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Archive for August, 2010

4G RAN status and trends: Vendors search for winning strategy

August 31, 2010 Comments off

Maravedis 4G organized a webinar on 4G RAN (radio access network) market status and trends, moderated by Adlane Fellah, research director, Maravedis. The speakers were Chad Pralle, analyst partner, and Robert Syputa, senior analyst and advisor, both from Maravedis.

According to Pralle, data usage explosion has been happening due to new devices and applications, leading to order of magnitude growth in network elements, which creates opportunities in flexibilty addition and opex reduction.

Syputa pointed out that vendors are searching for a winning strategy in a shifting industry as integrated network services fuel sales and consolidation.

More details in a while.

Solar PV likely showstopper at electronica India 2010 and productronica India 2010

August 29, 2010 Comments off

Don’t be surprised that given the major strides undertaken by India in solar PV,  this industry and its pavilion could well turn out to be the showstopper or the lead attraction, besides LEDs and other electronic components, at the upcoming electronica India 2010 and productronica India 2010 – which will be held in the sprawling Bangalore International Exhibition Center on Sept. 7-10.

For those interested, since its debut in 2009, this show has been split into two sections – productronica India — devoted to production technologies, SMT and EMS/contract manufacturers, PCB, solar and PV, laser, etc., and electronica India – focused on components, semiconductors, assemblies, LEDs and materials.This year, there are going to be three added attractions or special exhibit areas, namely:

* Solar pavilion.
* LED pavilion.
* Laser pavilion.

Solar PV main attraction
A report on the ‘Solar PV Industry 2010: Contemporary Scenario and Emerging Trends’ released by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) with the support of the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA), lays out the strengths and challenges of the Indian solar PV market:

* Even though the industry operates at a smaller scale as compared to other solar PV producing nations, production in India is very cost effective as compared to global standards.

* With Government initiatives such as the SIPS scheme and JN-NSM in place to promote application of solar PV in domestic market, the Indian solar PV industry is likely to gain further edge over other solar PV producing nations.

* There is no manufacturing base in India for the basic raw material, that is, silicon wafers.

* Over the last five years, China has emerged as the largest producer of solar cells in the world. The country currently has about 2,500 MW of production capacity for solar PV as compared to India’s 400 MW.  Taiwan, with annual capacity of 800 MW, is also emerging as a major threat to the Indian industry.

* Price reduction is another major challenge for the industry as this would have greatly impact the future growth of the market.

The recently concluded Solarcon India 2010 threw up several interesting points as well. Industry observers agreed that the timely implementation of phase 1 of the historic Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM) is going to be critical for the success of this Mission.

The MNRE stressed on the need to develop an indigenous solar PV manufacturing capacity in solar, and build a service infrastructure. Strong emphasis is also being placed on R&D, and quite rightly. Notably, the Indian government is working toward tackling issues involved with project financing as well.

All the right steps and noises are currently being taken and made in the Indian solar PV industry. If these weren’t enough, the TÜV Rheinland recently opened South Asia’s largest PV testing lab in Bangalore!

This year, an exhibitor forum on PV and solar will also take place at the Solar PV pavilion during  electronica India 2010 and productronica India 2010.
Read more…

Intel’s McAfee buy: Too few answers to too many questions, for now!

August 27, 2010 Comments off

Yes I know I am a little late with this due to various reasons, but better late than never! On August 19th, Intel literally shocked the IT and information security world with its acquisition of McAfee for a whopping $7.68 billion approximately! Startled, a lot of folks started asking around as to why Intel did such a thing! Is Intel even doing the right thing in the first place?

The world boasts of several magnificent gadgets and devices — mobile phones and smartphones, Internet connected TVs, Wi-Fi enabled eReaders, the iPads, portable navigation devices with wireless interfaces, and so on and so forth! Now, how many of these devices actually boast of great security? Aren’t most of those unprotected?

With so many devices, besides smartphones, getting connected to the Internet every day, and with little or no on-board or ‘in-house’ security in place, this move is perhaps a masterstroke on Intel’s part!

But then, not all of such devices would run on Intel’s chips either! So? How will Intel control the hardware security market and create a monopoly — as some have been pointing out? Or, is there a much larger, hidden picture, which will get revealed over time?

Or, has this been done with the intention to rule the mobile security market, or well, security within the chip, or even device security or hardware security? Also, will this signal the end of malware?

And what about McAfee itself? Will this signal an end to all of its wonderful product development now that it will be part of Intel? What about its customers? Will some of its top executives march out? Intel says that McAfee will continue to run as is, and one hopes that it is maintained.

Personally, I was keen to know what Symantec thought of this acquisition. The company stated: The announcement by Intel to acquire McAfee emphasizes the growing relevance and need for security protection that extends beyond the PC and acknowledges Symantec’s ongoing strategy.

However, Symantec believes it is important to focus security on identities and the information people need to access, independent of the device they may be using. That will require security to work seamlessly across multiple platforms as users switch devices to use, store and transmit information anytime and anywhere. Symantec offers a broad portfolio of security and management solutions that protects customers from the largest enterprises to SMBs to consumers. Read more…

‘Look ahead’ scenario for global semicon sales forecast: Cowan LRA model update

August 22, 2010 Comments off

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

In advance of this release Mike Cowan wishes to again share an additional feature of the Cowan LRA Model for forecasting worldwide semiconductor sales; namely, the ability to provide a ‘look ahead’ scenario analysis for 2010’s global semiconductor sales forecast update as a function of next month’s (in this case July’s) actual global semiconductor sales estimate.

The specifics of the scenario analysis are presented in the following paragraphs and detailed in the scenario matrix table.

Table 1: Semicon forecast — Cowan LRA model

Semicon forecast -- Cowan LRA model.

Source: Cowan LRA semicon sales forecast model.

In order to illustrate this capability, Cowan has selected a range in possible July 2010 sales. In this particular scenario, a sales range from $20.89 billion to $25.89 billion in increments of $0.5 billion was chosen as listed in column one of Table 1.

This estimated range of actual sales is ‘centered around’ the actual July sales forecast estimate of $23.388 billion as determined by last month’s June run of the model. The corresponding July 3MMA (three-month moving average) sales forecast estimate is $24.849 billion.

The overall year 2010 sales forecast estimate for each assumed estimated sales number over the selected range of July actual sales is calculated by the model, and is shown in the second column of the table.

The third column reveals the resulting year-on-year sales growth estimates compared to year 2009’s actual sales of $226.3 billion.

The fourth and fifth columns show the corresponding 3MMA, sales estimate and the associated year-on-year sales growth relative to July 2009’s 3MMA sales (of $18.423 billion), respectively.

Finally, the sixth column lists the associated Momentum Indicator, MI, which is defined and discussed.

June 2010’s actual semiconductor sales (of $27.153 billion) came in lower (by $1.138 billion) than the model’s last month’s June 2010 sales forecast estimate (of $28.291 billion) representing a minus 4 percent delta comparing June 2010’s actual sales number (published by the WSTS) to the projected forecast estimate “put forth” by the Cowan LRA forecasting model and reported last month.

This percent delta represents Cowan LRA model’s MI. See tables 2 and 3 for this indicator’s short-term (last 15 months) and long-term (past 8+ years) historical trend, respectively.

Need to look at smart grid standards from an Indian context: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam


Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems.

Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems.

First of all, I would like to thank Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems, for sharing his presentation as well as the points he made during a panel discussion yesterday evening on Smart cities and smart grid: opportunities and challenges at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) 2010 in Bangalore.

Need for multi-disciplinary, collaborative innovation
Rajaraman called for the need to innovate, which should be multi-disciplinary, collaborative and fast paced! According to him, smart meter is not relevant for 80 percent of the Indian population as of now.

Further, India needs to look at standards for smart grid from an Indian context, rather than try and apply some smart grid solutions developed elsewhere, as those may not be relevant. There is also a need to customize the testing standards for India. All telling points, these! Smart grid is a journey, and not an end result.

India specific challenges
Challenges that are mostly India specific are — one, we don’t have the complete solution. While the ingredients exist, the standardized, modular, scalable, open solution don’t exist yet. Next, few off-the-shelf products are available and niche solutions are expensive.

Further, there are an enormous number of stakeholders. There is a need for the concerted effort of utilities, regulators, vendors, technologists, standard bodies, appliance industry, IT industry and consumer group to work together. No one group can do this quickly on their own. And, no one has all the answers!

Many of the required solutions (e.g., smart appliances) don’t yet exist in India, but the incremental cost is low. India also requires the analysis and experimentation in communication technologies and business models.

Smart grid challenges and opportunities
The points made by Venkat Rajaraman are summarized below.

1.
Smart grid is truly one area – where you need multi-disciplinary, collaborative, fast paced innovation to happen. It requires the power engineers to work with the embedded engineers, IT/networking engineers, software developers, data mining experts, Web technologists and many other specialists — to all come together and work in a collaborative way.

2.
It requires multiple stakeholders to come together – smart grid experts, technology solution providers, regulatory bodies, utilities, etc. No one can come to the party before and no one can race ahead of others. They all pretty much need to come at the same time. If not, the weak link will slow everyone down. If the utility infrastructure is not ready for time of the day pricing, demand-response etc, implementing them at the consumer end is not of much relevance.

3.
In India, the current weak link are the utilities. Almost all of the public utilities are losing money very heavily (see below).
Total commercial losses of utilities:
* 50 Discoms (erstwhile State Electricity Boards) struggle to be financially viable.
* Mainly because of subsidy, power theft and also because of poor efficiency.
* Estimated utility loss at Rs. 40,000 crore in 2010.
* Loss estimated to Increase to Rs. 68,000 crore loss by 2014-15.
* Utilities – No reward for performance and no punishment for non-performance.
* Need regulatory framework to address this.

Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) loss
* India – 32 percent (overall).
* State DISCOM losses – from 18 percent to 62 percent.
* Low billing and collection efficiency (50 percent billed and only 41 percent is collected).
* Power theft (accounts for 1.5 percent of nation’s GDP).

Smart grid economy:
* R-APDRP: To bring AT&C losses to 15 percent (17 percent savings).
* Power production in 2010: 160K MW.
* 1 percent of avoided generation – saves 1,600 MW.
* 17 percent savings (32 – 15 percent) would amount to savings of 27,000 MW. Read more…

Freescale intros MPC830x PowerQUICC II Pro portfolio

August 19, 2010 1 comment

Freescale has introduced the MPC830x PowerQUICC II Pro portfolio of processors along the sidelines of the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) 2010 in Bangalore, India.

Sunil Kaul, product marketing manager, Networking and Multimedia Group, Freescale, said that the MPC830x portfolio extends the e300 core-based PowerQUICC II Pro architecture into cost competitive networking and industrial applications with increased performance per price/power.

Freescale announced the following portfolio:

MPC8308 – 266 to 400 MHz: Performance/price optimized MPC8308 combines 16/32-bit DDR2 memory controller with ECC, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, USB and eSDHC targeting smart metering gateways, wireless media gateways, factory automation and test/measurement equipment. It is in mass production today.

MPC8306/S – 133 to 266 MHz: The MPC8306 integrates QUICC Engine, CAN, USB, SDHC and IEEE 1588 support ideal for industrial control, factory automation and test/measurement equipment.

MPC8306S: It features the QUICC Engine (HDLC/TDM, 10/100) and USB targeting networking equipment such as low-end base station line cards and branch access gateways.

MPC8309 – 266 to 400 MHz: Richly featured with QUICC Engine, CAN, USB, SDHC, PCI and IEEE 1588 support for networking, industrial control, factory automation and test/measurement equipment.

Target applications for the MPC830x include:

Networking/telecom: Low-end line cards, femto base stations, CPEs and WLAN access points.
Smart metering: Smart metering gateways, data concentrators, HAN gateways.
Industrial: Programmable logic controllers, process automation controllers, intelligent I/O, operator interface terminals, drives, bar-code and ID systems, gateways, bridges and hubs.

Kumar Hebbalalu, product development manager, NMG/CSP, Freescale, added that the complete design has been done out of Freescale India.The MPC830x communications processor portfolio was designed at Freescale’s India Design Center using advanced SoC design methodologies and techniques to achieve quick cycle times from product definition to silicon qualification. He added: “We have a large R&D team here. We are leveraging the ODC support we have in India.” Read more…

EDA Tech Forum 2010: Nanoscale regime and social product innovation!

August 18, 2010 Comments off

This a continuation of my coverage of the Mentor Graphics’ EDA Tech Forum 2010.

Here, I shall discuss the main points of the two keynotes by Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India, and Manjunatha Hebbar, VP & Head – Strategic Services, HCL Technologies Ltd — my good friend and fellow board member at the Indian Microelectronics Academy (IMA).

Nanotech for a smarter planet

Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India.

Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India @ EDA Tech Forum 2010.

Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India, presented on nanotech for a smarter planet. The motivation for nanotech at IBM has been — since IT has grown as devices have shrunk. Now, we have reached the nanoscale level. The challenge is: how do we take new technologies to markets?

He briefly touched upon IBM’s latest generation processor, the Power7, built on 45nm. The next generation Power8 processors are supposed to be built on 22nm/32nm.

He said that physical and chemical properties of materials depend on the size. Hence, it is important to use nano and quantum scale properties for next generation devices. There is this classical scaling reality — to maintain generational performance gains, supply voltage is not scaled ideally, leading to major power issues.

In the future, innovation, scaling and power will drive performance. Power will play a critical role in developing next-generation products.

On the novel high-K metal gate (HKMG) devices, these gates are already four monolayers thick. We need HKMG since it significantly reduces gate leakage and chips consume lesser power. Also, it allows equivalent oxide thickness. The shrinking of transistor dimensions can continue unhindered.

Dr. Murali highlighted chemical quantization — which allows changes in device parameters, as well as energy quantization — which leads to changes in the fundamental current-voltage characteristics of a transistor. A material’s resistance can also change in the nanoscale regime.

GIDL or gate-induced drain leakage is quite relevant to low power devices. GIDL leakage currents are becoming prohibitively high. While HKMG has solved the tunnelling problem, the GIDL issue still remains. Rotating the conventional wafer from <110> to <100> reduces the GIDL by an order of magnitude.

Next, what’s the alternative to CMOS devices? These could be 3D transistors with better gate control at 15nm and beyond as well as carbon nanotubes. I checked the Web: carbon nanotubes are molecular-scale tubes of graphitic carbon with outstanding properties. They are among the stiffest and strongest fibres known, and have remarkable electronic properties and many other unique characteristics. Excellent!

Finally, how do you pattern all of these devices? Computational lithography enables density scaling. Challenges include pattern optimization tool, code parallelization, HPC and optics.

Spin electronics could be the next evolution — leading to spintronics devices at nanoscale.  Here, IBM’s Giant Magnetoresistive Head, which has been a giant leap for IBM Research, comes into play.

Social product innovation

Manjunatha Hebbar, VP & Head - Strategic Services, HCL Technologies.

Manjunatha Hebbar, VP & Head - Strategic Services, HCL Technologies makes a point!

In his keynote, Manjunatha Hebbar of HCL Technologies stressed that innovation is required at every level across the entire value chain. A compelling alternative would be the social product innovation, or democratization of product innovation.

Benefits of social product innovation are manifold. The prime ones are —
* right product for the right market at the right time at the right price;
* lowest direct cost; sharing of risk and reward;
* real-time on demand access to resources; and
* organic transformation with the market.

He cited the example of Apple’s iPhone, which was launched during the peak of recession. The rest is history, as this smartphone went on to change the dymanics of the mobile phone market!

Hebbar highlighted that the society itself has core values of social product innovation. The core purpose — help everyone have their lives! The focus should be on process innovation and prodct innovation, leading to business innovation.

Today, everyone is on the cloud, mobile, connected and reading everyone. Creative commons is the most accepted license model today. Co-creation is always welcome.

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