Nicholas M. Donofrio

Age: 57

Claim to fame: As the top technologist at IBM and holder of seven patents, Donofrio oversees the development and commercialization of advanced technologies.

What he's doing now: IBM's senior vice president of technology and manufacturing

Where's the big opportunity for innovation? Big things will get bigger, small things will get smaller, things that are fast will get faster, and things that are dense will get denser. Technology moves so quickly that megabytes and nanoseconds will be passe in 10 years when memory capacity is measured in terms of yottabytes [a million-trillion megabytes of information] and processor clock speeds are gauged in terms of yoctoseconds [10 to the minus-24th power].

Nicholas M. Donofrio of IBM
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Nicholas M. Donofrio of IBM
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But how long can this pace of innovation continue before you start pushing the limits of physics? In all candor, there's little reason for worry for the next 10 to 15 years. We know these issues and are prepared for it. You might get worried about semiconductors, but there are self-assembling [carbon nanotube] structures that are being worked on. We have alternative storage devices and nonvolatile technologies. I have a lot of faith in semiconductors, parallelization and virtualization.

Why are you so excited about the confluence of IT and biology? We need a frame of reference to go forward in the IT industry. We are constantly looking for models. Biology and the human structure help give us those models, whether it is the Internet with its self-routing mechanisms or autonomic computing. How do we remember things? How do we store things? How do we build on the references we have on an instantaneous basis? There are a lot of lessons we can learn from ourselves.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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