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The semiconductor industry is reaching a fascinating confluence in several evolutionary trends that will likely lead to a number of revolutionary changes in how computer systems are designed, implemented, scaled, and used. Since Moore's Law, which has driven the evolution in systems for the last several decades, is imminently approaching real and severe limitations, the ability to create three-dimensional (3D) device stacks appears promising as a way to continue to integrate more devices into a “chip.” While on the one hand, this nascent ability to make “3D technology” can be interpreted as merely an extension of Moore's Law, on the other hand, the fact that systems can now be integrated across multiple planes poses some novel opportunities, as well as serious challenges and questions. In this paper, we explore these various challenges and opportunities and discuss structures and systems that are likely to be facilitated by 3D technology. We also describe the ways in which these systems are likely to change. Since 3D technology offers some different value propositions, we expect that some of the most important ways in which 3D technology will likely impact our approach to future systems design, implementation, and usage are not yet obvious to most system designers, and we outline several of them.
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