Having been in this industry for 20 years next month I thought I’d take a quick look at how Moore’s Law really affects pre-media companies in the modern day.
Lets first look a what Moore’s Law is:
Moore’s law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware. Since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958, the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has increased exponentially, doubling approximately every two years. The trend was first observed by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore in a 1965 paper.
Ok so basically every two years the computer chips embedded in our hardware will double in power, well it seems that the reality is on the high end of the computing scale and what actually affects us consumers is the technology that was already available at the high end 18 months ago just now the manufacturing process has been mastered to allow for mass production at a cinsumer affordable price.
But what does this mean? Well look at the current creative software major release cycles and we see that they are, well 18 months (roughly) and all these releases usually come requiring more and more power and memory from our machines, the installation have grown as well since storage is no longer a hurdle. But what’s the affect?
Well there are a number of problems pre-media companies have, I’ll just list them the way I see them
- 20% of tasks that are performed within the production departments have no need for the increased power
- 55% of the tasks would gain efficiency through the increased power
- 25% would see a huge productivity and efficiency increase by using the newly available power
- Companies generally put pre-media hardware on a 36 or 48 month write off period due to the level of investment
- The actual processing power is only one part of the equation in the machines overall performance
- The number of applications a user has open is a large factor in the performance of a machine
- Human perception of the volume of work that is required also plays a part in the volume of productivity in your production department
Lets look at each of these the, if 20% of your tasks are say performed in QuarkXpress and your machines are a 3 years old today, then these machines should generally perform very well, but could still be affected by the number of applications users appear to want open.
55% would gain efficiency, well this is an estimate, but generally if you are using the latest versions of applications then newer hardware will allow for the applications to perform more efficiently, take Photoshop for instance, in newer machines you are able to turn on the GPU settings that increases screen redraws and applying of filters.
25% will take advantage of the new hardware and software to provide both efficiency and productivity; this will allow users not to think about how they use the machine and will be able to get great performance regardless of what task they perform.
So what’s with the 36-48 month write off, we know what Moore’s Law is, but since we have never actually measured the affect of new hardware of our production environments and charted what it actually means to the companies service offerings, it’s no wonder that this has not changed. Look at the cost involved also, talk 20 Mac’s at £2000 each, naturally the company will feel that it will get a better return over 48 months (£40000/48 = £834 a month for the desktop hardware) but if in 24 months you can double your throughput wouldn’t it be better to take a higher monthly cost and service the clients better?
The next one I love, we all think both at work and at home that the latest and greatest processor will give you new found performance that is unparalleled to what we had before…. but a computer is only a sum of all of its parts. Let’s take an example of a Mac Pro available today from the Apple store, the base model is a Quad-Core 2.66ghz Xeon with 3gig of ram and a single 7200rpm hard drive…. We all know that some applications like Photoshop are memory hungry so we increase that to 6gig without even thinking. But something most people neglect is the good old hard drives, I once performed some tests that showed switching the primary drive to a Western Digital Raptor and using the shipped drive as a scratch disk for Photoshop increased Photoshops performance by 115%, put that into the context of time and you have a decent saving that is passed onto the customer in faster turn arounds and onto your bottom line as your produce more work in the same time! All these new Mac’s have the abilty to hold 4 drives and a raid card, not only adding data protection to your desktop setup, but giving you and even bigger performance gain on your I/O operations.
Something that has always puzzled me, the desire to have every application possible open at the same time even if they are not using them. Some of the tools available to us today allow us to capture application usage from our machines and see what’s really going on in your production departments. Something that is very handy when trying to calculate how many machines to upgrade or what machines need a hardware reconfiguration as outlined in the previous paragraph. I used Apple Remote Desktop to capture the data and place it in a pie chart, with a little scripting, a database and some nice online graphing page design (say Dundas) you could provide instant dashboard views of your production operation. (Pie chart below was just produced in Excel)
And last but by no means least, the perception of the users about how much work they actually need to produce, a good set of production managers will be able to sweat the assets to the best of their ability, therefore for them to understand what they are and what machines perform better for tasks and what operators are more proficient in what applications will increase your throughput as well.
To me it’s clear that companies will gain a tremendous advantage through switching out hardware in a calculated way by taking notice of Moore’s Law, I’m not saying jump on every new model released, but make sure you are equipped with the data and understanding of how your desktop hardware is used then react in the appropriate way. If you don’t the your competitor will!
Author: Gary George
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.