"Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad with power." Of course IC designers donít risk destruction but they are increasingly being driven mad with power: having to keep it low enough that the power dissipation from their design doesnít render it irrelevant.
This is not just an esoteric issue that can be ignored. More and more, the power dissipation of a chip shows through all the way to the end-user of the system where the chip will be used. Most plain is the case of battery powered devices like cell-phones and Blackberries. How long they can operate before needing to be recharged is driven mostly by chip power dissipation. But this worry about power is now affecting much larger systems too. A modern PC delivers its compute power through two or more cores because it is no longer possible simply to increase the clock rate on a single core. The power density in the processor chip would be the same as a rocket nozzle, as Patrick Gelsinger, Intelís CTO, memorably pointed out. Data centers have to be left half-empty because the servers are already sucking down the entire power that the wiring infrastructure can deliver. Automotive electronics is gradually being forced towards 42 volt operation due to the increasing power consumed by the electronics. Internet routers are limited in how many ports they can support not by the area of the chip but by power limits and heat dissipation.