Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mentor’s Wally Rhines on EDA industry — II

Friends, this is a continuation of my conversation with Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp., who was recently on a visit to India for the EDA Tech Forum as keynoter.

Software-to-silicon verification
Today there’s a growing focus on software-to-silicon verification, encompassing a full range of challenges that also includes embedded software, system validation and integration testing. How true?

Certainly true! The problem of hardware/software codesign and co-verification has been around a long time but, until this decade, generated less than $50million of annual EDA revenue.

Rhines said: “This decade, the market has grown rapidly and companies like Mentor have experience accelerated revenue growth in both their ESL design environments and their embedded software development tools and technology. Emulation has grown increasingly popular to verify not only hardware but to test application/embedded software.

“And, embedded software development tools, technology, RTOS, protocol stacks and LINUX middleware have all become part of the electronic product developers design environment.”

EDA in modeling and photomask correction
How and where does EDA fit into the big picture, particularly in the areas of modeling and photomask correction?

According to Rhines, for photomask correction, the EDA industry is the only provider, with two large EDA companies providing more than 90 percent of the optical proximity correction revenue.

“EDA companies have changed over the last decade due to the growth of OPC and DFM. Wafer fabs have now become major customers. Specialists in optics have joined traditional electronic design specialists at EDA companies to create the key technologies. EDA companies are now leading the way in the development of new process technology as evidenced by the IBM/Mentor joint development program at 22nm, he added.

Keeping integration density area savings compelling
Some semiconductor design companies seem to be refraining from adopting the latest process technology as it doesn’t offer compelling performance or power advantages to warrant the additional design cost.

In this regard, for how long will the integration density area savings you get by going to new nodes remain compelling?

Rhines said that advancing to new manufacturing nodes will always be attractive for some applications. However, with every generation of technology, there are some applications that don’t justify the move, at least until the new technology matures.

“While power considerations once seemed likely to slow migrations to new technologies due to leakage considerations, the developers of those processes have found ways to overcome problems so that many of the most power-sensitive portable applications, like cell phones, have aggressively moved to 40nm and will be early users of 32/28nm.

“One of the issues to watch for is whether the new generations of technology reduce the cost per gate or per bit for the largest designs, assuming the additional silicon area can be used effectively. Thus far, cost has been reduced consistently with each technology node but, especially if we are forced to move to a new illumination source for photolithography, this could change.”

22nm and sub 22nm
What does EDA need to consider when looking at 22nm and sub 22nm?

Rhines said that rhere are lots of issues and opportunities for EDA at 22nm and below.

“For example, computational lithography will challenge the most advanced algorithms for optical processing. Growth of complexity for sub-22nm chips will drive adoption of advanced functional verification capabilities that are already available from EDA companies, like intelligent testbenches, emulation, coverage-based verification and ESL transaction-based verification.

“Most importantly, place and route challenges will include some restricted design rules, as well as integration of design rule checking and lithographic rules into the router.”

Impact of process technologies
Is there any chance that the number of different silicon process technologies will shrink to a maximum of three? If yes, how will that impact EDA?

Standardization of processes helps reduce cost and minimize modeling expense for new design kits. There will always be specialty processes for analog, RF, power and other applications. For digital CMOS, a low power and a high performance option at each node seems likely to continue.

“From an EDA perspective, it would be nice to reduce the number of different design kits required to support design tools at a given technology node but the growing complexity of the kits will more than offset any reduction in work required by efficiency in the growth of the number of processes,” he added.

Working with instrument vendors
EDA companies are now also working with instrument vendors to get high-performance, high-quality products to market. Where is it all headed?

As per Rhines, the co-operation continues to expand. Examples include EDA companies working with producers of test equipment, metrology equipment, lithographic equipment and other types of manufacturing equipment to assure that variability in manufacturing processes can be correctly modeled.

3-D implementation
Is a lack of EDA tools is a bottleneck for 3-D implementation? What are EDA companies doing about this?

EDA companies all have work in progress to revamp the backend tool flows for 3-D packaging and the use of thru-silicon vias (TSV’s). Today, most stacked die are memories and most of them still use wire bonding. Recently, there have been products introduced using TSVs.

There are lots of challenges, however, in mixed logic/memory stacks to handle thermal dissipation, signal propagation delays, placement of TSV’s, etc. We are still far from an economic transition to 3-D for most designs but the EDA industry needs to stay ahead of the opportunity.

Lack of common format?
Chip and package suppliers say there are excellent point solutions for design of the chip, package and board, but they are not integrated. The lack of a common format among different EDA suppliers is a significant barrier. What’s being done on this front by EDA companies?

Rhines said that system simulation is an area of significant investment, at least for Mentor. System simulation for the aerospace, automotive and telecom infrastructure companies starts with UML, Matlab or other high level languages.

“The ability to comprehend multiple input standards at the various levels of design has been a high priority and system level design today supports a wide variety of standard inputs, from C to SPICE to VHDL-AMS, Verilog, System Verilog and VHDL, to execute electronic and mechatronic simulations.

“Support of open standards is critical to the advancement of design technology and integrated design flows. Although there are EDA companies who may, from time to time, try to drive their own proprietary formats and models, I believe the support of open standards is the route to success for both the EDA industry and its customers.”

You gotta fight for your life in EDA!
As they say, “You gotta fight for your life in EDA!” How true, as far as the EDA industry is concerned?

Rhines noted: “EDA is a competitive industry with three very large competitors and more than five hundred small ones, not including the EDA design services companies. Despite the competition, the number of EDA companies grows each year with the addition of more startups more than offsetting the number of companies acquired or going out of business.

“There are significant economies of scale in R&D for EDA so a single company leads in each major product segment, e.g. logic synthesis, physical verification, place and route, PCB design, etc., by a large margin, averaging 70 percent market share.

“Only new capabilities generate revenue growth of the EDA market; established design methodologies produce about the same amount of license and maintenance revenue each year. While none of the established EDA product segments provides any substantial revenue growth for the EDA market, each requires increasing R&D spending to extend the capability to new technologies. That makes it a very difficult business for all but the leader in each product segment. That’s why multi-vendor flows continue to be the only competitive approach to design.”

Mentor India’s role
Lastly, I quizzed him on the achievements of Mentor Graphics India so far, this year.

Mentor Graphics India provides leading edge R&D and world-class application support for our customers’ design groups. Our two R&D centers are in Noida and Hyderabad, while our customer sales and support operation is based in Bangalore.

Mentor India R&D facilities assume complete development responsibilities for product families in functional verification, emulation, modeling, logic synthesis, physical verification and cabling and wire harnesses for automotive/aerospace applications.

“Recent contributions have been development of capabilities for hardware acceleration of test benches and tools to assist in the use of System Verilog OVM for verification. In the future, Mentor India will accelerate development of verification IP,” Rhines concluded.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mentor’s Wally Rhines on global EDA industry and challenges

Thanks to Veeresh Shetty at Mentor Graphics, I was very fortunate to get into a conversation with Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp., who was recently on a visit to India for the EDA Tech Forum as keynoter.

Besides discussing the global EDA industry, the challenges it is currently facing, we also discussed industry issues such as whether the lack of EDA tools is a bottleneck for 3-D implementation, EDA in the big picture, with regard to areas such as modelling and photomask correction, and so on.

State of global EDA industry
According to Walden Rhines, 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 are the weakest periods ever reported by the EDA industry.

He said: “A substantial portion of the weakness during this period was caused by a change in revenue recognition accounting by one of the major EDA companies. Before 2008, there had only been two years of negative EDA revenue growth in history and both of those were very minor negatives (i.e., almost zero) and both of those were caused primarily by changes in revenue recognition accounting, one each by each of two major EDA companies.”

While this recession is the most precipitous drop in electronics industry history, the normal pattern of preserving most R&D spending has been maintained by most electronics companies. As a result, the decline in EDA revenue is small when compared to the decline in semiconductor industry revenue.

“As the electronics industry recovers, and its R&D spending once again comes in line with its growing revenue, the EDA industry should recover as well. Positive signs include the strength of the semiconductor sequential revenue growth in Q209 and the fact that the Q109 rate of year to year decline in EDA revenue was nearly half the rate of decline of the fourth quarter of 2008,” he added.

Tech challenges
What would be the biggest technical challenges facing the EDA industry right now? Rhines said that the largest technical challenges for the EDA industry right now are:

1) low power design (from system level through physical layout),

2) keeping up with the growing functional verification challenge (by developing new approaches including ESL, coverage based verification, emulation, intelligent testbench, hardware acceleration of test benches, assertion-based verification, etc.) and

3) dealing with manufacturing variability (through application of design-for-manufacturing techniques to design).

The conversation continues in a while… I’ll be back!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How Intel manages IT through downturn — Server and data center optimization!

Ever wondered how Intel is managing IT through the downturn — Server and data center optimization? According to Kenny Sng, data center engineering manager, Intel Technology Asia Pte Ltd, there are three key things that Intel IT does. These are:

• Internal efficiencies are critical in freeing up resources and reducing operational costs.

• Server refresh is a key strategy to ensure IT runs efficiently.

• Intel continues to look at innovation in DC operations for reducing running costs.

How can IT make a difference?

* Drive employee productivity — by way of mobile client refresh

* Drive business productivity

* Continue IT efficiencies — by way of data center and server refresh

Intel data center profile

Intel has four major groups currently driving individual data center requirements (DOME).

Design:

Support the chip design community

Design Computing: Has most of the servers in Intel

Office:

Supporting typical IT and customer services

General Purpose

Manufacturing:

Manufacturing computing supporting fabrication and assembly

FAB/ATM

Enterprise:

Enterprise applications supporting eBiz and ERP

About 80 percent of servers in Intel are in D. And, 20 percent of servers in Intel are in O, M and E, categories.

Intel IT’s approach to data center optimization

Intel’s approach is very simple — standardize, improve and optimize.

Standardize

* Supply and demand forecasting

* Processes and design specs

* Overall data center structure

All of this enables IT and consolidations, prevents unnecessary spending and ensures consistency in the overall data center structure.

Improve

* Batch processing pools via grid computing (DCV) – (D)

* Virtualization (DCU) – (O) & (E)

* Replace single core with quad-core servers

* Information Lifecycle Management

* Intel “Green” data center initiatives

* Containerized Data Centers

These go on to reduce server spending and storage/hardware expenses, Contain costs (network, power, space), simplify the environment and well, improve energy efficiency by at least 6x.

Optimize

* Close inefficient and unnecessary data centers

* Assure batch and virtualized servers are in optimal data center locations

What do these do? One, maximize data center utilization in all locations, and two, maximize server asset utilization across the world.

Data Center Balancing Act

Optimize the data center. Maximum utilization, lowest total cost! Intel generally adopts a three-pronged strategy.

Strategy 1: Data Center Optimization

Strategy 2 : Optimization + Technology

Space, floor loading, power and cooling are vital capacity components in data center utilization.

Strategy 3: Growth and location

Growth: Modular and scalable.

Locations: Hubs with local support.

Optimal efficiency: Refresh + Virtualization + Consolidation + Modularization!

“Green” data center considerations

These include:

* Air-flow management and optimization

* Economizers

* Rack level cooling

* High ambient temperature operation

* Power efficient systems

* DC power distribution

* Application productivity link

* Server power management

* Containerization (CC systems integration)

Intel IT’s server environment and refresh strategy

Office and enterprise ~105k Servers

• Currently ~20 percent utilization

Design engineering

• Grid computing

• #91 and #115 on Top 500 Supercomputer list

• ~100k Batch jobs every second, 24×7

• ~80 percent utilization

Server refresh strategy – Accelerating refresh of all servers >four-year old!

According to Kenny Sng, there is value in buying higher-end server processors. There are advantages through reduced data center space, reduced power, and lower application licenses.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cypress on Indian semicon industry trends; launches PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 architectures

Cypress Semiconductor claims to have revolutionized the embedded design space with its high performance, low power PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 programmable system-on-chip architectures.

Thanks to some great work done by my associate Usha Prasad, and Cypress’ Meghna Bhutoria, I was able to find out more about this launch in an in-depth conversation with Rajeev Mehtani, Senior Vice President, Cypress Semiconductor, India Operations. I also discussed with him, the India advantage for Cypress, as well as his views regarding the Indian semiconductor industry today.

PSoC and its benefits
Cypress’s PSoC is the world’s only programmable embedded SoC integrating configurable analog and digital peripheral functions, memory and a microcontroller on a single chip. It is a revolutionary design methodology.Source: Cypress

A number of analog and digital components are available. Then there’s an MCU. Typically, if you take an MCU, everything is fixed. In the PsoC, everything is programmable. ASIC is the end game in full programmability. For PSoC, you can immediately go on with designing the product. You can even make changes as you design. You are not paying for ASIC pricing!

The three main values a PSoC provides customers are:

Integration: The ability to integrate discrete components and reduce BoM costs, reduce manufacturing costs (PCB layout costs), and reduce power consumption with fewer devices.

Programmable Analog: The ability to integrate analog discrete components like amps, filters, ADCs, etc as well as to integrate signal conditioning.

Flexibility: The traditional benefit of programmability—ability to continuously be able to respond to change, real-time and parallel prototype/design/production of products to get to market faster.

PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 architectures
Cypress is introducing new, scalable architectures to extend the PSoC design methodology to the precision analog, programmable digital and high performance 8- to 32-bit world. The PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 architectures consist of numerous product families per architecture with hundreds of devices under each family.

The PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 architectures are powered by high performance, industry-standard processors:

* PSoC 3 architecture is based on a new, high-performance 8-bit 8051 processor with up to 33 MIPS.

* PSoC 5 architecture includes a powerful 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 processor with up to 100 DMIPS.

Features of the new PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 architectures include: programmable precision analog sub-system, programmable high-performance digital sub-system, high-performance CPU sub-systems, industry leading low power, and programmable and feature-rich I/O and clocking.

PSoC to change way embedded designers solve problems
PSoC removes the barriers designers face with fixed function MCUs. Programmable analog and digital blocks in PSoC give designers the flexibility to adapt to changing requirements quickly and easily, while designing products that specifically meet market demands.

Flexibility
We work in an environment where change is the only constant. PSoC gives designers the flexibility to:

• Add new features to the application.
• Differentiate their products.
• Makes it easy to tune and adjust their designs during debug/system bring-up.

With ASICs and traditional SoC offerings, semiconductor companies around the world offer an assortment of choices — but in the end designers still end up compromising on the system features or on the price they are willing to spend. However, with PSoC, they can optimize, rather than force these compromises and in the end get more functionality, in some cases greater than 100 percent efficiencies, at lower system costs and better power savings, to and get exactly what they need.

Let’s take an example using a typical lifecycle development model. The product marketing group identifies and defines the next big consumer electronic product that’s going to revolutionize the world. Only problem, they’re not exactly sure they fully understand what the requirements are yet but know they need to get moving in order to get the product to market quickly. So, they hand over a set of requirements to the designers who in turn identify what functional components they are going to need to deliver; rough layout, there is some early research and they are usually successfully past the architecture definition milestone in the design lifecycle.

However, as the final architecture design is reviewed and further progress is made through the other phases to get the product into production, marketing continues to clarify the requirements and the developers are expected to quickly adapt those in the design. And this adapting means complete redesigns at every stage of the process. With PSoC, designers have the means to adapt by using the programmable fabric within their device to swap out components, add or remove components and keep the design cycle moving in the right direction—all the way through to production.

Bill of materials (BoM) integration saves power, cost
PSoC doesn’t just enable adapting to change, though. It also helps reduce other components in the system or enable additional functionality that could provide key product differentiation. For example, say, a sleek new capacitive touchscreen needs to be implemented in a car using SoC as the main interface controller. However, the actual application needs to do much more than provide an interface.

It probably also needs to communicate to a primary entertainment center CPU, communicate with the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic CPU, interact with the GPS subsystems, etc. Now, the application developer can do all of these with PSoC! The PSoC can be the main communications hub between this interface and all of the other electronic vehicle subsystems, provide additional interface control by driving other I/Os. So, one PSoC unit reduces the number of components needed, increasing the profit margin. A reduction in the number of components also reduces power consumption and enables smaller form-factor designs—less PCB costs, plastics and casing, etc.

PSoC helps designers future-proof their design through the use of an adaptable design framework and maximizing the efficiency of components selected. All this enables them to develop their application at the smallest possible form factor, with the smallest power budget and with even fewer costly components—all on time for project success!

The new PSoC Creator simplifies things further by helping developers design the way they think! It has a revolutionary GUI and uniquely powerful hardware/software co-design environment. It provides a rich library of dozens of pre-configured analog and digital peripherals that can easily be dropped into the schematic design canvas and combined into powerful systems.

PSoC Creator Designer Tool
To help our customers take advantage of the new capabilities of PSoC Cypress has also introduced the PSoC Creator.

The unique, new design software enables engineers to design the way they think, using schematic-based design capture along with certified, pre-packaged peripherals to keep system creation independent of the target PSoC device.

Instead of trawling through device documentation and memorizing register maps, users simply layout the design, just as they would on paper or a whiteboard, and let the tool translate it into the PSoC configuration. With PSoC Creator, customers create designs according to application requirements, not the limitations of the target device. Re-targeting to new devices is as simple as rebuilding an application, so porting designs between PSoC devices becomes a snap, including migrating working designs seamlessly from 8- to 32-bit devices. More information and free downloads of PSoC Creator are available at www.cypress.com/go/psoccreator.

PSoC Creator combines a state-of-the-art software development IDE with a revolutionary graphical design editor to form a uniquely powerful hardware/software co-design environment. It provides a rich library of dozens of pre-configured analog and digital peripherals that can easily be dropped into the schematic design canvas and combined into powerful systems.

The tool automatically routes all on-chip signals and can even direct I/O to the optimum pins if desired. Each peripheral component is carefully parameterized so that the implementation can be optimized to fit the developer’s needs perfectly with no wasted resources. The build process generates a consistent, easily remembered set of APIs for each component that allows the software developer to control the hardware without worrying about the underlying implementation. Customized designs, and their associated APIs, can even be saved in a library for future reuse and easily shared within an organization.

Cypress also offers fully functional, free compilers with no code size limitations for both the PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 device families. The Keil CA51 Compiler for PSoC 3 and the GNU GCC-ARM Compiler for PSoC 5 are both bundled with the PSoC Creator distribution. PSoC Creator also includes a built-in debugger to support the on-chip debug and trace functionality provided in all PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 devices. Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) supported include Keil RTX51Tiny, Micrium mC/OS-II, and SEGGER emboss. The PSoC Creator is expandable so new compilers, editors and Real-Time Operating Systems can be added in the future.

PSoC’s applications in various fields
Over the last six+ years, Cypress has witnessed explosive growth with its PSoC 1 architecture and devices with over 9,000 active customers. An active PSoC customer is defined as a customer who has purchased a PSoC product within the last rolling 12-month period.

PSoC acceptance and adoption has been broadly seen across a highly diverse set of end-products from cellphones, cameras, to electronic baby buggies, to coffee makers, to network switches, to toys etc.

The unique programmable analog and digital peripherals in PSoC 3 and PSoC 5, along with new high performance 8-bit and 32-bit MCU sub-systems, enable new capabilities such as motor control, intelligent power supply and battery management, human interfaces such as CapSense touch sensing, LCD segment display, graphics control, as well as audio/voice processing, communication protocols, and much more.

These new capabilities dramatically expand the markets that PSoC can address, including industrial, medical, automotive, communications and consumer equipment. The total available market for PSoC products is now expanded to over $15 billion, spanning across 8-, 16- and 32-bit applications, as well as precision analog markets.

India advantage
Cypress has major presence in industrial, power, telecom, white goods and other consumer applications. Cypress is the leader in CapSense and USB solutions. The India market for PSoC looks promising and is picking up. The PSoC has established its presence in process control, medical and industrial automation in India market. Some emerging applications include the e-bike, in consumer gadgets and CapSense in white goods.

Taking the India advantage further, India has unique applcations such as solar, power, medical, etc. “We have been able to get the PSoC architecture designed into leading solar equipment, portable medical devices, etc. Some typical applications in the solar space are charge controllers, and portable blood pressure monitors portable blood sugar monitors, portable ECG devices in medical electronics,” said Mehtani.

PSoC allows for flexibility as well as iterations of the system design to take place at any time during the system design cycle. India is fast emerging in a number of new applications such as power, solar and portable medical. The PSoC is enabling a number of companies designing in these spaces to create new applications quickly. Some other applications where PSoC has established its presence are: process control, medical and industrial automation in the India market.

Serving the growing Indian product design market
Cypress has been increasing its presence in product designs through direct, channel resources over the years. There has been a substantial increase in engagement in last two years with the formation of global marketing and application teams in india. “We offer a wide variety of production ready reference designs, which customers can quickly ramp up in production,” he said.

Here are a few real-life examples of PSoC 1 in India:

PSoC CapSense: Front panel interface for LCD TV, High end refrigerators, medical equipments, key phones, remote controls, industrial equipments, weighing machines, etc.

Core PSoC: PSoC core value of implementing embedded system on single chip solution is implemented in India for a number of applications like process instrumentation, temperature controllers, environmental monitoring, signaling systems, flow meters, gauges, E-bikes, ECG machines, etc.

PSoC 3: So far engaged are trip unit, surge protection, power management, high end process instrumentation, medical, etc.

In consumer electronics, Cypress is working with a leading Indian house manufacturing consumer electronics equipment for CapSense applications. There will be a high end TV with CapSense soon. Cypress is also looking at designing with a lot of other Indian manufacturers in the white goods space.

Cypress on Indian semicon industry trends
The state of the Indian semiconductor industry in 2009 has been more or less the same as that of the rest of the world with Q1 and Q2 being the bottom of the cycle. Demand has however picked up in the last few months.

In general, the India semiconductor market can be characterized by dividing it into the following major parts:

* Firstly, there is the consumer driven application. This application is driven by demand for TVs, STBs, mobile phones, etc. These are typically global application where we end up either manufacturing or modifying the design to suit Indian applications. Given the good GDP growth in India this will continue to be a growth market.

* Secondly, there is the India driven applications such as inverters, solar, medical etc. Here, we have Indian companies which are competing with the rest of the world. Given that these markets are typically new we see innovation as well as good growth in these markets.

* Lastly, there a number of products, which have a lot of engineering content from India (software, firmware, IC design). This market is continuing to grow, but at a slower pace.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Social computing and sustainability @ Intel

I was very fortunate to be part of a discussion around this very theme on which, Dr Liam Keating, Director, APAC SMG IT Operations, Intel, spoke recently in Malaysia.

Intel IT’s operations environment includes 5,700 employess serving 66 IT sites in 28 countries. The team supports 83,000 employees in 150 sites. Intel has 97 data centers, globally. This number should come down further in future.

Intel also has an ~80 percent client mix to mobile, and 6,300 wireless access points. It receives 148 million e-mail messages each month and there’s also over 90 percent adoption of IM. In all, the Intel IT team also manages 18PB of storage capacity, including 989 terabytes backup data per month, as well as over 35 million telephony minutes/month. Quite mind boggling statistics, these!

According to Dr. Keating, environmental pressures are converging on the enterprise. The face of Intel’s IT workforce is also changing, simultaneously. For instance, the a “connected” Gen Y is entering the workforce and demanding new ways to work. Also, knowledge is exiting with the various retiring workers. Another factor is the consumerization of IT. Employees using newer technology at home and demand the same at work.

Enterprise social computing
Intel has a definition of the social enterprise or enterprise social computing: The next generation of online collaborative technologies and practices that people use within the enterprise to share knowledge, expertise, experiences and insight with each other.

It enables improvement of sharing, discovery and aggregation of information, helps finding experts fast, expands network and enhances career development, aids in real-time collaboration, helps share innovative ideas, and builds communities.

Enterprise social computing has become the catalyst for business transformation.

The traditional enterprise information workforce was distributed, content repository focused, corporate centered, had individual/small group wisdom, and unknown knowledge. In contrast, the social enterprise 2.0 is aggregated with user generated content, employee centered, transparent, has wisdom of crowds, people are now separated by six degrees, and there’s tacit knowledge.

Where is the business value?
One may ask: Where is the business value?

The key challenges being addressed by Intel IT include: work more effectively over time and distance; engage the Gen Y worker; connect and engage employees to make Intel feel “small” — tackle feelings of isolation; mitigate impact of a maturing workforce; and improve speed of finding relevant information and people.

The whole idea is to focus on people – and make them more effective at what they do!

The train is coming! So what are the steps to get ahead? These steps include explore-act-nurture.

Explore
– Start using the tools
– Consider the cost of inaction
– What are the silos?

Act
– If IT doesn’t act quickly, somebody else will
– Identify “low-hanging” business value
– Shop for a suite of tools, not disparate solutions
– Integrate tools into business processes
– Conduct security, risk and privacy assessment early
– Document “Terms of Use” policy that align with current code of conduct

Nurture
– Don’t deploy and walk away
– Provide training to facilitate “ways to collaborate” behavior change
– Show “what’s in it for me?”
– Leverage business partnerships

IT sustainability
The challenge lies in sustainability! Consume less resources, and emit less waste through sustainable IT practices.

IT sustainability is the study and practice of using information and computing technology resources, in a manner that supports the planet indefinitely.
Sustainability is achieved through reducing total consumption, actively reusing and recycling resources and by utilizing efficient technologies to improve performance.

Intel IT’s approach
It has been to develop a cohesive strategy that addresses consumption and waste, while creating a sense of urgency across IT. This includes: establishing roadmap and baseline measurements, set challenging goals with action plans to address sustainability, measure, monitor, and raise the bar.

An opportunity lies in data center optimization. For example, in 2004, Intel’s data center statistics were: 5.1M bops, six racks, 126 servers, 240 sq ft floor space and 48 kW power. In 2008, this became: 5.1M bops, one rack, 17 blades, 40 sq ft floor space and 6 kW power.

All of this has led to an 87 percent reduction in annual energy cost, $53K savings in energy, and 83 percent reduction in floor space.

Data center metering and monitoring
Another example is in data center metering and monitoring.

In context is a 5-year old, 5,500 sq ft data center in Asia. Its power usage effectiveness (PUE) was 1.99 in 2007. The data center was built on old design principles (24-inch raised floor, a 10-foot-high false ceiling that is not used as a return air plenum, and no hot aisle containments).

Intel IT developed a metering initiative, which established baselines and measurement goals. Energy meters were also installed. Data collection and analysis was also done (power utilization of IT and cooling equipment, and power losses). Next, the set point was increased from 19º to 23ºC. Further, the usage of humidity controls was reduced to three months a year.

What was the result of all of this? The PUE index of this data center improved from 1.99 in 2007 to 1.81 in 2008, and provided performance and financial benefits, including:
* Annual energy cost savings of $77,000 with an average load of 9,672 kWh per day.
* 10 percent improvement in operational efficiency.
* RoI justification for retrofitting the data center to further improve the rack power density by 2.8x, from 5 kW per rack to 14 kW per rack.

A similar opportunity also exists in using energy efficient Pcs. For instance, by their usage, Intel saw a greater than 17x reduction in estimated annual power consumption.

What’s next for Intel IT
According to Keating, these include:

Enlist the broad IT talent base
* Share benefits to encourage program expansion.
* Apply best-known methods (BKMs), collaborate globally.
* Leverage our results to create further initiatives.

Share a key role in product development within Intel
* Serve as a strategic partner for driving growth and delivering solutions.

Develop external strategic relationships
* Learn from outside Intel.
* Share BKMs with other industry CIOs and organizations.
* Work with industry to create next technology solutions.
* Encourage a global, collaborative community.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Intel launches Core i7-800 and i5-700 processor series

Intel has introduced the long-anticipated Intel Core i7-800 and i5-700 processor series.

Today, Tim Bailey, Director of Marketing & Consumer Sales for Intel Asia Pacific and Srinivasan Ramaprasad (Ram), Regional Marketing Manager for Consumer Client Platforms for Intel Asia Pacific presented the Intel Core i7-870 processor, the Intel Core i7-860 processor, the Intel Core i5-750 processor and the Intel Xeon 3400 series.

More details follow in a while.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dr. Robert Castellano on how to make solar a ‘hot’ sector again – 2

This is the concluding part of my conversation with Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA.

The question of adding new, additional solar capacity will always arise. Is t certain that no new additional capacity will be brought on board in 2009? Dr. Castellano said: "Actually I said 2010. Solar manufacturers are already losing money this year and the capacity utilization is 27.9 percent. Also, the days of inventory are currently 122, up from 71 days in 2008. If they continue to add new capacity, things will only worsen, exasperating the recession."

Lessons for India?
Turning our attention to India, which has lately been witnessing a lot of talks of building new capacity. According to Dr. Castellano, now is a good time to talk, as a plant will take at least a year to get into full production. By that time, prices should be stabilized and increase.

What then are the lessons to learn from all of this for the Indian solar PV industry?
He added: "What has to be weighed is the cost of making the solar panels in India versus buying the outside the country. It can take several years for a plant to be profitable. If the venture was established from money from India’s government through subsidies, it can lessen the impact of potential losses, while the plants ramp and selling prices move up to a level where production becomes profitable."

I hope this valuable piece of advice is noted by the existing players or those looking to entering the solar photovoltaics segment in India.

Bring down solar production cost per watt
Dr. Castellano had mentioned about First Solar bringing production costs down to $0.93 per watt. How many of the others are capable of matching or bettering this?

He said, for that matter, Oerlikon, expects that its lines will deliver a cost of $0.70 cents per watt by the end of 2010 and has achieved an initial conversion efficiency of 11 percent, which comes out to about 9.5 percent of stabilized efficiency.

How can manufacturers differentiate their solar products?
Another query has been, how should solar manufacturers differentiate their products and how can they do it cheaply?

Certainly, there are new avenues of manufacturing, such as CdTe from First Solar, CIGS from half a dozen manufacturers, multi-junction cells from companies such as Uni-Solar, and building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) from an increasing number of manufacturers, advised Dr. Castellano.

He said: "These technologies differentiate the companies’ products, but the proportion of wattage manufactured, while growing, is small compared to the majority of solar panels sold using traditional methods of production, i.e., a thin film on a glass substrate.

"Long life and low cost of ownership are of paramount importance if solar is to grow, particularly, if there is to be a large acceptance at the residential level. Manufacturing can introduce defects in solar cells that can result in low electron mobility (EM), electron traps and photo-degradation from UV light. These issues affect the efficiency and lifetime of solar cells and the importance of measuring electron mobility at the wafer and cell stage.

"The lifetime of minority carriers has been widely identified to be the key material parameter determining the conversion efficiency of pn-junctions in silicon solar cells. Defects in the crystal lattice reduce the charge carrier lifetime and thus limit the performance of the solar cells. Another major efficiency loss is due to impurities in the cell.

"These can be foreign atoms or molecules in the crystal lattice (including the dopant atoms), and provide sites where electrons and holes can recombine, thereby reducing the number of charged particles available to create an electrical current.

"Lehighton Electronics (Lehighton, PA) is an example of a company that has developed a variety of tools to test and measure solar wafers. One tool can measure sheet resistance and resistivity to see if there is any subsurface damage. Another system can measure minority carrier lifetimes, while a third model can find traps in solar wafers."

How to make solar hot (all over again!)?
Finally, isn't solar hot enough ? What would really make it hot (all over again)?

According to Dr Castellano, oil is now $70 a barrel [around August 23, 2009] and rising, which, to him suggests that people will start rethinking alternative energy. However, the second point about the credit market crunch remains. Who can get a loan to build a solar plant anyway? That will change once the recession is over.

He added: "Spain has not resumed its incentive program and will subsidize just 500 megawatts of solar projects this year, down sharply from 2,400 megawatts in 2008. Mainland China’s stimulus and now Taiwan’s incentives (we suspect money coming in from Mainland China) will counter the downturn in Spain and Germany.

"In the past six months we have seen somewhat of a stabilization in the worldwide economies and the share prices of solar companies ramp in recent weeks.

The passage of stimulus bills around the world will provide a ray of hope for the industry. In the US, for example, the new Stimulus Bill of 2009 changes the rules on how investment tax credits are awarded, allowing companies that are building power plants to take 30 percent of the cost as a tax break in a project's first year. This could prove vital because, in the last quarter of 2008, 10 out of 14 tax-equity providers stopped doing business in the solar market."

On SolarPA
Unknown to many in this part of the world, Dr Castellano started SolarPA, a few months ago. Providing more details, he said: "SolarPA, a company I started a few months ago, has demonstrated increases in efficiency of polycrystalline and silicon solar cells by up to 10 percent using a proprietary nanomaterial coating. Increasing the efficiency by 10 percent will automatically increase a 50MW production line to 55MW, reducing material and labor costs.

"We are looking for funding and I have been in talks with solar material and equipment manufacturers to partner for further development. We have NDAs with Applied Materials, Air Products, and Baker Mallinkdrodt, and are expecting them from Oerlikon and Ferro. These companies would develop the technology and then our joint partnership would license it to the solar manufacturers.

"Another possibility is to get investor money to develop the technology in-house, eliminating the need for the middlemen above. 1366 Technologies, for example, is developing a technology that it claims can boost multicrystalline silicon cells from 16 percent efficiency to 18 percent efficiency, thereby reducing their cost per watt, by giving the solar cells a rougher texture. The startup raised $12.4 million in 2008.

"Xerocoat developed a coating strategy that increases efficiency by 4 percent on not only a multicrystalline silicon cell but thin film cells as well. The company received $3 million in DOE funding in 2009.

To be concluded

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Top-10 solar cell suppliers in 2009: iSuppli

Friends, I recently received this list from iSuppli and hope to be speaking with the company in more detail. In the meantime, the study is reproduced here for the benefit of readers. May I also thank iSuppli and Jon Cassell.

First Solar to produce twice as much as leading crystalline solar module suppliers
EL SEGUNDO, USA: Leveraging its low-cost thin-film process, US-based First Solar Inc. is set to surpass its crystalline competitors to become the world’s largest producer of photovoltaic (PV) cells in 2009, according to iSuppli Corp.

First Solar in 2009 is set to produce 1,100 Megawatts (MW) worth of solar cells, more than double the 503MW it made in 2008. This will give First Solar nearly twice as much production of total solar cells as its nearest competitor, Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. As iSuppli noted in an Aug. 10 release, SunTech in 2009 is set to become the leader of the crystalline segment, which is a subset of the total solar cell market.

“First Solar is leveraging its cost leadership to achieve market-share leadership in the global PV solar cell business,” said Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst for iSuppli. “The company’s proprietary thin-film process is giving it an edge over the competition amid challenging solar market conditions.”

The figure presents iSuppli’s forecasted worldwide market share for all types of solar cells in 2009.

iSuppli:Forecast of Top-10 Suppliers of Solar Cells in 2009 (Ranking by Production in Megawatts (MW)Source: iSuppli, USA, Sept. 2009

“First Solar sells its products at very competitive prices, always undercutting crystalline cells,” Wicht said. “With its capability to produce cells at a cost of 89 cents per watt in the second quarter, First Solar is generating stable operating margins, while its competitors are struggling to stay profitable. Despite global oversupply of PV modules, First Solar is continuing to expand and is able to sell nearly all of its finished goods.”

Beyond low-cost production, First Solar’s success is also being driven by its well-established sales channels in Europe and its own installations for US utility projects.

First Solar will be the only company among the Top-4 solar cell suppliers able to gain market share in 2009, iSuppli predicts. The company’s portion of global solar cell MW production will rise to 12.8 percent in 2009, up from 7.5 percent in 2008. No.-2 SunTech, No.-3 Sharp and No.-4 Q-Cells — all will suffer contractions in total solar cell market share.

First Solar also holds the lowest levels of inventory in the global solar cell industry. Because of this, iSuppli expects the company to actually sell all of its production in 2009, rather than stockpiling it. With inventories throughout the PV supply chain soaring, this give First Solar a significant competitive advantage.

With 3.92GW worth of solar capacity set to be installed in 2009, First Solar’s cells will account for as much as 28 percent of the total, according to iSuppli. The company’s share will be even higher in ground installations and large rooftops, where its products find the strongest acceptance. Its share will be lower in other types of installations, such as small rooftops.

Thin-film represents a new generation of solar cell technology that is gaining acceptance worldwide. Traditional solar cells have employed crystalline material, which is relatively efficient at converting light into electricity, but also more expensive relative to thin-film. In addition to SunTech, crystalline solar-cell suppliers include Q-Cells, Sharp, Yingli and JA Solar.

In contrast, thin-film employs slim layers of materials including cadmium, tellurium, copper, amorphous, and microcrystalline silicon.

Because of its cost advantage, thin film will grow to account for 34.5 percent of worldwide solar production in terms of MW in 2013, up from 14.2 percent in 2008.

Despite the strong rise of thin-films, iSuppli doesn’t believe that the technology will surpass crystalline in the foreseeable future.

“The rise of thin-film is due to the success of First Solar and its unique thin film process,” Wicht said. “There’s no new First Solar yet on the horizon. With only one supplier, thin film’s progress will be limited.”

First Solar employs a patented process using cadmium telluride (CdTe).

I certainly hope to get into a further discussion with Dr. Henning Wicht on this list, and with him and Stefan de Haan on the top 10/20 thin film module producers, as well as crystalline cell manufacturers. Stay tuned, folks!

Global semicon sales forecast results: Cowan LRA model

Friends, carrying on with my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry, here’s the global semiconductor industry sales forecasts, by Mike Cowan. First of all, I would like to acknowledge Mike for sharing his findings and thank him for his continuous tracking of the semiconductor industry.

The just updated global S/C sales forecast estimates are based upon the recently-published July 2009 actual sales number released last Tuesday by the WSTS (posted Sept 1st on their website – wsts.org).

The table provided below summarizes the details of the latest, updated forecast numbers covering the next six quarters, that is, from 3Q09 through 4Q10, inclusively, as well as for the full years of 2009 and 2010.

As shown in the table, the latest forecast updates for years 2009 and 2010 chip sales forecast estimates both increased by +3.3 percent to $205.4 billion and $221.1 billion, respectively, compared to last month’s sales forecast estimates of $198.9 billion, and $214.9 billion, respectively.

These updated 2009 and 2010 chip sales forecast estimates correspond to yr-o-yr sales growth forecast estimates of -17.4 billion and +8.1 billion, respectively, which represent improvements compared to last month’s sales growth predictions of -20 percent and +8 percent.Source: Mike Cowan.

It should be highlighted that July 09’s actual cumulative YTD sales (of $114.82 billion) growth (compared to last July 08’s actual cum YTD sales of $148.29 billion) came in at -22.6 percent, indicating that the model is projecting an improvement relative to today’s 2009 actual YTD sales growth number, for the full year.

Remember that the model is dynamic, that is, it is recalculated each month as the year plays out; therefore today’s latest, updated full year sales growth prediction will not sit still but will evolve over the coming months.

Finally, the model also projects a sales forecast estimate for next month, namely for August, 2009. Thus August’s (actual) sales forecast estimate is projected to be $16.96 billion, which corresponds to a 3MMA sales forecast estimate of $18.38 billion as normally published by the SIA.

In addition to running his forecasting model each month, Cowan also “keep tabs” on a wide range of other S/C industry watchers (including both WSTS and SIA bi-yearly forecasts) thereby tracking what each of their respective predictions are for 2009’s sales growth (compared to 2008).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Freescale's Rich Beyer on semicon and industry trends

Here's the synopsis of the keynote address by Rich Beyer, chairman and CEO, Freescale Semiconductor at FTF India 2009, at the Hotel Leela Palace Bangalore, on September 02, 2009.Rich Beyer, chairman and CEO, Freescale Semiconductor

This year, we have 64 hours of technical training classes apart from extensive selection of Freescale and third-party demos in our Technology Lab. Since we met last year, the industry has experienced the greatest economic challenges in generations that had an unprecedented global impact, and no region has been immune from its effects.

India, Asia’s third largest economy, seems to have been less affected by the global economic slowdown, primarily because India’s economy is driven largely by domestic demand and is not as dependent on exports. Interest rate cuts and a fiscal stimulus equivalent to 7 percent of India’s GDP helped the economy grow by almost 6 percent in the first quarter of this year, making it the world’s fastest growing economy after China.

From a global perspective, the markets are stabilizing, and we hope that the worst is over. However, in order to compete effectively, businesses will need to become more efficient and more agile, at least for the next few years.

One of the core purposes of this FTF is to demonstrate our efforts and progress in providing you with the best possible solutions to help develop products and systems that enable your companies to win.

On networking
In networking, multicore processors are essential to delivering the industry-leading levels of integration, performance and energy-efficiency required for next-generation communications systems. However, testing and optimizing application software for systems based on embedded multicore processors can be a time-consuming task. To help solve this challenge, Freescale has introduced our VortiQa software, a production-ready, application-level software specifically for our multicore solutions to dramatically reduce the time needed by you, our customers, for your development tasks.

To enable rapid prototyping for our microcontrollers, we have introduced the Freescale Tower System, a modular development platform with reconfigurable hardware that enables developers to mix and match MCU and peripheral boards to save both money and months of development time through rapid prototyping and tool re-use.

Sensor toolbox
To streamline embedded designs with our acceleration, pressure or proximity sensors, Freescale has introduced the Sensor Toolbox. This is a unified set of development software, customizable plug-and-play boards and complimentary sensor algorithms to help you get the most out of your sensor-related designs.

For the past several years, we have concentrated on three major trends that we feel represent the engines of our future growth i.e. Net Effect, Health and Safety and Going Green.

India is the world’s fastest growing mobile market, and 3G high-speed transmissions of voice, video and data is seen as the next growth driver for telecom firms in India. In Health and Safety, Freescale is helping enable monitoring solutions like glucometers and insulin pumps.

Our embedded processing technologies deliver best-in-class performance with low-power consumption and integrated RF connectivity that help diabetes patients avoid acute complications like hypoglycemia and kidney failure. Real-time cardiac monitoring solutions are allowing patients with heart disease to live a life without constant fear.

Our high-performance 32-bit embedded processors, digital signal processors and digital signal controllers help provide accurate and secure portable heart monitoring solutions for those suffering from hypertension, arrhythmias and cardiac failure.

On wellness and fitness, safety
In wellness and fitness applications from pedometers to treadmills and digital bicycles are beginning to incorporate functions like calorie counters and heart rate monitors. Freescale’s microcontroller portfolio delivers one of the best price-performance ratios available for these applications.

Safety is also an extremely important trend in the world today and is the utmost requirement in the automotive market. Safety features introduced years ago like anti-lock braking, air bags and tire pressure monitoring systems are being integrated with completely new capabilities like active safety equipment that can actually help prevent accidents before they happen.

Advanced safety systems like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and radar for object detection will add embedded intelligence to the vehicle for a higher level of safety, efficiency and convenience. We will begin to see vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure wireless communications.

Embedded intelligence in the vehicle will be able to recognize traffic signs –- to maintain the proper speed limit or alert the driver about approaching stop signs. And sensors will be able to detect pedestrians around the vehicle and monitor that the driver is alert and aware.

Going Green!
Our third growth trend is Going Green. Energy is embedded in virtually every aspect of our lives energy efficient devise will make an enormous difference. The prospect of rising oil prices and global warming has intensified the demand for more fuel efficient vehicles while at the same time meeting ever-tightening standards on emissions.

In the consumer market, many countries around the world are instituting new standards to eliminate “vampire electronics”, those devices that consume a huge amount of energy even as they spend time in standby mode. The industrial sector accounts for about 37-percent of the global energy consumption. Through the use of high-efficiency motors, improved process control, automation, information processing, and robotics, we can help save the energy output equal to hundreds of coal-fired power plants.

On Indian industry
So, those are the global trends that we feel will drive our markets today and for the foreseeable future. Now I would like to talk about the growth opportunities we see here in India and provide some insights into what Freescale is doing to address these.

Automotive industry
Let’s start with the automotive industry.

India’s automotive industry has reached a pivotal moment. The rise of ultra-low cost four-wheel vehicles is expected to grow the domestic market by more than one million units by 2013.

By 2012, India is expected to account for 20 percent of the increase in global car sales, surpassing the markets in Italy and Spain. At that point, India could become the leader in small-car growth. For India to become a major player in the global automotive market, a key challenge will be to engineer cars that meet stringent international emissions and safety standards.

Freescale is uniquely positioned and strongly committed to helping develop the capabilities of the India automotive industry. We have partnered with the industry’s leading manufacturers and suppliers to help drive standards for component software and interconnectivity.

As emerging automotive markets like India continue to gain momentum, vehicles will need cost-optimized solutions that incorporate more advanced chassis and safety systems, like airbags, tire pressure monitoring systems, and electronic stability control. Freescale offers a full range of system solutions that can scale to higher performance as needed.

India’s networking infrastructure
Next, I want to talk about the growth of India’s networking infrastructure. Over the last few years, India’s telecommunications landscape has seen rapid growth. The 3G wireless spectrum will allow the transmission of voice, data and video at high speeds to mobile devices. Freescale is playing a key role in delivering the performance improvements and the cost reductions required to bring these next-generation networks to life.

We are the global leader in embedded communications processors. The ever-increasing amounts of digital data are continuing to push the need for high-speed data processing. And along with this need for speed are the increasing expectations of reliability, security and the overall quality of service.

As an industry, we have been talking about 3G technology, but 3G is just now coming into widespread adoption, and with the latest innovations in Long-Term-Evolution, or LTE, we are seeing even more broadband capability becoming available.

Freescale has played a leadership role in this infrastructure growth with our RF, communications processor and DSP technology.

Our QorIQ multicore communications platforms are providing new levels of performance and low-power consumption. These products are all based on our e500 Power Architecture cores and are designed for 45-nanometer technology.

Earlier this year, we began sampling our first dual-core QorIQ communications processor. Given the positive feedback, we are accelerating the introduction of our eight-core QorIQ processor. This device is being combined with our new six-core DSP to provide a comprehensive solution for wireless infrastructure equipment for advanced 3G and 4G systems.

Together our Starcore DSPs and QorIQ-based microprocessors in 45 nanometer technology can help reduce the bill-of-material costs in a 10 MHz LTE base station by as much as 60 percent, while simultaneously reducing power consumption by 50 percent.

On energy
More than a century after the invention of the light bulb, today’s energy grid is little different from the one envisioned by Thomas Edison 127 years ago. The smart grid will play a critical role in the development of India’s economy in the future.

India is home to more than one-point-one billion people, making it the world’s second largest population. And by 2025, India’s urban population is expected to increase by 50 percent.

The Indian government is investing heavily in new power plants, and this includes renewable sources such as wind and solar energy. However to take advantage of these new sources, there will need to be a new delivery system, or smart grid, that can handle a generation mix with a high percentage of renewable energy sources.

Smart electric meters will be one of the first steps toward establishing two-way communication between the home and the utility companies. Freescale is an industry leader in smart meter technology. We offer low-power and low-cost solutions for single-phase and three-phase meter measurement.

Our product portfolio includes microcontrollers with LCD drivers, and digital signal controllers for power modem functions, integrated ZigBee solutions for wireless communication, and accelerometers for antitamper security.

Once smart meters are deployed, building automation networks will help create an energy gateway to connect to home thermostats, smart appliances and other energy-intensive devices. Countries around the world are beginning to implement smart grid technologies to increase energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy sources that will reduce our global carbon footprint.

New category of handheld devices
There is a new category of handheld devices that deliver connectivity and convenience for an integrated multimedia experience. These include e-book digital readers that are transforming paper-bound media into connected infotainment devices, and they include the new smartbook Internet devices that are filling the gap between traditional notebook computing and smartphone communications.

These devices are driven by the common market characteristics of affordability, portability, Internet connectivity and all-day battery life. Freescale is delivering a common solution based on our i.MX multimedia application processors.

I am excited about the opportunities for growth in India, and I am constantly impressed by the innovation and ingenuity demonstrated by India’s talented engineers.

We are grateful to have the opportunity to share our product directions and tell you about the new and innovative solutions that we are bringing to the marketplace.

Let’s go make the world a smarter place.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It’s back to chip market normal abnormality: Semicon update Aug. ’09

Here are the excerpts from the Global Semiconductor Monthly Report, August 2009, provided by Malcolm Penn, chairman, founder and CEO of Future Horizons. There are a lot of charts associated with this report. Those interested to know more about this report should contact Future Horizons.

Fig. E1 shows the 12/12 worldwide monthly growth rates for IC sales in dollars, units and ASP for January 1997 to June 2009 inclusive. They need to be looked at in conjunction with the other 12/12 and rolling 12-month charts provided in the Market Summary section of this report.

June’s total semiconductor sales came in at US$19.3 billion, heralding a US$51.7 billion second quarter, up 16.9 percent on Q1-09 (down 20 percent on Q2-08). This compares with Q1-09 that was down 15.3 percent on Q4-08 (down 30 percent on Q1-08) and confirms our 2009 forecast upwards revision, reported in last month’s Report and at our July Mid-Term Industry Forecast Seminar, that the worst of the chip market recession is now over.

We can now expect a seasonally strong Q3 (albeit not too strong) of around 12 percent growth on Q2-09 (down 16 percent on Q3-08) followed by a normal year-end slowdown in Q4 at plus 3 percent (up 14 percent on Q4-08) confirming our minus 14 percent forecast for the year as a whole. At last it is now back to industry normal abnormality.

There are wild fluctuations when looked at on an individual monthly basis meaning no single month’s data is a good indicator of the underlying trends. Each month is thus just another peg in the ground, especially during a period of rapidly changing conditions.

June’s minus 25.8 percent year-on-year growth thus looks closer to our original minus 28 percent forecast for the year, rather than the minus 14 percent we reforecast last month, but this does not take into account (a) the prospective second-half-year rebound and (b) the fact we will be measuring future 12:12 growth rates against a dynamic whereby the 2009 numbers are trending up whereas the 2008 numbers were trending down, amplifying the impact of the 2009 positive monthly trends. We should start to see this upward trend kick in again with the release of July’s WSTS data.

Table E1 restates the 2009 growth by quarter for our three growth rate scenarios, reiterating our belief that minus 14 percent is still the most likely outcome, the worst-case scenario being only minus 16 percent. The forecast is thus relatively insensitive to the actual Q3/Q4 numbers (within reason).

There are still several wild cards however in play. Units are now much better aligned with real demand but ASPs are all still over the map, hardening in memories but weak in logic. So too is near-term fab capacity, with tight-geometry 300mm capacity now getting tight but ‘loose-geometry’ 200mm capacity still plentiful. This will send mixed signal on pricing over the second-half of the year, which in turn is likely to lull the industry into a false state of complacency.

The July move into positive territory of the Front-End Book-to Bill ratio may have finally broken the 34-month spell of a book-to-bill less than parity (i.e., since Sept 2006 aside from the 2 two-month blips), the actual spend numbers are still derisory in absolute terms. Spending is still currently more to do with linebalancing adjustments than capacity build out and will do nothing to alleviate the 2010 capacity shortage.

The Cap Ex billings run rate is circa $800m/month, supporting a chip sales rate of $16b/month; that is barely 5 percent of sales. So, either we have suddenly got 3x mega-efficient at building ICs (we have not) or we are building ourselves a massive capacity problem down the road (we are). The foundries (i.e., TSMC) will be the beneficiaries.

Fresh data points are now arriving each week indicating that the global electronics industry is rebounding from its 2008-09 financial meltdown. DRAM and PC sales are up with the impetus for renewed growth and recovery coming from Asia.

The IMF is currently forecasting a return to world GDP growth in 2010 at +2.5 percent, up from its +1.9 percent estimate made earlier this year, but the world could just as easily tip into a second global recession triggered either by the current sharp rise in oil prices or downstream inflation caused by the current excess liquidity and the longer-term need to increase interest rates everywhere.

Interest rate rises will hit everyone very hard indeed, especially those firms and individuals over-extended in debt, currently saved only by interest rates at near zero levels. We are thus nowhere near out of a moribund economy woods, indeed it is more likely to get worse before it gets better making a W-shaped economic recovery the most likely scenario, unless the economic balance of power has shifted to Asia as the new engine of economic growth for the 21st century.

18pc Q2 vs Q1 sequential growth… this improves 2009 To -14pc: Semicon update Jul. ’09

Here are the excerpts from the Global Semiconductor Monthly Report, July 2009, provided by Malcolm Penn, chairman, founder and CEO of Future Horizons. There are a lot of charts associated with this report. Those interested to know more about this report should contact Future Horizons.

Fig. E1 shows the 12/12 worldwide monthly growth rates for IC sales in dollars, units and ASP for January 1997 to May 2009 inclusive. They need to be looked at in conjunction with the other 12/12 and rolling 12-month charts provided in the Market Summary section of this report.

Following hot on the heels of April’s 16 percent month-on-month sales growth, May grew a further 0.9 percent sequentially (0.4 percent for ICs), putting June on track to break through the US$20 billion barrier, for the first time since the chip market collapsed last September. It would also set up Q2-09 to show 18 percent quarter on quarter growth, joining only three such precedents in the history of the industry when such a strong second-quarter growth spurt has occurred.

The big question now is: “Is this the start of the chip market recovery or a blip on the statistics radar screen?” The short answer is both, the industry’s not out of the woods yet, but the chip market will recover faster than the economy. The stage is now set for a strong market rebound in 2010-11.

We are clearly in the midst of a serious industry recession but different from all previous historical precedents. As we have counselled before, going into this recession (the 12th in the industry’s 60-year history) the industry was in structurally good shape; that is something that has rarely happened before.

In addition, while the economy clearly drives the overall market for semiconductor devices, the correlation is poor meaning chips march to their own drum not just the economic pulse. Both of these factors mean that the chip market can (and will) recover much faster than the economy as a whole.

With the benefit of hindsight, the whole world clearly over-reacted to the 14 September 2008 Lehman Bros collapse, something again with hindsight the US officials probably now regret letting happen, and the massive destocking that followed masked the underlying residual demand. For sure markets too were down but they only declined not evaporated completely. The impact on IC unit demand was a victim of this uncertainty.

Between Q4-08 and Q1-09, peak to trough unit demand fell by almost a half whereas even the worst hit markets (e.g. automotive) demand only fell 40 percent over the same time period. PCs and mobiles fell by only half that amount. We have always said a strong rebound was inevitable but this trough lasted just one month, the bounce back was immediate. It was this rebound timing that has caused us to change our forecast, hitting one quarter earlier than we had predicted in our January 2009 forecast seminar.

This inventory correction period will be over relatively soon, in fact it probably already is, but the timing is now positive in that its end will coincide with the start of the seasonally strong third quarter boom. This will help soften the inevitable slowdown in sales as chip orders now move from ‘sales = demand + inventory build’ to ‘sales = demand’ and help maintain unit demand through the end of this year, following the traditional quarterly pattern of a slow Q4-09/Q1-10 and a normal seasonal pattern thereafter driven by the overall economic recovery.

In the meanwhile, the industry’s capacity for innovation, which is always stimulated by economic recession, means it will continue to recover faster than the general economy, with the capacity (and ASP) impact of a barren Cap Ex landscape yet to kick in. Collectively the industry has not spent so little on Cap Ex since the early 1990s, when the chip market was a third the size it is today.

Fab capacity was already starting to get tight before the recession hit; had the recession not happened 2009 would have seen a return to allocation. With Cap Ex estimated to be cut back a further 50 percent this year, the industry is on course for massive capacity shortage.

If the current global economic forecasts for 2009-10 are correct, there is no way the industry can respond to demand.

Unlike the unit demand scenario, the capacity situation is likely to get worse over the next few quarters. With current Cap Ex spending at the ‘spares and maintenance’ only level, it will be mid to late September before anyone looks at this again seriously. The earliest for meaningful new orders will thus be Q4-09 by which time we should have had an '8-12 percent'' Q3 semiconductor sales growth quarter under our belts, good, but not good enough to set off the fireworks.

Q4-09 will then come in seasonally slow, adding more caution to an already overcautious foundry market, followed by a seasonally slow Q1-10 before Q2-10 kicks in to build Q3's seasonal spurt. By that time all of the spare capacity will have gone and suddenly everyone will wake up to the fact that the cupboard is bare.

This will present big challenge to the capital equipment people. Some day in the future they will suddenly get a phone-call saying, “Instead of cutting our Cap Ex by another 50 percent this quarter, we are increasing our orders by 300 percent and we want delivery immediately”.

Even if Cap Ex were doubled next year, it would only bring spending back to 2008’s derisorily low level. Yet the best growth the industry has ever managed to record was 87 percent in 2000, from US$25.5 billion to US$47.7 billion … from a position of business strength. This time around they will be asked to grow twice as fast … from a position of structural weakness. Granted the chip business is good a pulling rabbits out of hats but this is going to be one rabbit too many. It simply will not happen and capacity shortages will result.

Ironically, it is the foundries that will benefit the most from this shortage and the IDMs squeezed hardest, caught out by their lack of in-house capability and competing heavily with the top tier fabless firms, many of whom are their strongest competitors, for foundry share of mind.

This in turn leads naturally to ASPs. ASPs are a enigmatic phenomena, the most complex and least understood aspect of our business, simply because they work under the influence of so many different factors, everything from die shrinks (more chips per wafer) to the next generation devices (fewer chips per wafer) and market conditions, both investment-related and quarterly-related.

For example, ASPs always trend down in the first half of the year and up in the second half. Then there are the human factors, from price wars to buying into new markets and filling the fabs up, whatever the price. In other words ASPs are influenced by lots of simultaneous stimuli all pulling in different directions; a thick-pea soup of collision dynamic chaos.

Bottom line … the industry has been stuck in an ASP trap for the past two to three years, doing more for less, this is clearly (to us) economically unsustainable. ASPs will now trend upwards, driven by innovation and capacity shortages. That will see the industry enjoy double digit growth rates in the 2010-12 period.

Many market trends are not based on rational decisions, but emotional ones, and therefore are difficult to predict. The current market boom is both the start of the cyclical industry recovery and a statistical blip caused by a counter-reaction to the earlier industry over-reaction.

The 2009 market will still be down 14 percent on 2008 but the unknown unknowns are now abating and people are starting to feel they can focus on building their businesses rather than concentrating on survival. 2010 should see growth in the 19 percent region with 2011 in the mid- to high-20s driven by the inevitable sever capacity shortages that will start to bite home next year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Aquilonis helps you sync critical data on real time basis

Friends, this post is from my associate, Ms Usha Prasad! Read on!!

Are you looking for state-of-the-art products to run on your mobile handset, which you feel is useful in your day-to-day life. Then, Aquilonis’ suite of mobile products/solutions is the right choice for you!

Bangalore-based Aquilonis, a mobile software products and solutions company, caters to the needs of vastly popular mobile platforms such as Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian, Palm, Android, Blackberry (RIM), etc.

Most solutions developed by Aquilonis are platform agnostic and have been proven in diverse areas like healthcare, gambling, advertising, enterprise mobility, calling card, etc. Its most recent product ‘Cross-Platform Management Suite’, a software suite for Smartphone operating systems, allows users to access their phone’s features remotely that features one click data transfers.

Formed by highly experienced IT professionals interested in Offshore Mobile Application Development, Aquilonis delivers high quality innovative solutions to today’s rapidly expanding global market.

Briefing on Aquilonis’ activities and market focus, co-founder and CEO, Rahuldev Rajguru said it started off as a mobile technology focused start-up company. Aquilonis is focused into providing cutting-edge technology solutions for mobile devices ranging from independent mobile phone users to a large scale enterprise. This can be in form of standalone software or a complex system with multiple interfaces and backend server.

“Our offerings are targeted toward mass users having mobile phones as well as for organizations that use mobile phones or handheld devices effectively – either for their employees or for their operations. Aquilonis’ technology and solutions are used by diversified clients across the geography and verticals. We have also filed the patent for our technology with the US PTO.”

Diverse mobile applications
Aquilonis offers diverse mobile applications development capabilities around its platform agnostic solutions. Its solutions are designed to meet customers’ requirements, irrespective of the nature of the application or platform they are looking at.

Rahuldev said: “We have developed mobile applications for platforms such as Windows Mobile, Symbian, Blackberry, iPhone, Palm OS, J2ME and Android. These mobile applications can be healthcare solutions, medical device integration, a multimedia application, telephony and messaging solution or even an enterprise application.”

The Aquilonis’ frameworks are capable of meeting specific customer demand and are flexible enough to customize as per the needs of the customers.

Solving data synchronization issues between client (handheld) and server
According to the company, Aquilonis has developed an exhaustive platform agnostic framework to help companies synchronize their data when they extend their software offerings onto the mobile, PDAs and handhelds.

“Having studied the customer requirements in detail, we have understood the core issue majority of them are facing in terms of integrating their back end data with the mobile application. When we looked at areas like enterprise mobility, healthcare mobility, mobile force, financial industry etc., we saw that they all have a mobile application or want to offer their services or products on the mobile, he said.

Some of the challenges these sectors face are:
* Integrating the existing data structure and synchronizing the data
* Avoiding duplication of data
* Prevention of data loss at the time of losing the network connectivity of intermittent outage of data channels
* Online authentication and validation of the data
* Accuracy and efficiency in data synchronization
* Data locking while accessing similar data fields by multiple mobile devices
* Speed of data transmission especially over GPRS/EDGE
* Existing database and platform where the server is hosted – customers are usually unwilling to make any changes in the database as well as the platform
* Existing platform on which the mobile application is implemented – customers prefer to integrate the existing applications instead of migrating them to a newer platform
* Flexibility to synchronize data real time, semi-real time or batch mode – this is crucial as it is unrealistic to expect that mobile device will always be connected on the Internet
* Security of data transmission
* Security in terms of mishandling of the mobile device by unauthorized personnel.

Aquilonis framework for data synchronization handles most of the pain areas listed above very well. The server component of the framework supports technologies like – J2EE, .Net and CC++

The framework is also capable of handling the data communication either via HTTP as web request or through socket connection using TCP/IP. The mobile device component of the framework supports all major mobile platforms including, but not limited to Windows Mobile, Blackberry and iPhone.

Aquilonis’ synchronization solution
This is Aquilonis’ major offering – in fact, it is said to be the first of its kind by any India firm.Aquilonis’ synchronization framework solution.

Rahuldev said: “This innovation of synchronization solution by Aquilonis is the first of its kind by any Indian firm. The data synchronization solution between the central server and mobile phones facilitates transfer of data between mobile phones and servers of all makes. This framework helps companies who want to reduce the duration of product development life cycle with aggressive ‘go to market’ strategy with fast, accurate and efficient data synchronization between their handheld or a mobile device and their remote database server.

“If you are developing software which is mainly going to be used by the personnel in the field, then your biggest challenge is to synchronize data of multiple handheld computers or mobile handsets with your remote server either on real time basis or with a batch mode. Our framework helps you build an exclusive data funnel, which supports transaction of multiple records of same of different tables and fields synchronously with the multiple handheld of mobile clients ensuring no data corruption and highest amount of data integrity with utmost speed, accuracy and efficiency.”

The Aquilonis framework relieves users from the worry of selection of technology or switching over to a different technology than what they are currently using.

“We have a blend of re-usability which adapts to any technology you currently work on as our framework supports all popular mobile platforms listed above. On the backend/server side, we support J2EE, .Net as well as C/C++ with database as MS SQL Server 2000/2005, MySQL and Oracle. You can enable your mobile data synchronization with the server over http or TCP/IP protocols which meet your business demand.

“You can use any communication medium provided by your handheld or mobile device like GPRS, EDGE, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc. and our framework supports that as well. Virtually, we want to help our customers in reducing their “Go to Market” or “Ready for Production” cycle to a greater extent leaving behind all their worries with custom made solutions. Our framework is fully tested in the field by many of our clients, which ensures a safe and accurate data oriented business transactions at the end of the day,” he added.

The Aquilonis framework can be used (but not limited to) for the following applications:
* Field Auditors and Surveyors
* Sales Force/Field Force
* Market Research
* Online Casino and Lotto
* Healthcare and Patient Monitoring
* Content Manipulation and Delivery
* Rule based data filtering for Handheld and Mobile

Solutions for gambling and healthcare
Aquilonis offers synchronization solutions for gambling and healthcare, as well. In fact, it is doing quite well in these areas.

Rahuldev said: “The healthcare industry is moving faster towards extending the offerings to mobile devices, which includes legacy healthcare systems, patient monitoring systems, hospital management system as well as medical devices. Each of these verticals is extending its solutions offering to the mobile devices, and here again, the crux is data synchronization between the mobile device and the remote server.

“Our framework tunes itself as well as the mobile application in such a way that we deal with the existing database and the data structure of the legacy system. This allows us to take care of data security to a greater extent as we don’t create any intermediate data source for the mobile application to interact. Also, we have our custom developed protocols, which use XML as the underline markup language for secured data transmission between the server and the mobile client.

“Many gambling companies have started offering mobile-enabled or mobile-based gambling solutions. Our framework is quite useful to these companies as their requirement is to sync critical data on real time basis. At the same time, they want mobile gambling to also work on the semi-real time mode so that users are not required to have the data connection running all the time. Our framework addresses a complex requirement of syncing critical data on real time basis as well allowing user to use the remaining system on semi-real time basis.”

What else is in store?
Besides these, Aquilonis is offering diverse mobile applications which are platform agnostic. The other mobile applications are related to telephony and messaging solutions.
It also helps the advertisement and promotion management companies with multimedia delivery platform for mobile phones. The Aquilonis platform handles event-based video delivery and showcasing in order to catch user attention at the right time.

What’s ahead?
The Aquilonis Sync framework has evolved over a period of time and with customers demanding more features from it during each unique requirement of theirs.
“We plan to port the mobile client component of the framework to different mobile platforms like Android, Linux etc. Also, we are continuously adding more features and making it more and more robust even to handle unstructured data.

“Recently, we deployed the new version of our framework for one of the clients in Swaziland, whose data is quite unstructured. We implemented the whole solution without changing anything to the existing database and the data structure and still achieved 100 per cent functionality on the handheld device,” he concluded.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Indian government, solar industry interact on MNRE’s solar PV program

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had recently announced a unified solar photovoltaic (SPV) program to promote the use of decentralised SPV systems for various applications in rural/ urban areas and SPV roof top systems for diesel saving in urban areas.Source: ISA

To promote this program, the MNRE organized a one-day seminar today, in New Delhi, along with the India Semiconductor Association (ISA), and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd (IREDA), to share the modalities for the implementation of the program with the concerned stakeholders such as manufacturers of solar PV modules and equipment, system integrators, service providers, consultants, banks and financial institutions, and reputed NGOs. A government-industry interaction on the MNRE’s program was also intiated during the event.

Welcoming the delegates, Poornima Shenoy, president, ISA, stressed on the very strong partnership between the MNRE and the ISA. She added that this workshop was a first in a series of such workshops that will be held across the country. She requested the delegates to add as much value as possible to this edition, adding, “We look forward to your feedback, so that we can improve on our future programs.”

Industry-government interaction step in right direction
B.V. Naidu, chairman, ISA said that it was good to be part of a new revolution taking place in India. He added: “We have seen the success of the Indian IT industry and the Indian semiconductor design sector. That the MNRE is organizing an industry interaction on solar photovoltaics is a step in the right direction.” Naidu noted that India has all the features required for becoming a successful solar country.

Incidentally, the current installed capacity of solar PV is said to be over 400-500MW, but about 90 percent of that capacity is exported. As a case, in Germany, 4 percent of the overall power generation capacity has been generated out of solar. A lot of emphasis on solar PV also been happening in the USA and Chima.

Naidu added: “The Government of India has set an ambitious target of reaching 20GW by 2020. A lot of things need to be done in the country, and by the Indian solar PV industry. We are also looking at an equal amount of participation from the academia, so that we can look at ways of reducing costs and improving the efficiency of solar PV.

The ISA has already created the roadmap for the FabCity in Hyderabad. It is also organizing a solar conference in Hyderabad this November.

Solar to assure green technology in India
Dr B.M.S. Bist, Advisor, MNRE, said that solar PV is going to play a big role in assuring green technology in the country. A date of Nov. 14 has been set for Solar Mission Program, as already mentioned.

The MNRE’s focus has been at decentralized programs. Today, there are said to be 75MW of systems across the country. Dr. Bist added that significant targets have been set for the SPV systems. The ministry has now tried to make new schemes. These will be presented to the delegates and their views welcomed. Those views will be compiled and the ministry will revert to the industry, so both of them can march together.

Massive potential for solar PV in India
Addressing the delegates, Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director, IREDA, said the reason for the gathering today was very clear – what exists on the MNRE website is potential for renewable energy. However, it does not really highlight the potential for solar PV, which is massive!

He added: “When solar PV started about 15 years ago in India, we had small manufacturers starting in garages, etc., and who have now grown to become very large companies. It gives us a lot of hope that things can be done very well here as well. Any new technology, to begin with, is expensive. Therefore, it is the prerogative of the rich to adopt it. We all hope that we will have the volumes and the technologies that can be replicated in India.

“We look at solar from two aspects — off-grid and on-grid. We would like to see what kind of demand can we convert in the off-grid applications. In the subsequent session, we will see the steps that the ministry has taken. The policy has been made keeping the best interests of the industry. We would like to get your feedback and see how best to get the market going.”

Huge opportunity in off-grid applications
Ms Gauri Singh, IAS, joint secretary, MNRE said that the purpose of this interaction between the government and the industry is to give a loud and clear message to ind that “we would like to work with you as partners.”

She added: “A large portion of the solar mission target will come from grid connected solar power. However, the off-grid opportunity is also huge. We have tried to open up our policy slightly — and take the whole process forward by taking inputs from you — and open up the policy for suggestions. One part of the scenario is — we already have large manufacturers who can provide us solar modules. The other part — is our policy encouraging innovation.

“Now, the time is ripe where we can do only the broad technical specifications, etc., but leave the innovation and configuration of the off-grid solutions to the industry, and make it an enabling flavor.” She also called for a need to put out a third party monitoring system.

She further added that the MNRE was also working to see whether it could get the IREDA into a refinance operation with banks.

There are schemes in place, where if anyone wants to work with a bank, a lot of incentives are available to the banks. Now, the ministry would like to see incentives being given to the manufacturers.

This is an honest attempt on part of the MNRE to work closely with the industry. Hopefully, everything will go well, following this interaction as it will sow the right seeds toward reaping a full harvest — in shape of achieving the very ambitious target of the national solar mission plan!

There were presentations on the following topics as well:

* Details of the solar PV off-grid program (rooftop systems) — Dr. AK Varshney, MNRE
* Details of the solar PV off-grid program (other applications) — Dr. A. Raza, MNRE
* Financing of IREDA schemes for solar — BV Rao, IREDA

These presentations were followed by a marathon discussion between the MNRE and IREDA officials on behalf of the government of India and the members of the Indian solar photovoltaics industry.