014
The Password Dilemma

September 8, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk--Driving Flash Forward

September 2, 2014
Smart Connected Devices: A New Forecast

August 26, 2014
Phablets—aka Pocket Computers—Drive New World Order

August 19, 2014
Device Usage Diversity

August 12, 2014
New Life for the PC

August 5, 2014
Hot Items for the Holidays: Large Phones, Notebooks and Smart TVs

July 29, 2014
Smartphones: Life's Remote Control

July 22, 2014
The Joy of Vintage Tech

July 15, 2014
Digital Generation Gap

July 8, 2014
Virtualization Reborn

July 1, 2014
Portable Digital Identities

June 24, 2014
The Future of UI: Contextual Intelligence

June 17, 2014
Moving to Markets of One

June 16, 2014
Insider Extra: Dell and the Battle for Business

June 10, 2014
Screen Overload to Drive Screen-less Devices

June 3, 2014
Apple Drives Vision of Seamless Multi-Device Computing

May 27, 2014
Surface Pro 3: The Future of PCs?

May 22, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk: The Many Faces of Flash

May 20, 2014
The Technological Divining Rod

May 13, 2014
Computing in the Cloud

May 6, 2014
Device Usage a Question of Degree

April 29, 2014
The Next Smartphone Battleground: Durability

April 22, 2014
BYOD: A Work in Progress

April 18, 2014
Insider Extra: AMD Back in the Groove

April 15, 2014
The Mobility Myth

April 9, 2014
BYOD Dilemma: Devices vs. Data

April 8, 2014
Insider Extra: Qualcomm's Evolving Story

April 1, 2014
A Wearables Forecast

March 25, 2014
Measuring Success in Wearables? It's Thousands of Thousands

March 24, 2014
Insider Extra: Intel Strategy Moves Forward

March 18, 2014
IOT: Islands of Isolated Things?

March 11, 2014
Wearables Cautionary Tale

March 4, 2014
The New Platform Battle

February 25, 2014
Watch What Happens

February 18, 2014
Talkin' 'bout Touchpads

February 11, 2014
The MultiOS Conundrum

February 4, 2014
Computing Redefined

January 28, 2014
The Apple Problem

January 21, 2014
The 2-in-1s People Might Want

January 14, 2014
The Post Tablet Era

January 7, 2014
The Innovation Asymptote

December 31, 2013
Top 5 2014 Predictions

December 17, 2013
Holiday Shoppers Gifting Themselves

December 10, 2013
Companion Apps

December 3, 2013
Aisle Check
















TECHnalysis Research Blog

December 2, 2014
The Next Performance Challenge: The Battle for the Burst

In day-to-day use, few people regularly complain about the performance of their tech devices. For the most part, people are content with the experience of using them. Sure, there are some curmudgeonly (or cheap) folks hanging onto older devices that still offer sub-par performance, but they’re becoming the exception instead of the norm.

That doesn’t mean all the performance challenges for tech devices have been solved, however—far from it. In fact, now that the overall bar for performance has been raised to a “good enough” level, component and system designers can finally start to tackle some of the thornier challenges that have been with us for some time.

One of the biggest challenges involves what I’ll call the “bursting” issue. It seems that no matter how content we are with a given device’s performance, there almost always comes a moment (or two, or three…) where the performance doesn’t live up to our expectations. Streaming a video, taking multiple photos, playing an online game, and several other types of activities can cause a hiccup in an otherwise decent performance experience. These moments may not last long, but they absolutely impact our overall opinion of the device, application or service that we’re using.

In virtually all cases, these brief slowdowns involve a burst in activity, or series of bursts, that place unmet strains on an otherwise solid-performing system. Interestingly, these bursts can cause challenges in several different device subsystems—CPU, graphics, storage, modem and other connectivity—sometimes individually and sometimes simultaneously.

Regardless, some of the more interesting efforts to increase performance in all of these areas are now directed towards battling these burst issues. In the case of CPUs, it often involves more sophisticated chip architectures, with more simultaneous compute threads and pipelines, better predictive branching, increased caches and other enhancements that can ensure the chip is working as effectively as possible. For graphics, some of these same principles also apply, but there are also improvements in geometry engines, programmable shaders, and more.

For storage, meeting these challenges requires faster types of flash memory, more sophisticated controller chips, and better error correction algorithms. In the case of modems and other radios, new technology standards, like LTE Advanced and 802.11ac and 802.11ad make a difference, but implementing specific technologies within those standards, like carrier aggregation and multi-user MIMO, also have big influence on driving higher levels of throughput.

Raw performance improvement is also a factor in all cases, because sometimes it takes raising the overall performance bar in order to be prepared for the sudden spikes that inevitably occur. While there are different ways of reaching new performance levels in each of those respective component areas, general improvements in silicon manufacturing, shrinking of die size to smaller process technologies, and Moore’s Law overall conspire to make performance enhancements possible in all of these areas.

In the world of audio equipment, the ability to handle extremes in signal strength is called headroom. Well-designed audio equipment, whether it be used for listening, creating or recording purposes, has plenty of headroom in order to handle the sudden bursts in volume that often occur in music. Not surprisingly, it adds cost to design and build in that extra headroom. There are always ongoing debates about how about much headroom is actually necessary and how much it’s worth paying for. While there aren’t necessarily any real right or wrong answers, it’s generally understood that having a decent amount of headroom helps with the overall performance of the audio component (or system) and is worth spending an additional amount on.

For the device and component industry, where “good enough” performance is becoming an increasing threat to upgrade purchases for existing devices, the trick will be to explain how performance headroom can be a valuable, worthwhile investment. Part of the problem is that many existing performance benchmark tests are designed to show off typical tasks and not the bursts in activity that are increasingly the bottleneck for better system performance. As mentioned previously, day-to-day performance on most devices is typically fine for most users, so showing increases in that area can seem like overkill. If new benchmarks were built around the ability to cover (or not cover) the bursts, however, that might provide an entirely new way of looking at today’s performance challenges.

Explaining some of these kinds of concepts in a meaningful way to typical consumers may not be an easy task, but it’s a critical one for future growth.

On a separate and unrelated note, this column marks the 1-year anniversary of the launch of my company, TECHnalysis Research, as well as the appearance of my weekly column on Tech.pinions.com. I’d just like to give a quick note of thanks for all the support, interest and feedback I’ve received over this past year. It’s been great. Thank you!

Here's a link to the original column: https://techpinions.com/the-next-performance-challenge-the-battle-for-the-burst/37155

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  Research Schedule
A list of the documents that TECHnalysis Research plans to publish in 2015 can be found here.
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