Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top trends in cyber crimes you need to watch out for!

Here’s part two of my conversation with Gaurav Kanwal, Country Sales Manager – India, Consumer Products & Solutions, Symantec. Here, we discussed trends in cyber crimes, how users can protect themselves against malware, phishing and other attacks, and some India based statistics.

Top trends in cyber crimes
What are the trends that Symantec has been seeing in cyber crimes today? Are any new trends appearing?

According to Kanwal, today’s online thieves will stop at nothing to steal anything you’ve got: your money, your identity, even your good name. Their methods are getting more devious and sophisticated every day. Cyber criminals then sell the information on the online black market. Some trends that Symantec has recently witnessed include:

Explosion of malware variants: Significant changes in the threat landscape over the last few years have dramatically altered the distribution profile for new malware. Today, instead of a single malware strain infecting millions of machines, it is much more common to see many millions of malware strains, each targeting a handful of machines.

Advanced Web Threats: Threats are becoming increasingly sneaky and complex. New scams, such as drive-by downloads, or exploits that come from seemingly legitimate sites, can be almost impossible for the average user to detect. Before the user knows it, malicious content has been downloaded onto their computer.

Social Networks: Online social networking continues to rise in popularity due to the numerous opportunities it provides. Social networking also provides phishers with a lot more bait than they used to have. Threats can come from all sorts of avenues within a networking site. Games, links and notifications are easy starting points for phishers. As society picks up one end of the social networking stick, it inevitably picks up the security problems on the other end.

Rising Spam Levels: We may not want it, but it still keeps coming. In October 2009, about 90 percent of all email messages were spam. The overall amount does fluctuate, but on average, the levels of spam have primarily risen rather than fallen. Big headlines almost always lead to more spam, and major headlines from 2009, such as the death of Michael Jackson, the H1N1 flu outbreak and the Diwali festival are examples of this. Furthermore, according to a recent Symantec report, spam and phishing information was the 2nd most requested item on the cyber mafia’s underground economy.

Malvertisements and scareware: Cybercriminals have figured out how to deceive people by presenting counterfeit messages. Examples of this include malicious advertisements or “malvertisments,” which redirect people to malicious sites, or “scareware,” which parade as antivirus scanners and scare people into thinking that their computer is infected when that’s not the case.

To encourage users to install rogue software, cybercriminals place website ads that prey on users’ fears of security threats. These ads typically include false claims such as “If this ad is flashing, your computer may be at risk or infected,” urging the user to follow a link to scan their computer or get software to remove the threat.

According to a recent Symantec study, 93 percent of software installations for the top 50 rogue security software scams were intentionally downloaded by the user.

As of June 2009, Symantec has detected more than 250 distinct rogue security software programs. To make matters worse, some rogue software installs malicious code that puts users at risk of attack from additional threats.

Protect yourself against malware, phishing and other threats
How better can users be protected against malware, phishing and other threats?

While the threat landscape becomes increasingly dangerous, users can take several simple measures to protect themselves. Norton recommends 10 top security strategies that users should employ:

Beware of suspicious email. Scan emails before you open them. Do not launch unfamiliar executable (.exe) files or any attachments from unknown senders.

Watch your network. If you discover an infected computer on your network, disconnect all computers from your network, scan them and clean any infected computers immediately.

Patch. Upgrade. Repeat. Protect yourself by getting the latest operating system and security software updates and patches right away. Also upgrade your browsers to the latest versions as soon as they become available.

Encrypt. If you keep sensitive data on your PC—and most people do—encrypt it. The Norton IdentitySafe feature in Norton Internet Security provides easy-access storage for encrypted data.

Layer your security. Just like wearing layers better protects you from the cold, layers of security better protects your PC from the evildoers of cyberspace. Use Norton™ Internet Security 2010 and update all security programs. Also, enable browser security settings and disable file sharing.

Back it up. If you’ve got important data, back it up. There are too many ways to lose information; human error, hardware failure, accidents…the list goes on.

Shore up your weaknesses. Use a strong firewall. Update your software. Find your weaknesses and fix them. Fast!

Use strong passwords. Passwords should have at least eight characters and should combine alphanumeric and special characters ($, *, &, etc.). You should also change your passwords every 45-60 days.

Avoid spam. When it comes to malware, spam is usually where it begins. Spam not only gobbles up your valuable time, it also hogs bandwidth and storage space. Report spam if you can, use antispam software whenever possible, and create separate accounts for friends and family, and additional accounts for other online activities.

Be cautious. Do not give yourself a false sense of security by using free security software (freeware) as some of them carry malware which is designed to bait users and then up-sell them later under the promise of more robust protection – at a higher price than a paid-for solution.

Unless you have a high level of technical competency, where you are able to build your own security solution with different point products, avoid reliance on freeware to protect your online environment.

What else can be done to improve safe browsing?
In addition to the measures listed above, Be Smart. If a “friend” emails and asks for a password or other information, call or email (in a separate email) that friend to verify that they were really who contacted you. The same goes for banks and businesses.

First of all, they won’t email you asking for passwords or account numbers. If you think it might be real, call the bank or business and ask. Or visit their website. Most have an address to which you can forward suspicious emails for verification. And always remember, don’t reveal too much personal information online, because you never know who might use it against you and how.

India specific relevant stats
The Norton Online Living Report (NOLR) 2009:

* Adults in India rank the highest when it comes to not having the basic security measures; 33 percent of adults in India do not have security software.

* About one in four (24 percent) online adults sometimes shares a secret or something personal with someone online. Those in India (36 percent) are most likely to do so.

* At 63 percent, India ranks highest in the number of parents who feel it is hard for them to make rules about the Internet because it wasn’t around when they were kids.

* Due to a rapidly growing Internet infrastructure, a burgeoning broadband population and rampant software piracy, India is expected to witness increased malicious activities.

Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (XIV)
* India had the fifth highest number of broadband subscribers in the APJ region in 2008 and the third highest volume of malicious activity, with 10 percent of the regional total.

* In the APJ region, India ranked first on worms and viruses attacks prevalence chart. Nine of the top 10 malcodes found in India consisted of worms (55 percent) and viruses (15 percent) that disabled security related processes, downloaded additional threats and stole confidential information.

* According to the report, India had an average of 836 bots per day during 2008 and there were 103,812 distinct bot-infected computers observed in the country during the period. This was a staggering increase of nearly 250 percent from the previous Internet Security Threat Report.

* Among the cities in India with the highest number of bot-infected computers, Mumbai figured at the top with 37 percent followed by Chennai at 24 percent and Delhi at 7 percent. Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calcutta, Surat, Ahmedabad, Cochin and Pune too had a sizeable share of bot-infected computers.

Symantec’s Norton 2010 products use cloud based intelligence

Recently, Symantec brought a completely unique approach to online security with Norton 2010. The Norton Internet Security 2010 and Norton AntiVirus 2010 leverage a new model of security, codenamed Quorum, to attain unmatched detection of new malware and advance far beyond traditional signature and behaviour-based detection.

I managed to catch up with Gaurav Kanwal, Country Sales Manager – India, Consumer Products & Solutions, Symantec, to find out more about this release. Of course, Symantec was kind enough to share a copy of the software.

Norton 2010 products and their unique approach
Cybercrime has surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal money maker. Cybercriminals use phony emails, fake websites and online ads to steal everything you’ve got. Your money, your identity, even your reputation.

To do that, cybercriminals are furiously writing and then rewriting new and unique pieces of malware, hoping to stay under the radar of threat signatures for as long as possible. Symantec security researchers see more than 200 million attacks on average every month, the vast majority of which are never-seen-before threats and delivered via the web.

The reality is, the signature approach and other traditional methods of security are not keeping pace with the sheer number of these threats being created by online criminals. Traditional security solutions are obsolete today.

The faster, safer and smarter Norton 2010 is anything but traditional. Norton 2010 harnesses the power of millions of users united against cybercrime and gives consumers the power to ‘deny’ digital dangers and ‘allow’ a safe online experience.

Norton 2010 achieves this by leveraging a new and unique model of reputation-based security, codenamed Quorum, to attain unmatched detection of new malware and advance far beyond traditional signature and behaviour-based detection. In short, the code name Quorum takes the greatest weapon cyber criminals have in their arsenal – their ability to generate unique pieces of malware at an alarming rate – and turns that very weapon against them.

The other key and unique feature in the Norton 2010 products is the Norton Insight family of technologies, which uses extensive online intelligence systems to proactively protect the PC and keep users informed of the security and performance impact of files and applications that they encounter in their everyday online experience. The suite consists of:

Norton Download Insight – Uses extensive online intelligence systems leveraging reputation to proactively protect your PC. Analyses and reports on the safety of new files and applications before users install and run them.

Norton System Insight – Provides features and easy-to-understand system information to help keep PCs performing at top speed. Automatic and on-demand application optimisation rejuvenates application performance. Provides a view of recent events on the computer, providing the information required to research and analyze PC issues. Performance graphs help pinpoint what’s causing a computer to slow down.

Norton Threat Insight – Provides details on threats that have been detected on your PC – including useful information on where it came from (the URL) and when it was initially encountered.

Norton Insight Network – Leverages a cloud-based approach unique to Symantec. Based on the technology codenamed Quorum, it takes cloud-based security beyond traditional blacklists and whitelists. It uses a statistical analysis of file attributes based on billions of scans on millions of computers to identify the trust level of a file. This way Norton can identify files to be trustworthy or untrustworthy that would otherwise fall into the grey area of the unknown with only traditional security methods.

Additional key technologies:

SONAR 2 – Sophisticated second-generation behavioural security technology that detects entirely new threats based on their suspicious actions, without the need for traditional fingerprints. Leverages data from the reputation cloud, firewall, network communications (IPS), and file attributes such as location on the PC, origin information, etc., to decide when to detect a program as a threat.

New Antispam (Norton Internet Security only) – Powerful Enterprise-grade spam blocking engine helps keep you clear of unwanted email and safe from email-based scams and infections. 20 percent more effective than the previous engine and requires no training.

Norton Safe Web (Norton Internet Security only) – Website rating service that annotates Google, Yahoo! and search results with site safety ratings to warn users about sites that may pose a danger to them. It also includes ecommerce safety ratings to help users make safer online shopping decisions.

OnlineFamily.Norton (Norton Internet Security only) – Norton Internet Security 2010 users can opt to try a subscription to OnlineFamily.Norton, a new Web-based service that keeps parents in the loop on their kids online lives and fosters communication about what’s appropriate and inappropriate behaviour on the Internet.

Quorum -- reputation-based technology
So what's this Quorum -- the reputation based technology -- all about?

Norton 2010 products leverage a revolutionary new technology, codenamed Quorum, which uses cloud-based intelligence to identify malware in an entirely new way beyond traditional signatures and behavior-based detection. With more than 3 years in the making, the technology, codenamed Quorum, is a real-time reputation system that is unique to Norton. It tracks files and applications and dozens of attributes such as age, download source, digital signature, and prevalence.

These attributes are combined using numerous algorithms to determine a reputation. As a file is distributed across the Internet and these attributes change, the code name Quorum updates the reputation of the file. This reputation is especially important when a file is new, likely to be a threat, and traditional defenses are not likely to detect it.

The reputation-based technology, codenamed Quorum, leverages the tens of millions of users in the worldwide Norton Community Watch who choose to anonymously contribute data about the applications running on their systems.

This data is fed into a reputation engine where dozens of attributes for each file, such as age, download source, digital signature, and prevalence are combined to determine its reputation. Without ever having to ask the user, Norton can infer with an extremely high degree of accuracy the likelihood of an unknown application being good or bad.

Why is it that it’s likely that the Internet security industry will be building on technologies like Quorum for the next 10 years?

Current security solutions are designed around the fingerprinting model. This works like a “wanted” poster – warning users against dangers that have already been identified, or “fingerprinted”. However, it’s woefully inadequate when faced with new threats.

This will change however with the introduction of the new security model, codenamed Quorum, that’s found in the Norton 2010 products. The reputation- based technology takes the greatest weapon cyber criminals have in their arsenal – their ability to generate unique pieces of malware at an alarming rate – and turns that very weapon against them.

That is important because the fact is cybercriminals are now destroying lives rather than just computers. Every three seconds an identity is stolen, and 1 in 5 people becomes a victim of cyber crime.

Another reason why the industry will build on the reputation-based technology, codenamed Quorum, is that traditional security solutions – signature files and behavioural heuristics – alone, are obsolete. Cyber criminals are furiously writing and then rewriting new and unique pieces of malware – Symantec sees more than 200 million attacks on average every month.

Furthermore, these threats are polymorphic – they are able to hide because every instance changes slightly to evade detection by conventional defenses. Each change keeps the malware active, but it modifies the file’s signature and renders security vendors’ technologies (both signatures and heuristics/behaviors) all but useless against the new breed of unknown threats.

The Web also greatly eases the distribution of polymorphic threat variants since most threats today are delivered via Web-based attacks. Norton 2010 addresses these by using the reputation-based technology, codenamed Quorum, against the bad guys by making such a new file capable of being detected because of its poor, un-established reputation.

That is why the information security industry will be building on technologies like code name Quorum for the years to come.

SONAR2 technology in Norton 2010
What's this new SONAR 2 technology in Norton 2010?

The advanced SONAR 2 technology found in the Norton 2010 products is a sophisticated second-generation behavioural security technology that detects entirely new threats based on their suspicious actions, without the need for traditional fingerprints. It leverages data from the reputation cloud, firewall, network communications (IPS), and file attributes such as location on the PC, origin information, to decide when to detect a program as a threat.

SONAR 2 intelligently measures feedback across the PC to make high accuracy decisions, seamlessly switching between protection types as needed. It uses real-time, online intelligence and proactive monitoring to detect and stop new threats before traditional definitions are available.

This system can stop today’s rapid-fire attacks even before traditional signature-based definitions are available because it watches out for typical behaviors performed by malware. This technology feature makes the Norton 2010 range superior to other products in the market.

Part two of my conversation with Gaurav Kanwal will focus on trends in cyber crimes, how users can protect themselves againsy malware, phishing and other attacks, and some India based statistics.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chip industry epitaph — “It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow”: Semicon update Sep. ’09

Here are the excerpts from the Global Semiconductor Monthly Report, September 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.

July’s WSTS results showed the industry recovery is continuing to gain momentum, with total semiconductor growth down 9.6 percent versus July 2008, up from minus 25.8 percent in June 2009. This is in line with our negative 14 percent year-on-year growth rate for the whole of 2009 and our 12 percent sequential third quarter growth projection.

Indeed, these forecasts are now virtually in the bag, only a further economic meltdown of Lehman’s Brothers proportion can now derail the chip market recovery. Not that this is out of the question, given so few lessons have yet been learned and little has culturally changed in the banking and financial sectors, but at least for now the chip market recovery is in full swing.

In short, there is more upside potential to our forecasts than downside risks; it’s going to be a really lovely day tomorrow.

Let the good times roll … tomorrow’s been a long time coming!

There have been 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.

Whilst June’s minus 25.8 percent year-on-year growth looked much closer to our original minus 28 percent forecast for the year, rather than the minus 14 percent, we reforecast last month, this graph is backward looking and 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. As demonstrated by July’s results, we can now expect to see this number to trend upwards for the rest of 2009, albeit with continuing acute month-on-month fluctuations.

As can be seen, there is very little sensitivity now to the 2009 outcome, with 2009’s market coming in at around $ 215 billion.

Mathematically, a $215 billion 2009 chip market would result in a market the same size as it was in 2004, a five-year CAGR of 0.2 percent. An ideal number for the short sighted to drive nail a in the chip market ‘told you growth is over’ coffin. To mis-quote Jerry Sanders III … “Nuts”. CAGRs are notoriously flawed and should all come with ‘Numbers Can Seriously Damage Your Health’ warning. Depending on your start and finish point, you can derive any growth number you want. As shown in Figure E4, CAGRs for the industry over successive five-year periods from 1999 to 2010 vary dramatically, from 0.2 percent to 12.7 percent. Caveat Emptor.

As with all industry statistics, numbers need to be interpreted very carefully indeed, especially in an industry where the supply-side dynamics are driven by long (five year) design and investment decisions and the demand-side works on lead-times measured in months.

The reality is there is no substitute for a long-term plan with clear CEO vision and direction. History has shown sound industries are built around visionaries and leaders; falling foul only when greed and the pen pushers take control. As with life, even good businesses grow old and eventually loose momentum, giving way to the new upstarts vying for control of their chosen patch. It is never easy, however, to hand over the reins and growing old gracefully is difficult to achieve.

Even more difficult is reviving an aged organisation to compete against the new status quo. As history has shown over and over again, it is impossible to turn a company around once it has allowed itself to become ‘old’, where ‘old’ is much more an attitude of mind than physical age.

No amount of product pruning or reorganisation can downsize or rejuvenate a time-expired organisation. Better by far not to have allowed the firm to stagnate in the first place, which again points back to vision, leadership and a clear, well-executed long-term strategy. Loose sight of the direction and/or sacrifice tomorrow for today and you loose control of the company.

Despite conventional wisdom, there are more than enough chip market opportunities to fuel significant growth over the next many years, so long as you have the courage to ride the chip market ups and downs. In the words of Irving Berlin, and a song that could well have been the anthem of the chip industry …the only clear message is “It’s A Lovely Day Tomorrow”.

“It’s a lovely day tomorrow, tomorrow is a lovely day, Come and feast your tear-dimmed eyes on tomorrow’s clear blue skies, If today your heart is weary, if every little thing looks gray, Just forget your troubles and learn to say, tomorrow is a lovely day.”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rising opportunities in India’s solar PV space

SEMI India, in association with Intersolar India and partner organizations India Semiconductor Association (ISA) and Fab City, organizing SOLARCON India 2009, today held an interactive panel discussion titled, ”Rising opportunities for Solar/PV in India”.

The participants were: Sathya Prasad, president, SEMI India, BP Acharya, CMD APIIC, Sankar Rao, MD, Titan Energy Systems, SSN Prasad, VP, Solar Semiconductors, and Seshagiri Rao, India Sales Head, Oerlikon.

According to Sathya Prasad, president, SEMI India, India is abundantly endowed with solar radiation — > 300 sunny days a year and 5 trillion kWh of solar energy per year available across the land mass. “Even 0.5 percent of India’s land mass generating solar electricity can meet the entire power needs of the country in the year 2030,” he said.

India PV end market – opportunities
Several opportunities exist in the India PV end market, such as:

* Basic lighting and electrification of rural homes.
* Irrigation pump sets.
* Power backup for cellular base stations.
* Urban applications.
* Solar power plants.

Indian PV manufacturing background
India has a long history of solar/PV activity. CEL and BHEL have been around from the 1970s. Pioneering R&D work has also been done. The Indian space program was one of the early drivers. A few private companies have been in operation for ~two decades.

There has been a rising production capacity in India. This is extending from module to cell manufacturing. Also, the industry is now getting into downstream opportunities.

Today, most of the output is in exports (~70 percent).

India solar capacity targets

* Satisfy large solar local market (generation capacity)
– A few hundred MW Today
– 1000 MW by 2013
– 6000 – 7000 MW by 2017
– 20,000 MW by 2020
– 100,000 / 200,000 by 2030/2050, respectively

* Solar manufacturing capacity targets
– A few hundred MW Today
– 1000MW-1500 MW by 2012/2013
– 4000MW-5000 MW by 2017

Why is local solar/PV manufacturing important?
* Benefits of manufacturing locally in India
– Ability to scale production to meet end-demand
– Cost reduction
– Quality/reliability enhancements for local conditions
– Customization of end solutions targeted for India market

* Build competitive advantage in the long-term
* Employment creation (~100,000 over next 10 years)

Solar/PV manufacturing in India
* Govt recognition of potential of solar/PV
– Targets of 20,000 MW by 2020

* State government initiatives: Example: FabCity initiative
* Rising interest from Industry for solar/PV
– Integrated PV/solar manufacturing park
* India can provide a competitive manufacturing base for PV (cells, modules and solutions)
– Well established industrial base
– Industrial manpower available (PV training needed).

Update on solar power farms
BP Acharya, CMD, APIIC, highlighted that 5,000 acres solar power farm to set up plants at Kadiri; offer letters are being issued to AES, Lanco, Sunborne (thermal and PV) besides Titan.

Over Rs 3,000 crores in investment is envisaged of which Sunborne alone will be Rs 2,000 crores. Social infrastructure is also good, and that, the proximity to Bangalore International airport a big advantage looking at global markets. He added, “The farm will also be apt since those in FabCity have a readymade domestic market.”

Acharya said that an MoU with Fraunhofer Institute will be signed during the Solarcon India 2009 to set up a center in FabCity to help Indian companies and also facilitate better market access. It will will address certification and testing requirements besides training; is also looking at an undergraduate program; also looking at a R&D center.

He said that BHEL is the new entrant showing interest in FabCity of Rs 500 crores investment. There will soon be a draft state policy after the national solar mission.

India an emerging solar/PV leader
Sankar Rao, MD, Titan Energy Systems, said that Hyderabad based companies had achieved 6-7 GW capacity in only a few years.

Rao added, “The global PV segment has been growing at 30 percent annually for the last five years. India has been making significant progress as a player in photovoltaic modules and panel manufacturing units and stands a good chance of emerging as a global leader in solar PV technology.”

Vertically integrated base key to succeed
SSN Prasad, vice president, Solar Semiconductors, noted that India has a current manufacturing capacity of 700 MW. Vertically integrated base in India is key to succeed.

He added that according to an industry analyst, there will be 190,000 to 1.3 million in employment generation by 2018. “Innovation in financial sector is a need. Also, the solar/PV target is to achieve grid parity by 2020 in India.”

“Apart from off-grid applications such as home lighting, grid connected solar/PV farms are increasingly becoming attractive in India and will help solve the growing gap between energy supply and demand. This, coupled with adoption of new technology will drive growth of the Indian solar/PV space exponentially. We also expect more players to enter the industry in the near term enticed by the market opportunity.”

Module prices to drop to Rs 50 by end 2010
Seshagiri Rao, India Sales Manager, Oerlikon, stated: “Shortage of solar grade feedstock to grow wafers till 2008 has stimulated renewed interest in thin-film technologies and in particular amorphous silicon and microcrystalline.

“Reduction in the cost of the modules is becoming possible through increasing stabilized efficiencies and deposition rates of the materials. Current improvements in both product and manufacturing process technologies will see per module price at retail level dropping to Rs. 50 by end of 2010. Anticipating similar cost reductions in BOS spectrum, dropping of total system cost to sub Rs. 100 levels by end of 2011 is also a reality.”

The SOLARCON India 2009, will be held from Nov. 9-11 at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Excerpts from Future Horizons’ International Electronics Forum 2009 @ Geneva

Here are excerpts of some key presentations made on day 1 at the recently held International Electronics Forum 2009 (IEF 2009), in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, which was held under the auspices of the Geneva Chancellerie D’Etat & Istitut Carnot CEA LETI. I hope to be presenting full reports as well.

May I also take this opportunity to thank Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, as well as Gemma Fabian.

“Powering Out Of Recession With Innovation”’ — Maria Marced, President, Europe, TSMC

Maria Marced emphasised both investment and collaboration as a way forward for the semiconductor industry to recover from this recession. Based on the fact that every known recession has been followed by a strong recovery in demand the Taiwanese wafer foundry TSMC is expected to increase its earlier projected dollar investment plans substantially. Its new manufacturing GigaFab (Fab12-Phase4) will eventually be able to supply 150,000 wafers per month.

It will also being investing in people and will be adding 30 percent more R&D engineers to its existing 1200 worldwide and will also be adding 15 percent to its existing design technology engineers.

Maria stressed that it is innovation in our products and continued R&D that will improve semiconductor company margins. R&D costs and time-to-market can be reduced by processing equipment suppliers, IDMs and fabless companies collaborating with foundries for future success in finer geometries. TSMC has already announced that it has set up a development laboratory in a partnership with IMEC of Louvain, Belgium.

There were some questions about possible overcapacity as some plants in China were coming on line, but Maria thought differently as TSMC was already running at 90-95 percent of capacity today. There even could be a shortage of processed wafers in 2010.

“Feeding The World’s Insatiable Appetite For Memory – New Technologies, New Markets, New Applications” — Brian Harrison, President & CEO, Numonyx

Brian Harrison of Numonyx, a memory company jointly owned by STMicroelectronics and Intel, made a robust case for its latest technology Phase-Change Memory (PCM). Describing the history of non-volatile memory Brian showed its dramatic growth driven by both a continuously reduced cost-per-bit and new applications that needed its ability to support firmware that could be updated ‘down the wire’ or ‘across radio networks’.

The industries’ most recent entrant, PCM, is claimed to be a disruptive technology that will enable the next wave of innovation. In the right application it will replace both DRAM and flash memories — replacing these because of either speed, size, retention reliability or lower energy or a combination of all virtues.

Numonyx is already sampling 128Mbit 90nm product and has cost reduction 45nm process in development that is aimed at 1Gbit products. Samsung is also working on products in this field. The two companies are collaborating on package and interface standards.

“Agile Customer Support-Models For ‘More Moore” — Jean-Marc Chery, Executive VP & CTO, STMicroelectronics

Finer and finer geometries are still possible and there seems no immediate end, to the progress of process development. Jean-Marc needs a variety of processes to cater for broad application markets, that include automotive, industrial, medical and radio, so STMicroelectronics needs to maintain leads in low-power CMOS, smart power, analogue, discretes and MEMs markets.

To maintain this present agile supply chain and fund future development the company believes in growth in its own fabs in Crolles, Agrate, Tours and Catania, which gives it a key competitive differentiator. It then leverages these internal resources to deliver its business units the best price and foundry-like supply by using multiple sources.

As an example, STMicroelectronics joins European development programmes and works closely with laboratories such as CEA/LETI and other European institutes and universities. It is also involved in process development with the International Semiconductor Development Alliance (ISDA) which involves AMD, Chartered Semiconductor, IBM, Infineon, NEC, Samsung, and Toshiba. A 28nm CMOS process is being developed, which will be ready for volume production in 2010 at four sites.

What matters to Jean-Marc is keeping the ability to produce silicon subsystems for its chosen markets and this can be done either on-chip or by using 3-D integration techniques, such as stacking RF chips on top of digital CMOS within a single package. He finds these technologies important to keep in-house rather than going to an open-market foundry, although he does not rule out joint manufacturing plants with ISDA members.

“Wireless Communications & Broadband For The Upturn: Opening New Horizons” — Alain Dutheil, President & CEO, ST-Ericsson

ST-Ericsson is the fabless company created from elements from semiconductor companies STMicroelectronics and NXP and communications OEM Ericcson. It has about 8,000 staff, mostly in R&D, and has sales of about $3.6B in semiconductor products and subsystems.

Alain saw the mobile handset market fall less than others in the recession and sees broadband communications as an economic stimulant in the future. Broadband communications, which includes mobile broadband, is a key enabler of a country’s prosperity. It increases economic activity as it allows people to be better at their job, and allows increased learning and health.

People are moving from fixed broadband to mobile and this is good as the infrastructure is easier to maintain and upgrade. Next year mobile broadband usage (mobile handsets, PCs and other platforms) will overtake fixed as the mobile revolution moves forward and gives better performance than DSL.

The mobile phone is adapting better to consumer behaviour and market demand and is expected to take over many of the applications of the PC, GPS and TV. New consumers have grown up with the mobile phone and the Internet and use it naturally as a source of information and their social empowerment.

So, when LTE rolls out next year they are expected to use smart phones and other mobile connected devices as first choice over the fixed Internet option. Added to this is the quiet rise of machine–to-machine radio communication and Alain predicts 50 billion machines will be communicating in this M-to-M way in five years time.

“3D Stacking Technology & Its Application” — Nobuaki Miyakawa, Director, Honda Research Institute

High performance trends in semiconductors not only involve process improvements, but also assembly technology. Nobuako Miyakawa proposed that because of the increased impedance of the long wires used on today’s large chips and the need for mixed process technologies for RF applications 3-D stacking technologies must be brought in. This will increase frequency performance and lower power consumption.

Honda is developing a 3-D wafer-to-wafer stacking method with the low interconnection resistance of 0.7 ohm using a Through-Silicon Via (TSV) and a bump technology. Direct connectivity between the layer bumps and the TSV is now improved using only five processing steps and the yields of the chips, which are naturally smaller than using VLSI, are also higher.

3-D verses 2-D chip assembly progress in the laboratory is good and volume manufacture will be well timed for the rise in activity after the recession. All measurements on prototypes are carried out on 8-inch 180nm wafers and meet MIL STD and JEDEC reliability tests.

It is also thought that this 3-D chip technology may allow some process nodes to be skipped in the process technology roadmap.

“The Role Of Semiconductors In Cloud Computing” — Young Sohn, CEO, Inphi

Anytime/anywhere computing and communication is the driving force behind a number of high-growth semiconductor market segments. One of these is in the hardware required to speed and reduce power in servers and networks in the data centres used for ‘cloud computing’.

‘Cloud Computing’ customers do not usually own the computer hardware or infrastructure they use and so ‘time share’ or ‘pay as you go’ usage from a third-party supplier, such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft or Yahoo. Cloud computing allows user companies to avoid the large initial capital expenditure and the hiring of computer experts.

This gives a low barrier of entry to new users, which can use such cloud systems and off-the-shelf applications via a web browser. The cloud infrastructure is usually interconnected servers in data centres and these have a large bandwidth and fast and large storage.

Internet traffic is growing at 44 percent even in 2009, driven by services such as YouTube and facebook. Spend on cloud computing will be 25 percent of all incremental IT spend growth by 2012. This growth means big opportunities for high-speed hardware particularly to cope for video applications and hardware and design concepts that can reduce power in memory and processor farms.

As an example a major data centre has 70,000 server boards with a memory of 192 GB per server – so millions of dollars can be saved in energy and server cooling charges.

Young gave other examples on the impact of system speed. Amazon claims that every 100msec of latency costs them one percent in sales; Google claims that an extra 500msec of search time drops traffic by 20 percent; and a financial broker said that they could lose $4M per msec if their trading platform is 5msec behind the competition.

This market is ripe for a new generation of innovative semiconductor solutions in the energy efficiency, performance and security arena.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ST/Freescale intro 32-bit MCUs for safety critical applications

Early this month, STMicroelectronics and Freescale Semiconductor introduced a new dual-core microcontroller (MCU) family aimed at functional safety applications for car electronics.

These 32-bit devices help engineers address the challenge of applying sophisticated safety concepts to comply with current and future safety standards. The dual-core MCU family also includes features that help engineers focus on application design and simplify the challenges of safety concept development and certification.

Based on the industry-leading 32-bit Power Architecture technology, the dual-core MCU family, part-numbered SPC56EL at ST and MPC564xL at Freescale, is ideal for a wide range of automotive safety applications including electric power steering for improved vehicle efficiency, active suspension for improved dynamics and ride performance, anti-lock braking systems and radar for adaptive cruise control.

Freescale/STMicroelectronics JDP
The Freescale/STMicroelectronics joint development program (JDP) is headquartered in Munich, Germany, and jointly managed by ST and Freescale.

The JDP is accelerating innovation and development of products for the automotive market. The JDP is developing 32-bit Power Architecture MCUs manufactured on 90nm technology for an array of automotive applications: a) powertrain, b) body, c) chassis and safety, and d) instrument cluster.

STMicroelectronics’ SK Yue, said: “We are developing 32-bit MCUs based on 90nm Power Architecture technology. One unique feature — it allows customer to use dual core or single core operation. The objective of this MCU is to help customers simplify design and to also reduce the overall system cost.

On the JDP, he added: “We will have more products coming out over a period of time. This JDP is targeted toward automotive products.”

Commenting on the automotive market today, he said that from June onward, the industry has been witnessing a gradual sign of recovery coming in the automotive market.

Automotive market challenges
There has been an increasing integration and system complexity. These include:

* Increasing electrification of the vehicle (replacing traditional mechanical systems).
* Mounting costs pressure leading to integration of more functionality in a single ECU.
* Subsequent increase in use of high-performance sensor systems has driven increased MCU performance needs.

There are also increasing safety expectations. Automotive system manufacturers need to guarantee the IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASILD) system-safety capability. Also, a move from passive to active safety is increasing the number of safety functions distributed in many ECUs.

Finally, there is a continued demand for quality — in form of zero defects, by which, a 10x quality improvement is expected.

MCU family addresses market challenges
The MCU family offers exceptional integration and performance. These include: high-end 32-bit dual-issue Power Architecture cores, combined with comprehensive peripheral set in 90nm non-volatile-memory technology. It also provides a cost effective solution by reducing board size, chip count and logistics/support costs.

It also solves functional safety. The Functional Safety architecture has been specifically designed to support IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASILD) safety standards. The architecture provides redundancy checking of all computational elements to help endure the operation of safety related tasks. The unique, dual mode of operation allows customers to choose how best to address their safety requirements without compromising on performance.

The MCU also offers best-in-class quality. It is design for quality, aiming for zero defects. The test and manufacture have been aligned to lifetime warranty needs.

The MCU family addresses the challenges of applying sophisticated safety concepts to meet future safety standards. Yue added, “There are two safety standards — we are following those guidelines.” These are the IEC61508 (SIL3) and ISO26262 (ASILD) system-safety capabilities.

The automotive industry is also targeting for zero defects. “Therefore, all suppliers in tier 1 and 2 need to come up with stringent manuyfaturing and testing process that ensures zero defects,” he said.

32-bit dual-issue, dual-core MCU family
Finally, why dual core? Yue said that the MCU helps customers to achieve to achieve safety and motor control. Hence, dual core will definitely help deliver results.

“In many automotive applications, especially in safety-related applications, we want to have redundancy for safety. In the lock-step mode, two cores run the same task simultaneously, and results are then compared to each other in every computation. If the results are not matched, it indicates that there are some problems.”

This MCU family definitely simplifies design. It uses a flexible, configurable architecture that addresses both lock-step and dual parallel operation modes on a single dual-core chip. Next, it complies with safety standards.

A redundant architecture provides a compelling solution for real-time applications that require compliance with the IEC61508 SIL3 and ISO26262 ASIL-D safety standards. It also lowers the systems cost.

Dual-core architecture reduces the need for component duplication at the system level, and lowers overall system costs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top 5 high growth markets driving (semicon?) recovery, and top 10 hot and emerging technology platforms

Today, I received two wonderful reports — one, highlighting the top 5 high growth markets driving (semiconductor) recovery, and two, the top 10 hot and emerging technology platforms well poised to profoundly impact manifold sectors across the globe while offering potential high RoI for investors!

First, semiconductors! Semico Research has come up with a report that highlights the top 5 high growth segments driving growth and recovery in the semiconductor segment. For the record, 2009 is likely to see the global semiconductor industry decline by 12.5 percent. The top 5 segments according to Semico Research are:

* Netbooks
* Portable navigation devices (PNDs)
* Digital TVs
* DVD recorders
* Video game consoles

Hey, there really seems to be a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for the consumer electronics industry!

On netbooks, I think Intel needs to be given most, if not, all of the credit. Here’s what iSuppli has to say in its fast facts for Intel’s Q3 results:

* Intel also capitalized on the continued rise in demand for netbook PCs. The company dominates the netbook microprocessor market with its Atom chip. iSuppli predicts global netbook shipments will rise to 22.2 million units in 2009, up 68.5 percent from 13.2 million in 2008.

* While Atom represents only a small share of Intel’s total revenue, its profitability is disproportionately high. “Netbook microprocessors are a high-margin product because they utlilize old technology,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, compute platforms, for iSuppli. “The Atom is based on the old Pentium M microprocessor and uses a mature manufacturing process. Because of this, Intel is getting very high yields and an extremely high margin on the Atom.”

On PNDs, SatNav has recently introduced a Bluetooth enabled multifunction PND. Also, In-Stat reports that the worldwide unit shipments for PNDs will reach approximately 56 million units in 2012.

However, iSuppli has just sent out a story to me, saying that PNDs have now entered a period of slowing growth, spurring companies throughout the supply chain to re-evaluate their business models. Interesting!

As for digital TVs, according to DisplaySearch, developed markets are starting 2009 with strong growth and emerging markets are transitioning from CRT to LCD TVs faster than expected. However, plasma (PDP) TV is expected to fall about 2 percent Y/Y to 14.1 million in 2009 after strong 28 percent growth in 2008. As per iSuppli, OLED-TV revenue will likely rise by a factor of 240 by 2015—but still remain a niche. Let’s see!

DisplaySearch’s total global TV forecast is 200.4 million units in 2009, down 3 percent Y/Y, the first decline in total shipments in recent memory as the global recession and rising unemployment continue to take a toll on demand. However, the slowdown will be temporary as the worldwide economy emerges from recession and new markets enter the initial stages of the flat panel and digital TV transition.

Among DVDs, Samsung has introduced its first internal Blu-ray disc combo drive with BD-R and 8X BD-ROM read speed. Also, Flex-DVD is the latest technology in the DVD replication industry. This single layer format has the same capacity of a DVD-5 (4.7GB for standard size and 1.1GB for 3″ Mini DVD), but is half the thickness of the standard DVD.

Video game consoles — I find it quite interesting! It has been reported that the only products to see a decline in unit shipments in the second quarter were handheld video games, video game consoles, etc. Watch this market segment!

Now, to the top 10 hot and emerging technologies! According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, these are:

* Nanomaterials
* Flexible electronics
* Advanced batteries and energy storage
* Smart materials
* Green IT
* CIGS solar
* 3D integration
* Autonomous systems
* White biotech
* Lasers

Flex-DVD, above, is a great example of flexible electronics. Green IT — although a much abused term, it has certainly been on the top of the charts for quite some time now. Battery technologies and energy storage — yes, certainly. There are rightful places for CIGS solar — a point also made by Dr. Robert Castellano of The Information Network — and smart materials, as well as lasers and white biotech.

Well, what do you think folks? Do you agree with these top 5 and top 10 lists?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cowan’s LRA model’s global semiconductor sales forecast

Continuing with my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry, here’s the global semiconductor industry sales forecasts, by Mike Cowan. Here, I’d like to acknowledge Mike for sharing his findings and thank him for his continuous tracking of the semiconductor industry.

The presently updated global S/C sales forecast estimates are based upon the recently published August 2009 actual sales numbers released by the WSTS (posted on their website on Oct 6 (

The table details the latest, updated forecast numbers covering the next six quarters, that is, from 3Q09 through 4Q10, respectively, as well as for the full years of 2009 and 2010.Source: Mike Cowan

As the table shows, the latest forecast updates for years 2009 and 2010 chip sales forecast estimates both increased by +1.5 percent to $208.5 billion and $225.4 billion, respectively, compared to last month’s sales forecast estimates of $205.4 billion and $222.1 billion, respectively.

The updated 2009 and 2010 chip sales forecast estimates correspond to yr-o-yr sales growth forecast estimates of -16.1 percent and +8.1 percent, respectively, which represent a continuing improvement compared to last month’s sales growth prediction of -17.4 percent for 2009, but maintaining the status quo for 2010 at +8.1 percent.

Sources: Actuals => WSTS; Forecasts => Cowan LRA Forecasting Model (Oct 2009)

It should be highlighted that the actual cumulative YTD (through August) sales number of $133.82 billion represents a YTD sales decline of 21.3 percent relative to last year’s August actual cumulative YTD sales of $170.12 billion.

Therefore, the latest model run projects an improvement in 2009’s full year’s sales growth estimate (of -16.1 percent) relative to August’s 2009 actual cumulative YTD sales growth decline (of 21.3 percent).

Remember that the model is dynamic, that is, 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.

Additionally, the model also projects a sales forecast estimate for next month, namely for September, 2009. Thus September’s (actual) sales forecast estimate is projected to be $21.15 billion, which corresponds to a 3MMA sales forecast estimate of $19.68 billion as normally published by the SIA.

Semi Solar caters to requirements of semicon, solar industries!

One of the ‘guilty’ pleasures of blogging is that I’ve managed to make a whole lot of friends from all over the world. It is amazing to see how much of interest folks have on India, and especially on the Indian semiconductor and the Indian solar/PV industry.

Well, one such gentleman, who I recently got acquainted with over cyberspace is Mohan Chandra, president, Semi Solar Technologies, from Merrimack, NH, USA.

Mohan’s first query to me was: “Saw your blog, which came through my LinkedIn messages. How does India plan to get onto 20 GW of solar power by 2020 without support from the silicon materials industry (viz. polysilicon through to wafers)?”

Interesting! As far as I’m aware, efforts are on to build an ecosystem here in India, so this bit would surely get addressed, if it already hasn’t!

Now, being in India, it is not easy for me to get in touch with companies based in the US, especially those in the solar photovoltaics field. Therefore, I also asked Mohan to brief me a bit about Semi Solar Technologies.

According to Mohan, he started Semi Solar technologies as a consulting company to cater to the requirements around the world in the semiconductor regime, as well as the photovoltaic industry.

“The idea was to see how best to push new and better technology through to different companies operating around the world rather than to build plants, equipment, run turnkey operations or to take up manufacturing ourselves. Things have changed considerably since we first started (which was just a little over two years ago!!

“Since the requirement of our clients have been to lean on us to put up plants and to design and build equipment. In the photovoltaic industry, we have the technology to take it from metallurgical grade silicon to silicon solar cells and modules for our clients.

“This will mean the technology to manufacture hyper pure raw material, polysilicon and then to take it through crystal growing, wafering and cell manufacture. We therefore advise how to build integrated plants or just parts of the PV plant. Very few such teams are available around the world.”

Semi Solar tries to get out in the field and if a company already exists, it attempts to see how best to introduce technology to improve the production and lower the product cost, or if it a new plant, then it would implement as many new technologies as possible to get out low cost material.

As per Mohan, Semi Solar has now put together a team of physicists, chemists, chemical, electrical, electronic, software and controls engineers. Within the team, it has more than 25 patents with many in the works mostly in the silicon area.

He added: “The coming years, we will see many of this kind of activities because of the large PV projection. So, it is one that will be slowly be taken out of the hands of the few controlling manufacturers and will become more or less a small to medium business operation with severe competition.” An interesting observation, that!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

ISA delegation to UK — excellent platform for India based semiconductor/embedded design solution companies

The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) recently led a delegation to the UK from Sept. 28-Oct. 2, in association with the UKTI. The objective of this delegation was to provide a platform for Indian and UK based chip design and embedded software companies to explore opportunities for collaboration.

The first day’s highlight was a networking reception with attendees of the earlier RAE Solar Thermal Powerplants seminar, where the delegation exchanged business information.

The next day involved a trip to Bath — to the Bath Ventures Innovation Center. A networking lunch was hosted by Silicon South West — the organization that provides regular networking events and news, and national and international promotion for the South West of England’s microelectronics sector — the largest concentration of silicon designers outside of the Silicon Valley.

Following the networking lunch, the ISA delegation was introduced to the local semiconductor sector by Silicon South West. Simon Bond, founder of Silicon South West, Low Carbon South West and Mobile Innovation Camp, and Innovation Center Director for Bath Ventures, presented an overview of the semiconductor sector in the region, and the role Silicon South West and Bath Ventures, in particular, play in the evolution of the sector in the region and more widely.

Day 3 of the delegation’s visit was marked by a seminar — India: Myths and Realities. This seminar presented an opportunity for the UK and India based companies to share their views on opportunities, barriers and modes of engagement, based on personal experiences and circumstances. The seminar provided an opportunity to explore topics rarely covered in an open business debate.

Dr. Omkar Rai, Senior Director, STPI and leader of the ISA-led delegation, provided an overview of the Indian semiconductor industry. This was followed by two case studies — Choosing India, followed by Choosing the UK. A round table on “Where are the opportunities for UK-India semiconductor partnerships” whetted the appetite of the audience.

Session two featured two interesting case studies — Experiences of India, followed by Experiences of the UK. These were followed by the second round table — “How should companies engage? What should they expect in practice ?”

Session 3 started off with Was Rehman, India ICT Sector Specialist, presenting the UKTI’s Global Value Chain Program. This was followed by a case study titled “Realizing the potential of India.” Later, delegates networked over lunch, which was organized by the UKTI.

The next day, the ISA delegation proceeded to Cambridge, for the East of England International (EEI) offices. EEI is all about enabling business in the UK’s most innovative region. It also delivers UKTI’s services and products in the region, and offers a wide range of services, including developing international strategies, providing in-depth information on target markets, cultural briefings and identifying business opportunities.

The highlight of the morning session was an introduction to the East of England semiconductor sector. EEI’s presentation introduced the delegates to the region and talked about the characteristics that have led it to become a leading center technology innovation in the UK. TTP, one of the success stories of the region, also gave a perspective on the region and the sector.

Thereafter, the delegates proceeded to ARM, where they participated in Cambridge Wireless’s inaugural meeting of the Semiconductor Special Interest Group. This seminar, titled “Entrance Strategies: Resourcing Early Stage Innovation’, witnessed a host of high profile speakers, including Tudor Brown, President, ARM, who discussed and explored the challenges faced by early stage innovators, and shared experiences and success stories from industry leaders. Speakers also delivered valuable insights from potential funding sources.

The after session also gave a perfect networking platform for the ISA delegates to interact and understand the UK semicon companies. Later in the evening, the delegates travelled to Sidney Sussex College for a networking dinner. The EEI had arranged for the dinner at the last of the historic Cambridge University colleges, which dates back to 1596.

A variety of representatives of the region’s semiconductor and technology organisations and partners were present. David Riches, Chief Executive, EEI, Dr. Omkar Rai, Senior Director, STPI and Tudor Brown, President, ARM addressed the gathering during the dinner.

On day 5, The ISA delegation also travelled to the Semiconductor Physics Group and the Cambridge Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE), both located at the West Cambridge site — an important part of the future development of the University as a whole.

Later, the delegation travelled to St. John’s Innovation Center, where they had lunch and final opportunity to meet local companies and contacts interested in developing a better understanding and relationship with the Indian semiconductor industry. This was hosted by the EEI.

A round table was arranged to reflect on what had been learned during the program, and how to best capitalize on it in the short and longer term – both individually as companies and collectively as an industry.

Excellent platform, overview for Indian companies
The success of this delegation was summed up aptly by some of the members.

One member of the ISA delegation said: “The ISA UK mission provided an excellent platform for India based semiconductor/embedded design solution companies. We had a good overview on the UK’s semiconductor industry, technology initiatives and research projects.

“On the business side, I am happy to say that we had good interactions with potential customers in the UK and we hope to move onto business engagements soon.”

Another member felt that this was an excellent initiative to connect between India and the UK industries using platforms such as Silicon South West and East of England International. “It also gave me an opportunity to meet with other companies from India and showcase what they had to offer,” he added.

The meetings in Bath gave a perspective of what the UK industry has to offer regarding the semiconductor start-up companies and success stories. Also, the speakers and content of the Cambridge Wireless Semiconductor SIG was extremely well packaged. It provided insights into the business models successful Cambridge based semiconductor and fabless companies have followed.

The member further added: “The TTP case study gave an example of how Cambridge University start-ups have created a value chain for innovation and promoting start-ups. Maybe, there is something for the Indian academia and the industry to learn from.

“I feel that there is an opportunity for the UK companies to exploit India as a ‘new growth market’ by collaborating with the Indian companies. Likewise, there is a potential for the Indian companies to raise the bar and help the UK companies to successfully innovate and be competitive in the global marketplace.”

One other member added: “The meetings at UK organized by the ISA and UKTI has been very successful event in creating a platform for setting up new relationship and exploring opportunities. Indeed, it is highly constructive step for mutual understanding and benefits. It provided opportunities to get insight into various UK companies and their ecosystem.

“I am confident it would help companies to build robust partnership complementing each other. I thank the ISA and UKTI for this effort; and their role as the technology and business enabler is highly appreciated.”

The ISA delegation to the UK was led by Dr. Omkar Rai, Senior Director, Software Technology parks of India. Members of the delegation were represented from Chipwerks, CircuitSutra, CMC, KPIT Cummins, Smartplay Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services, Vayavya, Wipro and United Technologies Ltd.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My blog’s been nominated again — by Computer Weekly, UK!

Wow! It has happened again! What a relief!! I am overwhelmed!!!

For those who are unaware, during the middle of August, my original blog — — was suddenly found to be containing malware, and then, without any information, Google removed my blog. That was really devastating!

Not knowing what to do, I quickly rolled out a fresh blog – — only to find out two days later that it also had malware, and subsequently, Google blocked it too!

Despite mails and requests, nothing happened, and none of the two blogs were returned!

If this alone wasn’t enough, five of my other blogs — on telecom, semiconductors, components, solar and electronics — were marked as spam blogs! All of this, within a space of one week, as though someone, somewhere was out to get me! Rather, remove me from cyberspace, so it seemed!

It was only then, that I moved everything to WordPress — and hence, really came into being. It had been around since 2007, but I only re-activated it when I was literally forced to move my blogspot posts to wordpress.

Not only did I lose traffic, there were lots of emails and messages from folks who were followers of my earlier blog!

Today afternoon, after returning from meetings, I get a mail from Computer Weekly, UK, with this message:

Congratulations, you’ve been nominated for an Award! You are now entered for a Computer Weekly Blog Award, under the category of IT Consultant and Analyst.

I was also pointed to a link:


Download your badge here:

This is just the first stage on your way to winning. The awards will be judged by readers of Computer Weekly and users of, so start building up support right now – brag about your nomination on your site by downloading a Blog Awards badge onto your homepage.

I tried adding the badge to WordPress, but for some reason it does not appear. So, I’ve added a jpeg image above. also left this message for me: Check out Computer Weekly and on 27th October to see if you’ve been shortlisted. Voting for shortlisted entries will open on 27th October.

Save the date!

All shortlisted bloggers and tweeters will be invited to our Awards evening on 25th November 2009 at London’s exclusive Shoreditch House. More details to follow in your shortlisted announcement.

Irrespective of my blog getting shortlisted and whether I win this time or not, it is a relief to know that folks still like my blog.

Friends, August 2009 was a testing month with my blogs either getting knocked out or blocked. Three great friends, particularly, Usha Prasad, Sagar Desai and Jo Kuo, along with my family, stood right by me at all times during those testing times!

Scott Weitzman left a lovely message, Poornima Shenoy gave me good advice, Sandesh Advani kept his faith me, as did Intel. Rahuldev Rajguru decided to wait and maintained his faith, as did Meghna Bhutoria, and lately, LK Pathak. The semiconductor and the solar/PV industry stood by me, steadfastly, all this while!

There were good wishes from several others — the list is so long that they can’t be all accommodated here.

My other blog — — was also eventually returned by Google, without the malware warning, this month.

All I can say is: thanks a lot, my dear friends and dear readers. Whether I get shortlisted or win — these things hardly matter! What matters to me is: I shall always have folks such as you to lean on during tough times. Thanks a lot, everyone.

Finally, thanks a lot for selecting my blog, Computer Weekly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Managing IT through downturn – Business client perspective from Intel

During a recent interaction with Intel IT, Hong Soo Ng, Malaysia Site IT Manager, Intel Technology Sdn. Bhd., highlighted the importance of investing in IT for competitiveness during the current economic time, while presenting an interesting lecture: Managing IT through downturn – business client perspective.

Hong Soo outlined the following:

• Companies are looking to IT to improve competitiveness in the current environment.
• IT opportunity to drive employee and business productivity — mobile and managed client refresh.
• Mobile client refresh and remote management are key to reduced TCO of client machines.

We all know that 2009 has been a challenging year. Business spending is tight, but, IT can’t sacrifice core services!

The challenge for IT has been the need for continued investment on innovation and enhancing capabilities.

According to Gartner IT Key Metrics Data 2008,
* 67 percent of IT spending is to keep the business running
* 20 percent to enhance the existing capabilities
* 13 percent used for innovation

IT can make a difference by driving employee and business productivity, as well as continue IT efficiencies.

Long-term consolidated IT strategy
Hong Soo added that Intel moved through five stages in developing a long-term consolidated IT strategy. These include:

Step 1: Consolidating IT services and support
Step 2: Managing hardware standards and software proliferation
Step 3: Managing the PC lifecycle proactively
Step 4: Enabling a mobile workforce
Step 5: Automating and managing our PC fleet

Approximate mix of desktops/notebooks meant that by using total cost of ownership data and usage data, we inverted our desktop PC to wireless laptop ratio and achieved significant cost savings.

Intel IT client strategy
• Enable flexibility through mobility
• Buy performance for productivity
• Refresh for TCO savings
• Deploy Vpro for manageability and security

Client refresh strategy
Two to four years based on user.

After three years
– 60 percent higher support
– Extended warranties
– Higher hardware failures

System age impacts productivity – five year old system took ~50 percent longer in tasks. “IT” is the killer app, he said.

IT PC annual TCO by refresh date — sample data helped Intel determine that a three-year refresh cycle optimized cost efficiencies.

Benefits of client refresh
Deployed by Intel IT
Remote repair — Identify the issue and remotely resolve a boot issue.
Remote configuration — Assist with BIOS level configuration changes, Whole Disk Encryption (WDE) assistance
Remote diagnosis — Identify faulty hardware issues to assist client services in time to repair.

Two other benefits that will happen include:
System defense — Network access restriction, proactive isolation.
Asset management — Integrate platform audit with in band agent inventory capabilities.

By 2010, Intel will have 100 percent Intel vPro managed fleet.

• Hard drive encryption deployment gated on refresh of clients
• Encryption impacts boot and resume time

New capabilities
• Performance needed for productivity tools
• SSD deployment
• Personal video conferencing

Monday, October 5, 2009

Solar PV industry scenario in India!

It is well known that India already has the advantage of being a well established, low cost producer and assembler of solar PV cells and modules. It is also very likely that grid connected power would emerge as the major segment in India over the next few years, according to B.V. Naidu, chairman, India Semiconductor Association. He was speaking at the recently held 3rd Global Demand Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

India currently has an installed manufacturing capacity of solar cells and modules of 400 MW and 700 MW, respectively, as per the ISA chairman.

Giving an overview of the industry during 2007-08, Naidu added that India produced:
* 110 MW of solar cells and 140 MW of modules.
* Solar PV industry turnover was over $1.0 billion.
* Ninety percent of the manufacturing capacity is currently exported.
* The current grid connected capacity is less than 2 MW.

Policy initiatives from the government
The government of India has announced several incentives for manufacturing.
Manufacturing: 20-25 percent of incentive for solar PV.

Incentives for grid connected applications:
* Generation based incentives (GBI): $0.30 per unit.
* Limited upto 50 MW from the government of India.
* State governments are independently announcing their incentive programs.

Incentives are also available for off-grid applications such as home lighting systems, street lighting systems and roof top systems. Next, there is an agenda to develop 60 cities as Solar Cities, aimed at reducing the energy consumption by 10 percent through energy lighting conservation and renewable energy. Also, the National Solar Mission aims at achieving a target of 20 GW of solar power by the year 2020.

Market opportunities in India
All of these lead to the question: what are the kinds of market opportunities that exist in India?

According to Naidu of ISA, India is already well established as a low cost producer and assembler of solar PV cells and modules. Also, it is a large market for DDG (Decentralised Distributed Generation) applications.

Next, grid connected power would emerge the major segment, as India achieves grid parity. Also, the country boasts of a large pool of talented manpower, which can serve a good resource to develop applications suited to Indian market.

The benefits that will arise by the adoption of solar photovoltaics for India are immense. One, solar energy will help the country meet its energy security requirements, reduce dependence on exhaustible fossil fuel reserves and reduce the carbon footprint.

It will also help in providing remote/rural villages faster access to electricity. Finallly, it will create several thousands of jobs -- both, direct and indirect -- in manufacturing, applications and R&D.

ISA's role
Highlighting the role of the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) in demand promotion, Naidu added that it acts as an umbrella industry association for the solar PV companies in India. Also, the ISA enjoys a strong and credible working relationship with the key concerned ministries in the government of India, and advises it on policy initiatives for demand growth.

Further, the ISA has also made some bold recommendations on demand promotion in its comprehensive report on the sector carried out with government support, which have served as a useful reference for the government in policy formation. The ISA also organises industry events and delegation visits.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chip market outlook: Back to normal abnormality? — Malcolm Penn @ IEF2009, Geneva

Future Horizons has revised its 2009 global semiconductor industry forecast to -14 percent growth (+/- 2 percentage points).

This was revealed by Malcolm Penn, Chairman & CEO, Future Horizons, while delivering the company’s forecast at the ongoing 18th International Electronics Forum (IEF) 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland, which ends here tomorrow. ”He said, “It’s all about good management … only the bad times tell!”

Some of Penn’s other forecast summaries include:

* Economic recovery is said to have already started from 2H-2009.
* Further ‘50 percent’ cap ex reduction.
* Memory price recovery 2H-2009.
* Still lots of blood on the road near-term.
* Strong will get stronger as weak go to the wall.
* Watch for tight capacity starting 2H-2009.
* Crisis is the time to implement change (brings out the best and worst).
* R&D/new products/sound marketing will win (not counting pencils and scrapping the free coffee).

Outlook for 2010 and beyond
Penn also presented the company’s outlook for the global semiconductor industry for 2010 and beyond. These include:

* 2010: +19 percent based on: continuing recovery momentum (NB … this could be a lot, lot higher).
* 2011: +28 percent based on: peak of the structural cyclical boom (NB … this could stretch into 2012).
* 2012: +18 percent based on: normal cyclical market correction starting 2H-2012 (1H-2013?).
* 2013: +3 percent based on: market correction in full flow (NB … this could be negative).

The year 2014 could well see the start of the next cyclical recovery! Given the impending 2010 fab shortage, the upside for 2010-12 is said to be huge.

The 2009 forecast – how did we do so far?
First, let’s look at the 2008 forecasts:

Q4-08 Forecast (Jan): -22.5 percent, making overall Year -2.3 percent

* Q4 (Dec) Guidance: (Intel -20 percent, Nvidia -40/-50 percent, Broadcom -20percent/-23 percent. TSMC -30 percent, Others –20/-50 percent-ish

* Q4-08 Actual: -24.2 percent, making 2008 YoY -2.8 percent (both slightly worse).

Now, on to the 2009 forecasts:
* 2009 forecast (Jan): -28 percent.
* Q1 -20 percent (continuing Q4’s decline, but at a slower rate).
* Q2 -2 percent (market settling down and decline bottoming out).
* Q3 +12 percent (normal, but slightly subdued seasonal and structural growth).
* Q4 +3 percent (normal 4th quarter seasonal slowdown).
* Q1-09 Actual: -15.3 percent (better than Jan. forecast). Jan., not March, saw start of correction to Q4-08’s over-reaction.
* Q2-09 Actual: +16.9 percent (Much better than Jan. forecast). Also, Q1 (not Q2) was the trough with a strong April-June rebound.
* Q3-09 Outlook: +12 percent (No change In Jan. or Jul. forecast). The Q2 inventory correction spurt over with ‘normal’ seasonal growth.
* Q4-09 Outlook: +3 percent (No change in Jan. or Jul. forecast). The normal 4th quarter seasonal slowdown.

2009 Forecast (Jul): -14 percent (Much better than Jan. forecast/no change from Jul.). Minor downside risks (Q3 +8 percent and Q4 +2 percent. making year -16 percent). There is a significant upside potential (Q3 +16 percent and Q4 +4 percent, making year -12 percent).

What’s changed since January’s IFS2009?

According to Malcolm Penn, Future Horizons’ ‘Rose Glass’ scenario came true! He said: “We correctly forecast the pattern of the recovery. The rebound came one quarter earlier than expected.” Given below is a snapshot of what’s happened since the IFS2009 in January.

In January, the world was reeling from Q4’s unprecedented collapse with December peppered with last minute Q4 downward guidance warnings. Everyone was affected – from Intel downward, the collapse was a total meltdown and completely across the board – covering all markets and regions.

Next, there was absolutely zero visibility into the first quarter guidance. Many firms refused to even comment. Some said, “We Simply Have No Idea!” Others offered such a wide range of options that the guidance was meaningless.

The December’s WSTS results (released early Feb.) showed December (and hence, Q4) slightly worse than the Oct/Nov momentum at -24.2 percent (vs. –22.5 percent). The March’s WSTS results (released early May) showed March (and hence, Q1) slightly better than the Jan/Feb momentum.

In brief — from meltdown (Q4-08) to stabilisation (Q1-09) and rebound (Q2-09) in three quarters — even for the chip industry dynamics, this was unprecedented, said Penn.

I will be adding more here, a bit later… stay tuned!