I agree with the observation that low-power is a largely unsolved problem. We have seen a tremendous change in the past decade and a half in low-power research, particularly in the context of micro-architecture for small devices and embedded systems. The chief catalyst for this research is the unprecedented growth in the proliferation of handheld mobile devices. In today’s design flows, power management has emerged as the second most important challenge, next only to timing closure, ahead of meeting timing and area goals and taping out on schedule.
Process technology for low-power gains has come a long way. In the early days, a low-power process typically meant a 20% hit in performance. Such performance hits are no longer acceptable, and process technology has improved to offer several standard cell height choices with different threshold voltages for different performance, power and density tradeoffs. Despite all these advances, process technology will not deliver all the gains needed in an optimal low-power device. See the figure below. (more…)