Voice Over IP and Moore’s Law

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Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of one of the most important predictions ever made in the technology space.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, the legendary founder of Intel, was asked what would happen with integrated circuits, which are at the very heart of computing. Moore predicted that technology would double the computing power of computer chips every year.

That prediction came true of course just 12 years later in 1975 but today I learned, thanks to Tom Freedman of the New York Times, that Moore modified his prediction to the capacity doubling once every two years—and this has been known as Moore’s Law ever since.

voip_moores_law_250These days we know that our smartphones are more powerful than any mainframe of the 1970s—here I’m thinking of the Cray Supercomputer. But just how has the telecom industry benefited? Here are a few thoughts.

The original VoIP gateways (circa 1995 or so) barely allowed for two concurrent VoIP phone calls on an Intel CPU. I’m talking about the old Intel 80286 and then the Intel 80386. Remember those? Today, a server the size of a pizza box lets you to run over 1000 concurrent VoIP calls. Moore’s Law exactly!

But the value of the footprint is of course also translated into efficiency, and the ability to offer phone services in general. Phone.com serves over 25,000 small businesses and more than 150,000 users. And we do it on a compact set of servers in a local data center (with the appropriate backups for redundancy of course). We can do this with a relatively small group of engineers and programmers. The old Class-5 phone switches required a basketball-court-sized footprint and around 100 engineers, if not more, to manage and operate systems. Advancement indeed.

So here’s to Gordon Moore and his law—still going strong 50 years later!