Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Durga Puja in Bangalore -- places to visit

To all of my Bengali and non-Bengali friends, here's a valuable piece of information provided by Somnath Ray, a key member of the Jayamahal Durga Puja Committee, Bangalore.Many thanks, Somnathda for providing this information. He has also provided a great map, which is visible here. It clearly highlights the key Durga Pujas that are held in Bangalore.

Durga Pujas in Bangalore

Jayamahal is close to Bangalore Cantt. Rly Station/Mekhri Circle/TV Tower. The Puja is next to the scenic Jayamahal Park.

Jayamahal Durga Puja can be reached through:
Mekhri Circle
(Preferable if you are coming from/through Airport/Hebbal/Yesvantpur/Malleswaram/RajajiNagar/IISc/Palace Orchards/Vijayanagar areas)

Cantonment Rly. Stn./Vasanth Nagar
(Preferable if you are coming from/through MG Road/Shivaji Nagar/JayaNagar/Majestic/High Grounds)

Miller Road Underpass
Preferable if you are coming from/through Ulsoor/Indira Nagar/Coles Park/Fraser Town/KR Puram/Banaswadi)

Directions From Mekhri Circle:
o Take the road towards Cantonment Rly. Stn. (Jayamahal Main Road)
o As you go beyond the TV tower, and then the Funworld, you will cross a small circle (In front of JC Nagar Police Station). The road sort of bifurcates around a HP Petrol Bunk. You are to take the left flank (Nandidurg Road).
o Continue on the Nandidurg Road. You will cross Canara Bank on your left and reach Airtel/Cypress Technologies Office (Also on your left).
o Take a right turn just after the Airtel Office and you will hit the Jayamahal Park. The Puja is adjacent to it. Take a left turn!

Directions From Cantonment Rly. Stn./Vasanth Nagar:
o Pass the Cantonment Rly. Stn. underbridge and take the road on left to proceed towards the TV Tower/Mekhri Circle.
o Take a right turn the first break in the median (next to SBI/Wine & Cheese/Women's World.
o Continue on this road (5th Main). This road curves, and leads you to Jayamahal Park. The Puja is held here.

Directions From Miller Road Underpass:
o Come up from the underpass from the Ulsoor side (proceeding towards Bangalore Cantonment Rly. Stn).
o Take a right turn into Nandidurg Road (first major right turn) to proceed towards the TV Tower/Mekhri Circle.
o Continue on the Nandidurg Road till you cross NEFERTITI, a Floral Boutique, on your left (You can see the Airtel/Cypress Technologies Office on your right).
o Take the second left turn after Nefertiti (just before the Airtel Office) and you will hit the Jayamahal Park. The Puja is adjacent to it. Take a left turn.

Jayamahal Samiti
Jayamahal Puja Blog


RBANMs (Exhibition) Ground, St. Johns Road (Off Commercial Street) -- Opposite Ajanta Theatre - Close to Ulsoor tank. This is the biggest Durga Puja in Bangalore.
Bengali Association

Defence Colony Play Ground, Indiranagar. New location this time, but easy to locate -- on 6th Main, Between Indiranagar, 100 Ft. Road and 80 Ft. Road.
Puja site

Malleswaram Canara Union Hall/BPL Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy on 8th Main, 13th Cross, Malleswaram - Not far away from MES College -- (8th Main starts from Yesvantpur circle and goes toward Malleswaram Rly. Station. Malleswaram addresses are easy to locate once you know the Main & Cross).

"Mandir"; 8A, FTI Colony, Nandini Layout, Bangalore 560096. This is near Nandini Layout Bus Stand. By the way, Nandini Layout is opposite to ISCON Temple -- on the other side of Chord Road -- you have to go inside some distance.

Usually, at the junction of Bannerghatta Road and Outer Ring Road in JP Nagar. In NGR Kalayana Mantapa, Bannerghatta Road, JP Nagar, 2nd Phase. A Kalyana Mantapa opposite to Shoppers Stop.

'Police Choultry' (Mangala Kalyana Mantapa, 8th Block, 80 Ft. Road, Koramangala) opposite Ganesh Temple.

If you come from FORUM towards National Games Village, after some distance you will find this Puja on your left side.

If you are coming from SONY WORLD crossing, come upto National Games Village main gate, take a right turn on the road which leads to Forum -- Police Choultry is on your right.

C/o Chetan Building, Beside WhiteField Police Station, White Field Main Road.

VSR Convention Hall, ITPL Road, Brookfields. It is reached crossing Marathahalli railway overbridge. Take the first left turn going towards ITPL, the Choultry is on your left about 1km ahead, next to Café Coffee Day.

Ramana Maharishi Centre for Learning, Post Office Road, Sanjay Nagar.
Take the Sanjay Nagar Main Road from Gangenahalli on Bellary Road -- go ahead about 1km to reach FoodWorld. Take the Post Office Road, which is next to it. The puja is on your left, a few steps away.

Seshadripuram 1st Grade College Campus, opposite Railway Reservation Counter, New Town, Yelahanka, Bangalore 560064.

Reach the AF Station, Jalahalli West, and inquire at the gate.

Reach AF Station Jalahalli East, and inquire at the gate.

14. SHARATHI FORUM (Koramangala 2nd Puja)
Munireddy Kalyana Mandapa, 80 Ft. Road, 6th Block, Koramangala. This is next to Post Office (opposite puja # 7).

This is at Attibele, Hosur Road. Sidla Basappa Nanjamani Charitable Trust, Attibele. Beside Attibele Police Station, and near the Attibele bus terminal circle.

Sitarama Kalyana Mandap, Banaswadi Main road, Bangalore-560 043 -- Near Uttam Sagar Restaurant.
* Through RamaMurthy Nagar Ring Road Circle: Come straight about half km on Banaswadi Main Road, it will be on right side.
* If you come from the ITC Factiory side: Cross Rly. overbridge; after another half km, it will be on left side.
* From Hebbal side through Ring Road: After Hennur Ring Road Circle, take the next Circle (Royal Concorde School).
* Kalyana Nagar Circle: Go straight upto Banaswadi Main Road and take left turn, it will be on your left.

Sai Baba Mandir, HMT Layout, Anand Nagar, next to RT Nagar Bus Depot.
You can take the road next to CBI office that takes off from Bellary Road towards RT Nagar Main Road. Go to the end, then take a left turn. Go across the BMTC Depo and reach the Sai Baba Temple.
Puja Blog

Air Force Puja: After you enter Wind Tunnel Road from Airport Road, halfway on Wind Tunnel Road, there is a driveway that takes you into an Air Force Campus. This is probably opposite Rifco Apartment. A sureshot way to not miss it is to realize that the Air Force Campus wall stretches from Airport Road halfway into Wind Tunnel Road.

If you go from MG Road towards the Airport, you will notice a left turn just before Command Hospital pops up on your left. Entering this left turn, you'll find yourself deep inside the defence's property. A few hundred metres in, there is a circle where you have to enter the hospital gate on the right. Inside you wind along towards the commotion and presently you'll find yourself at a large playground where the puja is held.

Travel along Bellary Road from the city centre (Windsor Manor or Cauvery Theatre) towards Hebbal. As you cross the Mekhri Circle underpass, you will see an entrance to an Air Force Campus on the left side. The puja is almost just inside the gate.

Near Corporation, beside GEO Hotel.

This is near the Hebagudi bus stand, beside BIOCON factory, Hosur Road.

Somnathda would also like to thank a lot of bloggers and the respective Associations from whom the information was gathered.

Friends, I am also available at Jayamahal Puja, so those wanting to meet up, are most welcome there. Everyone, have a great, great Durga Puja.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mentor Graphics: DFM is where all the value is!

As promised, here is the concluding part of my discussion with Joseph Sawicki, vice president & GM, Design to Silicon Division, Mentor Graphics.

We went over the design for manufacturing (DFM) challenges and how yield can be improved. He also touched upon the design challenges in 45nm and 32nm, respectively.

Given that the semiconductor industry does speak a lot about DFM, what steps are being taken to improve on the overall yield?

According to Sawicki, in the VLSI microchip era, yields started at 60-70 percent, and so DFM wasn't required. However, in the nanochip era, DFM is where all the value is. [VLSI Research.]

Joseph Sawicki, vice president & GM, Design to Silicon Division, Mentor GraphicsHe added that at smaller geometries, manufacturing variability has a much greater impact on timing, power dissipation, and signal integrity. Traditional guardbanding is no longer sufficient to guarantee competitive performance at acceptable yields, and excessive design margins erase the advantages sought by going to the next node in the first place.

Moving to advanced technologies without dealing effectively with manufacturing variability can actually put a design at a competitive disadvantage due to low parametric yield.

"Successful IC implementation requires a detailed understanding of how variability affects both functional and parametric yield. Customers need a manufacturing-aware engineering approach that extends across the entire physical implementation life cycle, starting with cell library development and extending through place and route, physical verification, layout optimization, mask preparation, testing, and failure analysis.

"They need a design flow that helps them "co-optimize" for both performance and yield simultaneously, based on accurate models of manufacturing process variability. The ability to do this quickly and effectively can give IC designers a powerful competitive advantage," Sawicki said.

There is no silver bullet! It takes a broad-based, well-integrated approach to have a significant and consistent impact on manufacturability.

According to him, Mentor Graphics provides a complete manufacturing-aware design-to-silicon solution addressing random particle effects, small-scale device and interconnect interactions, lithographic distortions and process window variations, and thickness variations resulting from chemical-mechanical polishing (CMP) and variable film deposition and etch rates.

"Our tools incorporate comprehensive, highly-accurate models that have been tuned and verified for specific manufacturing environments, and address every stage of the digital IC implementation life cycle," he added.

So, how is Mentor handling 45nm and 32nm design challenges?

Sawicki added: "Advanced process nodes present challenges at every stage of IC implementation, from place-and-route, through physical verification, layout enhancement, testing and yield analysis. Mentor has a complete design-to-silicon flow that addresses the critical challenges of IC implementation at every stage."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

BV Naidu quits SemIndia; what now of Indian fab story?

There's this report on DNA Money about BV Naidu, managing director of SemIndia Systems Pvt Ltd and SemIndia Fab Pvt Ltd having quit his job! This immediately begs the question: What now of the Indian fab story? Or, has it sunk without a trace?

There have been several questions raised in the past, as well as in the recent past, such as:

1. Is India's fab story going astray?
2. Why have fabs in India in the first place?
3. Can an Indian based fab take on the might of established global fabs? How will it be profitable in this climate?
4. What can an Indian fab produce unique, that other fabs cannot?
5. What has the Indian semicon policy achieved, when the Indian semicon industry was doing well, prior to the announcement of the policy?
6. What does India bring to the semicon world?
7. Why move to solar, when there's been no action of note for wafer IC fabs?
8. Why convert the Fabcity in Hyderabad, to Solarcity?
9. Solar/PV isn't exactly semiconductors, so why this hype about solar fabs? Is this being done to hide the lack of any success in semiconductor fabs?

Right! I am not here to provide the answers to such questions, nor am I qualified enough to address these! These are questions, if they are justifiable questions, to be answered by the industry! Rather, I will try and analyze what India has done and can do in semiconductors!

May I add here that according to the India Semiconductor Association, BV Naidu remains an active member of the Executive Council. BV Naidu himself informed me that he will be continuing at the board level at SemIndia, moving away from executive responsibilities. And, he will be continuing at the ISA. So that's good news!

Now back to the discussion!

First, yes, before and post the Indian semiconductor policy, India continues to do very well in semiconductors. Nearly every single MNC has its presence here; and no one that I know, has said that it has no plans to expand in India! Two, we have been traditionally very strong in design services and continue to remain so! Three, India is the emerging (or already emerged) embedded superstar!

Having a wafer IC fab isn't such a big deal, is it? So many folks have already moved on to fab-lite anyway! Yes, having one wafer IC fab would surely prop up India's image in the global semicon market, but well, not having one, won't sully India's image either!

If we do not get a fab, then let's just all accept that India was not ready for one, and let's move on! Life in semiconductors is much more than wafer fabs, as India's brilliant design services companies keep proving day in and day out!

I've said before in one of my blogs that doing product development is probably not India's strength! Design services surely is! Let's focus on our strength!

Will the moving out of BV Naidu from SemIndia effect the Indian industry? Why should it? Actually, far from it! Some companies in IP and other embedded areas are doing very well anyway. Let's give such companies their due credit! They've been present, much before the India Semiconductor Association was formed, or way long before the Indian semicon policy was born!

I interact regularly with the length and breadth of the Indian semiconductor industry. I've been covering this industry much before the India Semiconductor Association was even formed! If I remember correctly, I was among the three journalists present on the day the ISA was actually launched! Coming back to my point, I've yet to come across one person from the industry who does not understand the dynamics of this industry!

If a fab does not happen or someone leaves a company, that does not mean that there's been a failure. Maybe, it was a wrong choice to start off with! Perhaps, it just coincided with the turbulent global semiconductor industry. Or, simply, semiconductor was mistaken to be a commodity, which it is not!

India has had several investments in solar. Two days from now, there'll be a major solar/PV conference in New Delhi. Solar is within the ecosystem units of the Indian semicon policy, and it has attracted major investments. Yes, solar has to do with energy security, and in that regard, India could well be on the right path. However, that's just one small part of the complete story of the semicon policy!

As to whether India should focus on semicon OR solar, I am not the right person to comment or judge! Nor am I qualified enough to comment on 'why convert Fabcity to Solarcity'. Maybe, solar is being hyped in India right now. If yes, like any other industry, once it matures, the solar bubble will burst and consolidation will happen.

There are several other ecosystem unit definitions in the semicon policy. Some may and will happen. For those who are not aware, the "ecosystem units" have been clearly defined as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all products.

The Indian semiconductor industry, as I see it, remains strong as before, fabs or no fabs! I don't equate solar with semiconductors, and maybe I am wrong here, but I do believe the two should be treated separately. Not a single solar company will probably feature in India's top 10 semiconductor companies! At least, not in my list! And, if a top executive leaves a company, why should it hamper the overall industry?

Frankly, it is the Ittiams, the MindTrees, the Cosmic Circuits', the eInfochips, and the SoftJins who continue to remain India's pride, even though they may be quite small in comparison to the global giants! At least, they have done India proud in their own way! Doesn't matter if these companies do not make great media copy! These are among the Indian semiconductor companies that continue to matter!

The India semiconductor story is something like this: Lots of high-end designs are being done here. In fact, lot of key decisions are now being made out of India. The talent pool is very much intact and growing! We are leaders in design services and embedded, make no mistake.

Now, does all of this indicate a recession or depression in the Indian semiconductor industry? Or, is it an indication of India's growing success -- fabs or no fabs? You decide!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yindusoft rocks embedded domain for India across Apac

India has, for long, been the acknowledged 'embedded superstar' of the world! It is in no danger of losing that top position, especially in the near future, as several Indian firms in the embedded space continue to rock the world.

One such company is Yindusoft, established 2006, a software services company focused on the following domains: embedded software for IC design houses, OEMS/ODMS in consumer electronics; IT solutions in the semiconductor manufacturing sector; and distribute and customize higher end IT software products in the two areas.

G.K. Pramod, CEO, and a former member of Cybermedia/IDC said: "We are a two-year old company! We cover Asia Pacific especially, Taiwan and Singapore. We would like to expand into Korea and Japan, hopefully, by the end of Q4 2008."

Yindusoft is present in two domains: providing IT solutions to large semiconductor manufacturing companies, being the first. Pramod said: "We are working with companies like TSMC, UMC, etc. We work with them in CIM (computer-integrated manufacturing). We recently completed a project on wafer analysis in Taiwan. Our engineers developed the software to cut the wafers into precise shapes. We have onsite engineers with TSMC in Taiwan and UMC in Taiwan and Singapore. Now, we are aggressively positioned ourselves in the CIM space for semiconductors."

The second important domain are OEMs/ODMs. Yindusoft develops embedded software for OEMs/ODMs. Pramod added: "We develop the software for these companies. In Taiwan, we have done work on digital signage systems. We worked on the UI design. We did development on the UI design itself, along with market research, and therefore, the customer received market feedback as well."

Yindusoft has two recent design wins: designing of digital signage application for a large OEM/ODM in Taiwan. and designing of set-top box application for a large OEM/ODM in Asia Pacific.

Commenting further on Yindusoft's design wins, he said: "We completed a large project in the area of digital signage product development with the help of an embedded product development domain expert. Our domain consultant adopted methods like market research, making global product feature list and getting the UI design development from design experts who are from art and design background (and, not IT background)."

Too early to estimate Indian semicon
Pramod added that it was quite early to estimate the strength of the Indian semiconductor industry as fabs are yet be commissioned for production. The Indian embedded design industry is estimated at $4-5 billion in 2008-09.

Commenting on the drivers for embedded design, Pramod said these could be the design capabilities of Indians and the requirement of low-cost consumer products. "Big markets like India and China would require lot of consumer devices for common man applications," he said.

Customers expect strong domain expertise today. Definitely, and I completely agree on this," he added. "We need domain expertise to speak the "customers' language, make the project successful and show the differentiating factors in our service delivery."

As mentioned, Yindusoft also works with the STB companies. "We are developing an STB (Set-top box) application. Typical applications would be PVR, email application, parental security, etc.," he said.

Yindusoft is also trying out a model called offshore solutions center. Pramod said: "We have identified pain areas of customers, like OEMs/ODMs and semicon companies. Till such time the companies don't develop the necessary software skills, there orders can get rejected. They can't add value to their products. Therefore, profitability is a major issue with them. Next, they also have a language problem and cannot provide the essential technical support. Also, they cannot enter the Indian semiconductor market because of these reasons.

"Hence, we are now trying to build up a solution for them. One is the ODC, which is regular. The second factor: localization of their product for the Indian market, is an example. We also have a demo center. We conduct the market research for a particular product and then set up a demo center in India for that product. After that, there's the technical support center."

Way forward for embedded
Would the biggest growth factor for embedded come from localization of product design and manufacturing from India? What's the way forward?

Pramod said that the biggest growth factor for embedded could come from the localization of product design, and it will be the driving factor. "In fact, we provide this as a value addition to our customer, he added. "Indians need to focus on designs, which is our core strength." However, he felt that China would still lead in manufacturing.

Finally, what did the Indian semiconductor industry offer to the world, and why should the others should come here?

Pramod listed six key capabilities: Design capabilities of Indians; VLSI design, IC design capabilities; software integration capability; good software knowledge; India is also a good pilot market to launch new embedded products; and India is a strategic location for Asia Pacific markets where there is a good ecosystem for the semiconductor industry.

The company's head office is located in Bangalore, while it has two overseas offices in Taiwan and Singapore, respectively.

Yindusoft's vision is to be the leaders in providing software services for IC design houses, OEM/ODMS and semiconductor manufacturing companies.

The mission is to act as a software consultant in new product development by providing cost effective co-working models and establish offshore solution centers (OSC) in India. Best of luck!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mentor on EDA trends and solar/PV

This is a continuation of my recent discussion with Joseph Sawicki, vice president & GM, Design to Silicon Division, Mentor Graphics.

There have been whispers that the EDA industry has been presently lagging behind semiconductors and is in the catch-up mode. "That’s a matter of perspective. There are definitely unsolved challenges at 32nm and 22nm, but the reality is that we are still in the technology development stage," he says.

For EDA tools that address implementation and manufacturing issues (i.e., Mentor design-to-silicon products), there are dependencies that cannot be fully resolved until the process technology has stabilized. Mentor Graphics is laying the groundwork for those challenges and working in concert with the process technology leaders to ensure that our products address all issues and are production-worthy before the process technology goes mainstream.

On the other hand, although Mentor’s products are fully-qualified for 45nm, there have only been a handful of tapeouts at that node, so for the majority of customers, we are ahead of the curve.

On ESL and DFM as growth drivers
ESL and DFM are said to be the new growth drivers. Sawicki adds: "As Wally Rhines has said in his public presentations, system level design and IC implementation are the stages of development where there are the most challenges, and therefore the most opportunities. To continue the traditional grow spiral that the electronic industry has enjoyed as a result of device scaling, we need more sophisticated EDA solutions to deal with both of these challenges."

ESL is responding to the growth of design complexity and the need for earlier and more thorough design verification, including low power characteristics, and software integration.

The Design-to-Silicon division is addressing the issues of IC implementation which result not only from the increase in design complexity and devices sizes, but also from increasing sensitivity of the manufacturing process to physical design decisions, a phenomenon often referred to as “manufacturing variability.”

Although the term “Design-For-Manufacturing” reflects the need to consider manufacturability in design and to optimize for both functional and parametric yield, it is important to emphasize that DFM is not simply an additional tool or discrete step in the design process, but rather an integration of manufacturing process information throughout the IC implementation flow.

With single threading, we can no longer handle designs over 100 million gates. Of course, at 45nm, you can do a 100mn gates. That rewriting process is another issue that is also slowing out. It would be interesting to see how is Mentor handling this.

According to Sawicki, Mentor has incorporated sophisticated multi-threading and multi-processing technologies into all of its performance-sensitive applications, from place-and-route, through physical verification, resolution enhancement and testing.

He says, "Our tools have a track record of impressive and consistent and performance and scalability improvements, which is why we continue to lead the industry in performance."

In addition to merely adding multi-threading and support for multi-core processors, Calibre products have a robust workflow management environment that automatically distributes the processing workload in the most efficient manner across any number of available clustered computing nodes.

Mentor's Olympus-SoC place-and-route is inherently scalable due to its advanced architecture which includes an extremely efficient graph representation for timing information, and a very concise memory footprint. In addition, all the engines within Olympus-SoC can take advantage of multi-threaded and multi-core processors for high performance. These features enable Olympus-SoC to handle 100M+ gates designs in flat mode without excessive turnaround time.

Mentor’s ATPG tools are also designed to operate in multiprocessing mode over the multiple computing platforms to reduce test pattern generation time. In addition, Mentor test pattern compression technology reduces test pattern volume and test time, making it feasible to fully test 100M gate devices and maintain product quality without an explosion in test cost.

With EDA is starting to move up to the system level, will this make EDA less dependent on the semiconductor world?

Sawicki agrees that there are challenges at both the front end and back end of the electronic products design and manufacturing life cycle. Both of these opportunities are growing. In addition, developments like multi-level (3D) die packaging, through-silicon via (TSV) structures and other non-traditional techniques for device scaling are pushing system and silicon design issues closer together.

Reaching the 22nm node will require highly compute intensive EDA techniques for physical design to compensate for limitations in the manufacturing process. Beyond that, we could see a major shift to new materials and manufacturing techniques that would open new green fields for EDA in the IC implementation flow.

EDA going forward
How does Mentor see the EDA industry evolving, going forward?

Sawicki adds: "There are three key trends to watch. Firstly, for design to remain affordable at the leading edge, we need to enable radical increases in productivity. Electronic System Level (ESL) design is the key here, allowing designers to move to a new level of abstraction for both design and verification.

"Secondly, the challenges of manufacturing a well-yielding and reliable device as we move to 22nm will require a far more sophisticated physical implementation environment—one that accounts for physical effects in the design loop, and accounts for manufacturing variability in it's optimization routines.

"Finally, the manufacturing challenges also open significant opportunity for EDA in the manufacturing space. A great example of this is the September 17, 2008 announcement we did with IBM on a joint development program to enable manufacturing at the 22nm node."

Finally, given the roles already defined by Magma and Synopsys in solar, is there an opportunity for EDA in solar/PV?

According to Sawicki, as the photovoltaic devices have very simple and regular structures, most of the opportunity for EDA is not in logic design tools, but in material science, transistor-level device modeling, and manufacturing efficiencies with a focus on conversion efficiency and manufacturing cost reduction.

EDA's role in solar will be in the newer areas related to Design-for-Manufacturing and other manufacturing optimizations, he concludes.

Our last discussion on DFM will follow in a later blog post!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Building a good solar ecosystem in India

Solar/PV has been doing the rounds consistently, and has probably now become one of the most hyped sectors.

In fact, renewable energy has never ever had such a good time! As mentioned, a tremendous hype has already been built around solar photovoltaics. Several companies, in India, and elsewhere, have also jumped into the solar bandwagon.

So what are the reasons behind this 'sudden' interest in solar? According to Dr. Ashok Das, managing director, Solar Solutions, and a well know expert in this area, consumers do not yet drive the solar energy sector. Being energy, it is mostly driven by the government and its subsidies.

So, why has there been this 'sudden interest' in solar? There are two reasons.

First, the climate change issue started getting center stage at world forums, leading to policies and targets to cut global warming, and hence boosting renewable energy. Second, the soaring oil prices and continued dependence on a few countries for oil has led to the realization of the energy security.

There are several takeaways from the European experience with solar. Dr. Das says that Europe, particularly, has taken solar very seriously. They have been a leader in solar. "Germany, for instance, gave away all of the necessary subsidies to attain energy security. These subsidies have led to the solar boom. It has also led to an increased R&D to bring down the cost of solar energy."

Nevertheless, he adds there seems to be a bubble forming in this sector, like all other booms in the past. The industry will go through consolidation as the market matures.

And where does India stand in comparison? According to Dr. Das, steps are being taken to promote solar energy in India. "As of now, the feed-in tariff is Rs. 15 for photovoltaics and Rs. 12 for thermal solar. The government also announced a mandatory 5 percent renewable energy mix in the electricity production.

"The PMO (Prime Minister's Office) has also issued a National Action Plan that has plans for boosting solar. These subsidies are driving some of the increased activities in India."

He contends: "We need stronger lobbying so that better subsidies can come through. Therefore, most of the manufacturing activities in India are still driven by the export markets."

Surely, given the surge of investments in solar within India, there is every room for developing a very good ecosystem.

Dr. Das says: "Coming to the solar ecosystem, we already make solar products, as well as the modules. We also have the capability to make cells. The only part missing has been wafer, the silicon for solar.

"A few silicon factories should be coming up in India soon. So, India can easily establish the entire ecosystem for solar photovoltaics."

Postscript: More investments in solar today, in India. According to Hindu Business Line, there have been three additional investments worth Rs. 55,000 crores.

Vavasi Telegence to invest Rs 39,000 crore for solar PV and polysilicon unit; EPV Solar to invest Rs 4,000 crore for solar PV unit; and Lanco Solar to invest Rs 12,938-crore for solar PV and polysilicon unit.

A word of caution: It's advisable not to get carried away by all the success in solar. Solar is/was only part of the ecosystem units in the Indian semicon policy.

Don't forget semiconductors!

While this success in solar does augur well for the solar industry in India, don't think this is even close to what the Indian semicon policy, launched with fanfare last September, originally set out to achieve!

Despite EDA challenges, Mentor keeps faith on India

Great! All of these EDA firms, despite their current financial woes, remain strong and bullish on India! Mentor Graphics is no exception in this case!

It is well documented that the global EDA industry, along with the global semiconductor industry, has not had a smooth ride this year. However, this situation has only made both the industries work harder toward restoring some recovery.

Thanks to Veeresh Shetty, a dear friend, and Marcom Manager-Pacrim South, Mentor Graphics, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Joseph Sawicki, vice president & GM, Design to Silicon Division, Mentor Graphics Corp., during the recently held EDA Tech Forum in Bangalore.

We discussed a range of issues, such as the state of the EDA industry, Mentor's focus on India, and low-power design challenges. I did not discuss the proposed acquisition of Mentor by Cadence, as I feel it is no point in going over what was never on the cards, at least, for now.

According to Sawicki, Mentor Graphics is very optimistic about semiconductors and electronics, especially in India. "The EDA industry is currently having a pretty challenging environment. The recession in 2002 was the deepest in its history," he says.

"We (the EDA industry) haven't had the growth rates we would like. However, we have done better. We have re-invented Mentor," adds Sawicki. "We have now invested more in back-and-route ICs, which is about 40 percent of our revenue. Our product portfolio is the youngest within the company." He adds that the recession has been more in semiconductors. However, take out memory, and the scenario changes.

The drive of the semiconductor industry toward smaller and smaller features sizes requires more sophisticated correction methods to guarantee the final tolerances for the etched features in both wafer manufacturing and mask making.

Flat growth likely for EDA
Commenting on EDA industry's growth, Sawicki, adds that growth will be flat in 2008. Interestingly, the growth rate for EDA was 10 percent during the last two years. He notes: "EDA always does best when it delivers new technology. There are two reasons. One, on the manufacturing side of things. The extra results will be completely delivered by the software."

The other reason is that the aspects of manufacturing power and manageability will assume great importance. "Finally, the ESL space also provides the potential for growth. It also brings out a whole new design capability," he notes.

Given the global semiconductor scenario, Mentor is also looking at other markets outside semiconductors, especially automotive. Sawicki adds that this quarter, 20 percent of Mentor's business has been from the automotive segment.

There have been several global initiatives aimed at consolidation in the recent past. Sawicki says: "Consolidation should not be looked at as a goal. We also do acquisitions in the technology space. It augments a strong position."

So what are some of the other challenges facing the industry? Sawicki lists those as the economics of the industry itself, especially the design and verification costs.

On low power design, Sawicki agrees that there has been a transition of electronics from the US to Asia. "You have got to handle far lower power downward. We can reduce leakage current by 20-30 percent. Looking forward, how do you tie in ESL with physical design? When doing ESL, you can do architectural exploration. I will have my ESL to drive the place-and-route tool. I can get fast execution as well as low leakage power."

He advises that India has the ability to go beyond the innovation that has been happening.

Mentor in India
Mentor Graphics has three sites in India. It has R&D centers in Hyderabad and Noida, near New Delhi, and a sales and support office in Bangalore. The Hyderabad R&D center handles system design, while the Noida R&D center takes care of the front-end side, such as functional verification products.

Raghu Panicker, sales director, India, Mentor Graphics, says that the company has been very bullish on India. "We do not see any lull anywhere. Lot of design starts are happening here, in India," he adds.

I will continue my conversation with Joseph Sawicki in the next blog!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fellow bloggers, add traffic using Widgetbox Blog Network!

I've been a user of Widgetbox for quite some time now, and two of my widgets there are doing alright! So, when I came across this story on PR Newswire about the Widgetbox Blog Network, it presented me with yet another opportunity to try and reach out to a wider audience.

Of course, I am well aware that I mostly blog about semiconductors, and that this topic does not have a very large audience, nor does it rank high on popularity! Well, no problem!

Widgetbox, by the way, is said to be the world's first and largest widget community. It does offer a wide range of excellent widgets, which are essentially, floating pieces of the Internet. You embed the code of the widget (or gadget) on to your site or blog, and that's it!

Coming back to Widgetbox's Blog Network, it is said to be a federation of bloggers and online content publishers that fosters connections across the Widgetbox network through 29 vertical channels. The new channels instantly extend reach, drive traffic, increase brand awareness, and expose blogs to new readers.

Since I've been a Widgetbox member for some time, all I had to do is sign in, and click on the link adding me to the Blog Network. Users or members can browse the channels in the Widgetbox network and see the latest content from its community of leading bloggers and publishers.

The range of channels is quite extensive. It covers things like Art, Education, Food, Home & Design, Music, Politics, Television, Women, Autos, Family, GLBT, Humor, Parenting, Sports, Travel, Business, Fashion & Style, Green, Men, Pets, Tech Gadgets, Video, Celebrity, Finance & Investing, Health, Movies, Photos, Tech News and Video Games.

My blidget is registered under Tech News, and it also shows up a network blidget on my blog -- linking to other blogs displaying tech news -- which is good! Being a writer, widgets make my life much more easier. All of these widgets allow me to access all the tech news from all over the world, which I want to see, based on my own preferences.

I cannot really comment whether this new blog network will generate traffic, so I'd like to wait and watch. However, as a writer, it has always been my endeavor to write quality content, largely on semiconductors and telecom -- two of my most favorite subjects! I am also aware that semiconductors is not so popular as a traffic, and will only have a limited audience. Writing about semicon and maintaining a semicon blog is not easy, and won't be easy at any point of time!

However, all of that does not bother me! Even if a handful of friends from the global semiconductor, and telecom, industries like what I write or blog about, the effort is worth it!

To all fellow bloggers, there's absolutely no harm in trying out the Widgetbox Blog Network, folks. Best of luck, and happy blogging everyone!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Synopsys' Dr Chi-Foon Chan on India, low power design and solar

There have been reports about the troubles within the EDA industry in recent times, especially those related with quarter sales. Interestingly, Synopsys has been the one sailing along fine! If that's not enough, it made its intention known of playing a role on the solar/PV segment, an area where lot of investments have been happening!

Given this scenario, I was fortuitous enough, rather, extremely lucky to be able to get into a conversation with Dr. Chi-Foon Chan, President and Chief Operating Officer, Synopsys Inc., during his recent visit to India.

On the state of the global semiconductor industry, he said, it was somewhere now in the low 10s [well below 10 percent]. The EDA industry is currently tracking below that level. However, Synopsys has been growing at around 10 percent. He said, "The technology challenges today are very high."

Synopsys has a substantial number of R&D population based out of India. Giving his assessment of the Indian semiconductor industry, Dr. Chan added: "Our main interest in India is largely talent and the academia. India can very well get more into the product development side. Even the outsourcing of designs have increased. Our capabilities, of the Indian team, have also increased."

As with any good semiconductor ecosystem, the Indian industry also needs a proactive industry association, a role played to near perfection by the ISA (India Semiconductor Association). Acknowledging the ISA's role, Dr. Chan said, "The ISA has also formed a very cohesive team."

There is little doubt about India's growing importance in technology strengths and managerial leadership. Dr. Chan added: "We are more on the high-end side and also track what others design. In India, the profiles of designs are definitely high-end in nature. This is largely due to the presence of a large number of MNCs. A very high percentage of designs are in the 45nm and 65nm process technology nodes."

There is another significant indicator of India's growing importance, and that is the huge rise in the attendance of the SNUG. In 2000, this event attracted 180 people. However, in 2008, the SNUG attracted over 2,000 people.

Moving India to next level
Given the very high level of commitment on Synopsys' part toward India, there was a need to find out from Dr. Chan what exactly India needs to do to move to the next level in the value chain in the semiconductor ecosystem.

He advised: "India can do two to three things. One, for the system to grow, you need the government, academia and industry to grow together. India has all of the ingredients required to drive products."

Comparing India with China, he highlighted the fact that while in China, the local consumption was higher than local supply, that was not the case with India!

"Therefore, looking at merely the local market is not the only thing. Products developed here can also be targeted at the Middle East and Southeast Asia." He was quite forthright in his analysis, adding: "Industries start when you find markets. The skill sets are already present here. There can well be multiple startups."

Dr. Chan also touched upon the fab vs. fabless issue, noting that there could well be more of fabless companies in India. "Building a fab requires lot of capital. Also, consolidation will continue to happen."

What role does Dr. Chan see Synopsys playing in the Indian context? He said: "Synopsys will continue to be a catalyst for the industry. A healthy design industry in India continues to help us. We also work well with the Indian universities. Having more people from the universities will always help. We also invest a lot in application support. The application team also trains others. I now look forward to seeing more fabless companies here and India to become even more global."

On low power design
India is also a centre of expertise in low power design, given that low power is hugely important in today's electronics ecosystem. Dr. Chan commented that low power has always been the number one design issue. It cannot be taken care of at one single stage.

He added: "A slightly new concept that has emerged is low-power verification. There are so many schemes for attacking low power, such as multiple voltage islands. We (Synopsys) are spending a lot of effort in low power.

"As a designer, you require detailed analysis. Low-power verification is now coming up. Another area is testing. As an example, if so much power is required, how do you have the power cut from the tool you are using to test? From a Synopsys point of view, we are involved in several points, such as front-end synthesis, testing, sign-off, verification, etc. We are trying to put in a whole lot of methodologies."

Synopsys in solar
EDA may be able to help by lowering power requirements and leakage on better products. Especially, the Synopsys' TCAD product can be used to create more efficient and effective solar cells. Now, this is not a new development anymore. Synopsys, along with Magma, have already made known their intentions about setting foot in the solar/PV space.

On the TCAD, Dr. Chan said: "We have a very strong position in the TCAD, commercially. Now, it is one of our most critical elements in high-performance. Our TCAD is among the strongest in the EDA industry.

"In solar, it does not have to be a complicated place-and-route, etc. From an entire solar industry point of view, we have now used some effort from TCAD into this space. Heat transfer issues, etc., are more in the EDA space."

I will continue my conversation with Synopsys on its solar initiative sometime later. Keep watching this space, folks

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Magma's YieldManager could make solar 'rock'!

Make no mistake, folks! The EDA guys are getting their act together to penetrate the solar/PV segment!! Magma's YieldManager is a great example of that effort! Yes, we all know the troubles of the EDA industry as well as of the key players. However, let's not ignore this initiative from Magma!

Recently, Magma Design Automation Inc. announced the development of a new yield enhancement software system, the YieldManager software system, which is customized for solar fabs to improve conversion efficiency, increase yield and reduce the manufacturing costs of solar cells.

Magma is collaborating with Pegasus Semiconductor-Solar to refine the product specifications and test the new product, based on Magma's YieldManager.

This is an interesting development, especially from the point of view of the solar/PV industry! Even more significant is the entrance of the EDA community [the one being Synopsys] into solar/PV, a segment, which has witnessed a substantial amount of investments worldwide, and specifically, in India.

It was fun catching up with Ankush Oberai, VP, Failure Analysis Business Unit, Magma Design Automation, in Silicon Valley, to find out more about the YieldManager software system, what it can do for the solar/PV industry, and why Magma decided to venture into an 'unchartered territory'.

The first and most obvious thing, why YieldManager?

Ankush Oberoi says that in semiconductors, yield impacting parameters which are regularly monitored are mostly extrinsic, i.e., from outside, such as particles, over-exposure, under-exposure and miss-processing. In solar cells, the yield impacting parameters are mostly intrinsic, that is, something built into the solar cell material which can NOT be easily seen. Thus, a different "eye" is needed to see the solar parameters. The "eye" is the YieldManager here!!!

It would NOT be either inspection tools or litho optical proximity correction (OPC) detector. The solar cell efficiency is directly influenced by electro-physics of solar materials. A YieldManger is required to monitor any changes in those efficiency impacting parameters.

The most important parameter is the lifetime of current-generating carriers. As the solar energy generates the "hole-electron" pairs, they are collected separately as electricity.

If the solar material is "dirty" with many crystalline boundaries as in thin film solar cells, the solar generated hole-electrons get pulled into those crystalline boundaries and do not contribute to the electricity generation.

"Thus, if we can find a solar yield management system to detect the very subtle change in carrier lifetime, then we are at home with a greatest Home Run in solar cell business," he contends.

Given the EDA background, why did Magma decide on a yield management technology?

He adds that yield management technology was acquired by Magma as part of the Knights Technology acquisition in Nov 2006. Magma's Fab Business Unit (formerly, Knights Technology) is a pioneer (since 1994) in yield management for semiconductor technology.

The product is deployed and used in leading fabs around the world to help manage production wafer yield. Yield management has also been deployed for mask making and LCD productions.

It would be interesting to know how Magma's new product will allow solar fabs to better monitor all metrology, inspection and performance data throughout the manufacturing process.

Oberoi says: "For Si wafer solar cell, the most important parameter to monitor is the solar conversion efficiency impacting parameters. An example would be a carrier lifetime.

"If the carrier lifetime fluctuates more than normal, the solar Yield Manager will quickly examine all of the key data, i.e., metrology, inspection and performance data, to pinpoint out potential root-causes of the fluctuation problem."

For thin film solar cell, particles, laser cutting integrity and film thickness uniformity would be main things to monitor. Those data are quite similarly collected, as in semiconductors, and would be monitored as similar ways. The Solar Yield Manager would do well as proven in semiconductors in this case.

Next, it is important to find out how will the YieldManager enable fab operators to identify and correct root causes of solar-efficiency and yield degradation caused by subtle fab processing fluctuations or instability.

According to Oberoi, the carrier lifetime, which could be caused by various factors, is the most critical parameter to monitor for achieving and maintaining the good solar conversion efficiency.

He says: "As the Solar Yield Manager carefully monitors those factors, blindly committing ~400,000 wafers a day can be eliminated, when critical process instability starts appearing and persists. The solar conversion efficiency impacting factors could be monitored differently by different solar fabs."

Some fabs may not have capabilities to monitor those factors. The Solar Yield Manager would define those metrology and performance tool requirements, when released.

It is also interesting to learn how improving the energy conversion efficiency, reducing the manufacturing costs and increasing the yield of silicon wafer-based solar cells are critical to the growth of the solar market.

Currently, the Si wafer for solar cell costs $2~$2.5/watt due to the severe shortage of Si. The selling price of a solar cell is $3~$3.5/watt, that is, the material cost is 60~70 percent of the solar cell price.

No market or industry would prevail with the 60~70 percent material cost, adds Oberoi. Thus, every milli-watt squeezed out of a solar cell would be very critically important for proliferation of solar industry.

In order to increase the power output of a solar cell, the solar conversion efficiency must be maximized. Once maximized, sustaining the good solar efficiency is the name of the game in the solar cell manufacturing business.

The effective manufacturing cost will be drastically lowered, if bad solar cells with poor solar efficiency is minimally produced. That is, some fabs will use ~400,000 wafers a day to generate ~500 M-Watt a year, whereas some ~450,000 wafers to do the same with poorer solar efficiency.

Innovation in the solar fabrication process must be accelerated, and today, no other enterprise-wide yield enhancement software exists for solar fabs.

Oberoi says: "Solar cell is an old technology, but a very new industry, simply because not enough money was being invested. Now, money is pouring into the solar industry and products like solar Yield will start to appear. It is not known yet that anyone commercially has tried to develop a similar product."

Global estimate of solar/PV industry
There are several publications with recent estimates. The annual solar cell installation in the world: Germany ~46 percent, Japan ~23 percent, USA ~9 percent, Spain ~6 percent, Italy ~4 percent, the rest of Europe ~1 percent, the rest of Asia, including India and China ~6 percent, and the rest of world ~5 percent in 2006.

Magma is currently in the design and implementation stages of the product and plan to have version 1.0 of the product commercially available in Q1-09. The company has targeted solar fabs based in Asia that are eager for early implementation of the solar yield product.

Right then: those planning or having solar fabs! Now's the time to test that home run theory with the YieldManager.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Motion sensors driving MEMS growth

In a recent report, iSuppli predicted that driven by new demand from consumer electronics (CE) and wireless applications, the global market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) will expand to $8.8 billion in 2012, up from $6.1 billion in 2006.

I caught up with Jérémie Bouchaud, Director and Principal Analyst, MEMS, iSuppli Corp., to find out more about the dip in the fortunes of the mainstay products and the latest trends in the MEMS market, especially, the significance of consumer electronics applications such as motion sensors for gaming, laptops and DSCs, and mobile handsets.

Will the mainstay products for MEMS actuators, inkjet heads and DLP chips, will lose market share? Or, is it a slight dip?

Jérémie Bouchaud says that MEMS actuators, include inkjet and DLP, and also RF MEMS switches. While selling prices stay constant, MEMS inkjet heads are losing shipments at a rate of 6 percent per year over the forecast period, so the market grows only slightly at 0.4 percent CAGR from 2006-2012.

DLP shipments continue to grow, but price erosion is running at 10 percent CAGR, which means that the market is shrinking at close to 5 percent per year to 2012. RF MEMS switches are the one bright spot that helps the market for this type of MEMS device to recover slightly in 2012. RF MEMS switches will grow at 100 percent CAGR over this time to top $260 million in 2012.

The new wave is partly founded in the rapid rise of consumer electronics applications such as motion sensors for gaming, laptops and DSCs, and mobile handsets. How much share are these segments likely to garner?

According to the analyst, all types of sensors in wireless communications and consumer electronics (inertial, pressure, microphones, filters, oscillators etc) exceed $1,5 billion: or 17 percent of the total MEMS market.

"Specifically, the motion sensing opportunity, including accelerometers and gyroscopes, for consumer applications like MEMS accelerometers for mobile phones (e.g., image rotation such as in iPhone and Nokia phones), gaming (Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3), etc., and gyros (mostly digital still cameras and camcorders, gaming like Playstation 3) will grow at over 20 percent CAGR from 2006 to 2012 to exceed $680 million, about 8 percent of the total market," he said.

iSuppli has also mentioned automotive as a key area for MEMS. What kind of growth does it see for automotive?

Bouchaud adds that automotive will grow at 8 percent CAGR to reach $2.1 billion in 2012, up from 1,3 billion in 2006. The market is largely driven by mandates for tire pressure monitoring, electronic stability control systems and reduced emissions, accelerating growth for pressure and inertial sensors.

So, will "new players have a chance to address a relatively open market", and if yes, what would those markets be?

Bouchaud indicates that the consumer electronics market is more open than the automotive sector, which features established, long-term supply arrangements, and production cycles lasting five or more years.

CE applications are characterized by fast time-to-market and short product lifetimes. For example, mobile phones that change yearly or even more frequently, and supply agreements satisfied by fast manufacturing ramp-up and ability to meet seasonal demand spikes, and often several suppliers in the same product, (e.g. ST and ADI in Wii). As sensor specifications are more relaxed than automotive, price and footprint are most decisive.

Will there be a growth in dedicated mass production facilities then?

According to him, several large MEMS players, e.g., STMicroelectronics, Freescale and Bosch Sensortec, have or are now invested in upgrading to 8" production facilities to meet the higher demand from the consumer sector. By 2011, at least 12 companies will operate at this larger wafer size.

"Some companies like Analog Devices are at the limit of their current capacity, due to its strong automotive sensor offering, and has recently decided to work with non-MEMS CMOS foundries like TSMC, a first in the industry. UMC will also join the MEMS community, partnering with Asian Pacific Microsystems," he says.

And, how would the new entrants be investing in R&D? Will they be doing enough?

The analyst says that R&D rates run high in automotive (12-15 percent of MEMS revenues) and even higher in consumer (can be 15-20 percent). The high R&D rate is needed to sustain leading edge products in fast moving markets. Deep R&D pockets are needed, a luxury that is not available to all.

Elaborating a bit more on the market consolidation, he says: " Today, the share of the MEM revenues in the hands of the top 30 MEMS companies grew at about the same rate as the market. The markets that drive growth in MEMS are consumer electronics and automotive sensors.

"The sensors will be increasingly commoditized due to extreme price pressure in both sectors, and iSuppli expects the production of MEMS devices for these two markets to be concentrated among fewer companies in the future. One facet is manufacturers attempting economies of scale by combining sales in automotive and consumer areas, e.g. at Bosch, and in future with Freescale and ST.

"Other companies are pioneers and hold a strong market position for a relatively long time. Examples are TI with DLP chips and Knowles with MEMS microphones. We also expect more M&As in the near future to exacerbate the consolidation."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On possible Samsung-SanDisk deal; AMD's fab-lite path

Last week, the global semiconductor industry has been hearing and reading about two big speculative stories:

a) A possible acquisition of SanDisk by Samsung, and
b) A possible chance of AMD taking the fab-lite route.

First on Samsung's buyout (possible) of SanDisk! There have been rumors of a possibility of Samsung acquiring SanDisk. While it is still a possibility, it also leads to several interesting questions!

Should this deal happen, what will be the possible implications for the memory market? Will this also lead to a possible easing off on the pricing pressures on the memory supply chain? And well, what happens to the Toshiba-SanDisk alliance?

A couple of weeks back, iSuppli, had highlighted how Micron had managed to buck the weak NAND market conditions, and was closing the gap with Hynix in Q2, and that NAND recovery was likely only by H2-2009.

I managed to catch up again Nam Hyung Kim, Director & Chief Analyst, iSuppli Corp., and quizzed him on the possible acquisition of SanDisk by Samsung.

A caution: Remember, all of this is merely based on speculation!

On the possibility of Samsung's takeover of SanDisk, he says: "Samsung at least said that they consider it. Thus, it is a possible deal. But who knows!"

Kim is more forthright on the implications for the memory market, should this deal happen, and I tend to agree with him.

Consolidation inevitable; no impact on prices
The chief analyst quips: "The NAND flash market is still premature and there are too many players in flash cards, USB Flash drives, SSD, etc. The industry consolidation should be inevitable in future."

So, will this possible buyout at least ease some pricing pressures on memory supply chain? "I don't expect this deal to impact the prices. Prices will depend on suppliers' capacity plans. In the memory industry, the consolidation has never impacted the prices in a long run. (maybe, just a short-term impact). As you know, Micron acquired Lexar a few years ago, but no impact," he adds.

Is there any possibility of SanDisk delaying its production ramps and investments at two of its fabs? And, what will happen should it do so?

Nam says: "SanDisk has already said that they would delay its investment and capacity plan given difficult market condition. This is a positive sign to the market as we expect slower supply growth than expected in future. However, in a long run, consolidation won't impact the market up and down."

Negative impact likely for Toshiba?
Lastly, what happens to the SanDisk-Toshiba alliance, should the Samsung buyout of SanDisk does happen?

Nam adds: "It is negative to Toshiba. The company [Toshiba] not only loses its technology partner, but also loses its investment partner. It should be burden for Toshiba to keep investing themselves to grow its business."

Well, in SEMI's Fab Forecast Report, there is mention of how Toshiba and SanDisk are among the big spenders in fabs, in Japan. Considering that Japanese semiconductor manufacturers are more cautious, it would be interesting to see how this deal, should it happen, affects the Toshiba-SanDisk alliance.

Now, AMD goes fab-lite?
While on fabs, this brings me to the other big story of last week -- of AMD going the fab-lite route, possibly!

Magma's Rajeev Madhavan had commented some time back that fab-lite is actually good for EDA. It means more design productivity. Leading firms such as TI, NVIDIA, Broadcom, etc., are Magma's customers.

Late last year, Anil Gupta, MD, India Operations, ARM, had also commented on some other firms going fab-lite! Gupta pointed out Infineon, NXP, etc., had announced Fab-Lite strategies. Even Texas Instruments was moving to a Fab-Lite strategy. "IDMs are going to be the fabless units of today and tomorrow," he added.

So much for those who've taken the fab-lite route, and industry endorsements.

On the fab-lite subject, iSuppli's Kim will not speculate whether AMD would actually break up into into two entities: design and manufacturing, and also prefers to wait and watch.

How does fab-lite actually benefit? He comments: "Fab-lite has not been working well in the memory industry, which requires very tight control. It works, IF two companies (an IDM and a foundry) work very closely. For example, the industry leader, Samsung, produces all of the memory alone without any foundry relationship."

Watch this space, folks!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Semicon to grow 4-8pc in 2008; ASPs trending up

It has really been a tumultuous year for semiconductors, which has held up very well, despite the memory market turmoils, so far.

Just a day ago, Future Horizons reported on the June sales for semiconductors. According to Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, June's WSTS results brought both good and bad news! The good news being that the recovery momentum strengthened, with Q2 sales up 3 percent on Q1.

He says, "This was significantly better than even we dared to predict in last month's Report, despite the fact we raised eyebrows and disbelief by suggesting a 2.3 percent quarter on quarter growth."

The bad news was the Jan-May YTD WSTS numbers for standard logic (and thus, the total ICs and total SC) were revised downwards by a sizeable US$1.4 billion, a restatement that will knock 2 percentage points off the 2008 year on year growth number!

What were the reasons for the recovery momentum to have strengthened, with Q2 sales up 3 percent on Q1? Penn adds: "The first half year sales were much stronger than everyone (except us) believed. It has depresses, only by memories."

Also, the Jan-May YTD WSTS numbers for standard logic (and total ICs and total SC) were revised downward by a sizeable US$1.4 billion. Why did this happen? It is interesting to note that one company mis-reported its sales for Jan-May and corrected this reporting error in June.

Penn adds: "This often happens, but not before at this magnitude. Individual company details are secret, so we do not know who the culprit was or how the 'error' happened."

Forecast revised to 4-8 percent
Future Horizons further says in its report that the downward revision in standard logic numbers would knock 2 percentage points off the 2008 year on year growth number. On quizzing, Penn agrees: "Yes, our 'revised' forecast range is 4-8 percent. We are currently still erring on the high side of this range. More important though is the market momentum."

Memory has been a constant problem this year. iSuppli has mentioned in an earlier report that NAND recovery will be likely in H2-2009.

DRAMeXchange, in another report today, indicates a new record low for DDR 1Gb. Even Penn agrees that recovery is definitely not in sight. When do we actually get to see some recovery? He adds: "There is still over capacity, however, Q3 is typically the strongest demand quarter."

Still on memory, does Future Horizons forsee Hynix bouncing back? Penn says: "They did; in 2000-02, they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Now, they are fitter and financially strong."

ASPs were trending up earlier, and the status quo is maintained. "ASPs are still trending up, slowly, but surely. We will be commenting more on this in September's report," he adds.

Fab spends trending down
Just a few days ago, a SEMI analyst highlighted the chief reasons for decline in fab spends. Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, Senior Manager of Fab Information and Analysis at SEMI, said: "Given the weaker economic conditions globally, coupled with higher energy and commodity prices and the financial crisis, the overall outlook for semiconductor growth in 2008 is for low-single digit growth in both revenues and units. As such, device makers have responded by cutting back their capital spending and pushing out fab projects or putting them on hold."

On the status with fab spends, Penn agrees, "Those are still trending down, and will continue to do so for at least the next three quarters."

Solar not much help
There have been lot of investments happening in solar/PV. One may imagine that all of this would be helping the global semiconductor industry. So, is the spend in solar/PV really helping the industry? Penn disagrees, saying this only helps the equipment guys.

One last query, and this is regarding the smaller IDMs, 'fab-lite' IDMs, and fabless semiconductor companies. Are they growing at below average? Penn concludes: "They are mostly not. The fabless firms outgrew the market 2x in the first half of 2008."

Perhaps, here also lies a message for India!! One hopes that India does not get too carried away by all those investments in solar/PV, and focuses more on the semicon side. Semicon in India, does need concrete planning, after all!

Monday, September 1, 2008

90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI

Recently, SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International) released its World Fab Forecast report. This report mentions that projected decline in world semiconductor fab equipment spending of 20 percent is likely for 2008. However, a rebound of over 20 percent in spending is expected in 2009, driven by over 70 fab projects.

The August 2008 edition of this report lists 53 fab equipping projects and up to 21 construction projects for fabs in 2009. It is sincerely hoped that at least one of the fabs likely from the Southeast Asian region is from India!

With the help of Scott Smith Senior Manager, Public Relations, SEMI, I was able to get in touch with Christian Gregor Dieseldorff, Senior Manager of Fab Information and Analysis at SEMI, in an attempt to find out more about the decline in global fab spends, these new fabs, and how these fabs can lead a turnaround in the global semiconductor industry. Thanks Scott!

So what are the chief reasons for the decline in fab spends during 2008? According to Dieseldorff, given the weaker economic conditions globally, coupled with higher energy and commodity prices and the financial crisis, the overall outlook for semiconductor growth in 2008 is for low-single digit growth in both revenues and units. As such, device makers have responded by cutting back their capital spending and pushing out fab projects or putting them on hold.

I was keen to find out the geographic breakup of these 70 new fabs that are likely yo come up in 2009.

Dieseldorff advised that these are not 70 new fabs coming up in 2009. Rather, the numbers reflect 300mm fabs only, and is a mix of on-going and new projects for fabs equipping and fab construction projects in 2009.

For equipping 300mm fabs, SEMI expects about: Americas 8, China 5, Europe and Mideast 4, Japan 7, South Korea 11, SE Asia 3 and Taiwan 15.

For 300mm fab construction projects, SEMI expects about: Americas 3, China 2, Europe and Mideast 1, Japan 2, South Korea 3, SE Asia 2 and Taiwan 8.

What are the salient features of some of these new fabs likely to come up next year (for instance, new tech nodes)? Dieseldorff highlighted that about 90 percent of the investments are for 300mm capacity, and the amount of spending for advanced nodes, such as 65nm, is increasing.

"Also, device makers are building larger fabs, which are termed "mega fabs," so, to potentially realize a greater return based on scales of economy," he added.

How will these new fabs contribute to a better performance from the global semicon industry? This will be quite interesting to witness.

Dieseldorff said that over the past several years, demand for semiconductor devices has been quite strong, and so, the industry has had to bring on capacity to support this need, both in terms of needed capacity and technology. Even with the slower market growth in 2008, recent industry data shows healthy levels of fab capacity utilization, especially for the advanced technology generations and for 300mm manufacturing.

He added: "The expectation is that demand for semiconductors will strengthen once global economic conditions improve. So, the capacity addition that is coming online this year and the fab projects that are equipping and beginning construction in 2009 are necessary to meet the future demand."

So how will all of this affect the overall memory market (e.g., 42pc increase in share for memory)? Dieseldorff shared his thought, a fact, known well to those in the semiconductor industry, that the memory market has been battered by declining average selling prices and a condition termed by some as "profitless prosperity."

"Looking at demand forecasts specific to memory, tremendous growth is anticipated," he forecasted.

However, the manufacturers in this device segment are battling it out for market share, and the general expectation is that consolidation will continue.

Also, joint-ventures and partnerships are becoming increasingly critical in the memory sector as manufacturers seek to leverage their existing resources to meet future technology and capacity requirements.

It would be interesting to find out why Taiwan and Korea are forecasted as likely to exceed Japan in fab spend?

According to Dieseldorff, in Korea, Samsung has been and is the key spender, and as a company, it will continue to invest so to have a dominant share in the memory sector.

He said: "In 2009, our expectation is for the DRAM manufacturers in Taiwan to boost spending after cutting back this year. We expect seven new 300 mm fab lines in Taiwan to come into production over the next two years."

However, spending in Japan has been more measured and is likely to remain so. Toshiba, and its joint-venture partner, Sandisk are the big spenders in Japan, when it comes to new fab capacity. Other Japanese semiconductor manufacturers are more cautious and are focused more on technology spending.