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Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

September 13, 2013 2 comments

G450C

G450C

The government of India recently approved the setting up of two semiconductor wafer fabrication facilities in the country. It is expected to provide a major boost to the Indian electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) ecosystem. A look at the two proposals:

Jaiprakash Associates, along with IBM (USA) and Tower Jazz (Israel). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 26,300 crore for establishing the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I, 28nm node in phase II with the option of establishing a 22nm node in phase III. The proposed location is Greater Noida.

Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (HSMC) along with ST Microelectronics (France/Italy) and Silterra (Malaysia). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 25,250 crore for the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I and 45nm, 28nm and 22nm nodes in phase II. The proposed location is Prantij, near Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Now, this is excellent news for everyone interested in the Indian semiconductor industry.

One look at the numbers above tell me – NONE OF THESE are going to be 450mm fabs! Indeed, both will be 300mm fabs! After waiting for such a long time to even get passed by the Union Cabinet, are these 300mm fabs going to be enough for India? Is the technology choice even right for the upcoming wafer fabs in India? Let’s examine!

As you can probably see, both the projects have placed 22nm right at the very last phase! That’s very interesting!

Intel just showcased its Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family a few days back. I distinctly remember Intel’s Narendra Bhandari showing off the 22nm wafer sometime last week during a product launch!

For discussion’s sake, let’s say, a fab in India comes up by say, early 2015. Let’s assume that Phase 1 takes a full year. Which means, Phase 2, where 22nm node would be used, shall only be touched in 2016 or even beyond! Isn’t it? Where will the rest of the global industry be by then?

You are probably aware of the Global 450 Consortium or G450C, which has Intel, IBM, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and TSMC among its members.  What is the consortium currently doing? It is a 450mm wafer and equipment development program, which is leveraging on the industry and government investments to demonstrate 450mm process capabilities at the CNSE’s Albany Nanotech Complex. CNSE, also a consortium member, is the SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering!

So, what does all of this tell me?

One, these upcoming fabs in India will probably produce low- to mid-range chips, and some high-end ones at a later stage. Well, two, this does raise a question or two about India’s competitive advantage in the wafer fab space!  Three, there is lot of material on 450mm fabs, and some of that is available right here, on this blog! Have the Indian semiconductor industry folks paid enough attention to all that? I really have no idea!

Four, only the newer 300mm fabs built with higher ceilings and stronger floors will be able to be upgraded to 450mm, as presented by The Information Network’s Dr. Robert Castellano at the Semicon West 2013. Five, what are the likely alternative markets for 200mm and 300mm fabs? These are said to be MEMs and TSV, LEDs and solar PV. Alright, stop!

Perhaps, these product lines will be good for India and serve well, for now, but not for long!

Slew of EDA announcements @ DAC 2011

June 6, 2011 Comments off

The Design and Automation Conference (DAC) 2011, kicked off today in San Diego, USA, with its usual slew of announcements. Leading the pack were Magma Design Automation and Cadence Design Systems, along with Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, and several others.

Magma Design Automation Inc. announced a partnership with Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS to develop process-independent Titan FlexCell models of the Institute’s analog intellectual property (IP) cores. It also announced the availability of a netlist-to-GDSII reference flow for GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 28nm super low-power (SLP) high-k metal-gate (HKMG) technology.

Magma announced the immediate availability of the Titan Analog Design Kit for TSMC 180nm and 65nm processes, that implements Titan’s model-based design methodology with Titan FlexCells, which are modular, process- and specification-independent, reusable analog building blocks.

Magma Design Automation also launched Silicon One, an initiative to bring focus to making silicon profitable for customers by providing differentiated solutions and technologies that address business imperatives facing semiconductor makers today – time to market, product differentiation, cost, power and performance.

Silicon One’s initial focus is on five types of devices that are key to electronic products that are most prevalent today:
* ASIC /ASSP
* Analog/mixed-signal (AMS)
* Memory
*  Processing cores
* SoCs.

Cadence Design Systems Inc. isn’t far behind either!  It announced an array of new technologies incorporated into the new TSMC Reference Flow 12.0 and AMS Reference Flow v2.0 that ensure 28nm production readiness. Cadence also announced a close collaboration with TSMC that will extend its interface IP offering.  With Imec, in Belgium, Cadence announced a new technology that delivers an automated test solution for design teams deploying 3D stacked ICs (3D-ICs).

Cadence also announced the immediate availability of verification IP (VIP) for ARM’s new AMBA 4 Coherency Extensions protocol (ACE), extending its popular VIP catalog and speeding the development of multiprocessor mobile devices. Cadence further outlined the technologies and steps required to move the industry to advanced node design, with a particular focus on 20nm and 28nm design.

Mentor Graphics announced that the Catapult C high-level synthesis tool now supports the synthesis of transaction level models (TLMs). It also announced a unified embedded software debugging platform, from pre-silicon to final product, based on the integration of the Mentor Embedded Sourcery CodeBench embedded software development tools with Mentor’s leading electronic system level (ESL), verification, and hardware emulation products. These include the Mentor Graphics Vista Virtual Prototyping product, Veloce hardware emulator, prototype target boards, and end products or any combination thereof.

Mentor Graphics announced support for 3D-IC in TSMC’s Reference Flow 12.0 (RF12). Solutions for both silicon interposer and through silicon via (TSV) stacked die configurations are now supported by the Calibre physical verification and extraction platform and the Tessent IC test solution.

ARM and Synopsys Inc. have signed an expanded multi-year agreement extending ARM’s access to Synopsys’ innovative EDA technology. ARM will also provide Synopsys with access to the ARM Cortex-A15 processor to maximize performance and energy efficiency of SoCs built by ARM’s Partners using this advanced ARM processor and Synopsys tools. Read more…

Renesas Mobile inaugurates R&D centre in Bangalore

May 11, 2011 Comments off

Renesas Mobile Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Renesas Electronics Corp., announced the inauguration of its research and development (R&D) centre in Bangalore, India which develops 2G, 3G and 4G modem technologies.

(L-R): Heikki Tenhunen, senior VP, Alan Frederiksen, MD, Renesas Mobile India,  Shinichi Yoshioka, senior executive VP and COO, and Jean-Marie Rolland, CTO and executive VP, Sales and Marketing.

(L-R): Heikki Tenhunen, senior VP, Alan Frederiksen, MD, Renesas Mobile India, Shinichi Yoshioka, senior executive VP and COO, and Jean-Marie Rolland, CTO and executive VP, Sales and Marketing.

Renesas Mobile was established on December 1, 2010 as a 100 percent subsidiary company of Renesas Electronics. As part of the Renesas group, it has the support of the world’s largest embedded microcontroller player in the semiconductor world. Renesas Mobile focuses on platforms for smart phones, feature phones, car infotainment and embedded connected devices enabling people to stay connected in the cloud computing era.

The company integrates the former Mobile Multimedia Business Unit of Renesas with the former Nokia Wireless Modem Business Unit. The Nokia Wireless Modem Business Unit has been acquired by Renesas Electronics as announced on July 1st, 2010.

Introducing Renesas Mobile Corp., Heikki Tenhunen, senior VP, said that Renesas Mobile offers advanced and innovative products and services for mobile phones, car infotainment solutions, consumer electronics and industrial applications.

The company’s mission is to develop, productize and deliver advanced triple- and dual-mode communication centric semicon chipsets and platforms based on chipsets to provide innovative solutions and drive mew oppurtunities for customers. Renesas Mobile aims to be a world leader in mobile platforms by evolving its proven modem, application processor and SoCs, and associated services via its global business channel.

The Renesas-Nokia combine has since gone on to make unrivalled connected experiences a reality — by way of powerful multi-tasking, rich multimedia, newly emerging technologies — such as cloud computing, 3D, augmented reality, etc., PC like Internet experience, smaller form factor and longer battery life, and remain always connected!

Renesas’ mobile expertise includes the following:
* Excellent device experience, supporting over 400 mobile handsets to date;
* Key components verified at ‘system‘ level quality for platform release;
* Complete reference design easy to start application development;
* Market proven multimedia software package and multiple OpenOS integration support;
* Competitive SoC implementation performance; over 470 mn transistors in mobile LSI (G4);
* Leading-edge process (45nm, 28nm, 22nm) balancing own fab and partners (TSMC, etc.). Read more…

Is enough being done for Indian industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education?

November 20, 2010 14 comments

Do you, as a semiconductor/VLSI/EDA company, run university or educational programs for colleges and institutes? Am sure, you do!

Well, are you providing these various colleges and institutes with the latest tools and EDA software? Perhaps, yes! So, do you regularly check whether your tool is being used properly, or at all? What do you do if the tool remains unopened or unused? Okay, before all of that, are you even guiding the faculty and students to tackle real world problems associated with chip design?

Do the students (and the faculty) know the intricacies of 22nm, 32nm, 45nm, and so on? Are you able to assist students in taping out? Right, is the syllabus taught in all of these colleges good enough to produce the kind of talent and skills that the semiconductor/VLSI industry requires currently, and in the future? Is everything being taught, the latest?

As they say — it takes two to tango… and, it takes two hands to clap! To the Indian academia — how many among you are “really” serious about being trained on a regular basis by the semicon/VLSI/EDA industry? What have you all done about it so far, all of these years? How many colleges and institutes among you (and do you) regularly put up or raise your hand to the industry and say — we lack the knowledge in a particular area and need training – please help us!

The question is: what are you, as a semicon/VLSI/EDA company, doing about training the various faculty and the students in various colleges and institutions across India? Do you have a proper program in place for this activity? Well, is enough being done regarding the industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education in India? What more needs to be done?

Are you, as a college or institute teaching VLSI, happy with the quality of talent coming out? Are you really satisfied with the quality of B.Tech/M.Tech projects? Do you seek industry’s help regarding training on a regular basis? What steps do you take to reach out to them? And, what are you doing about it all? Do you take that initiative seriously?

For that matter, are there easy-to-use systems that enable effective and industry-relevant education? Are those being made use of properly? Can entry barriers be lowered for students and faculty so they can explore an IP idea that has business potential? How many of the colleges have done this? I know of some folks trying to develop such solutions, but that’s a separate story for another day!

Coming back on track, apparently, some semicon companies and few well known Indian institutes are really exceeding themselves, but the same story does not hold true everywhere. Why is it so?

There could be a variety of reasons, and not all are listed here. Is it a lack of initiative on part of the industry and the institutes? Don’t they even talk to each other? Are institutes not able to approach semicon companies and vice versa? Or, is it the locations of the institutes themselves? Is it that not all institutes are concerned about teaching their students how to solve real world chip design problems?

An industry friend had once remarked: As of the last three-four years, students from the Eastern part of India have no clear pathway that they can pursue to get into VLSI design. The reasons are — there are no training institutes in the East, which can teach Synopsys or Cadence tools or even the basics of Xilinx FPGA design.

A very interesting panel discussion titled Forging win-win industry-academia collaboration in VLSI education was held during the Cadence CDNLive India University conference.

Moderated by Dr. C.P. Ravikumar, technical director, University Relations, TI India, the panelists were Dr Ajit Kumar Panda from NIST Behrampur, K Krishna Moorthy, MD, National Semiconductor India, Dr K. Radhakrishna Rao, head, analog training, TI. India and R. Parthasarathy, MD, CADD Centre.

I have already covered Dr. Ravikumar’s remarks separately.

Let’s see what the other panelists have to say about all of this, and whether they have answers to all of the questions or problems. Well, this is another long post, so please bear with me! 😉 Read more…

iSuppli raises 2010 foundry forecast; interesting lessons to learn for India from China’s story!

July 9, 2010 Comments off

Yesterday, iSuppli raised its revenue forecast in 2010 for pure-play semiconductor foundry revenue, owing to the renewed demand for consumer-oriented electronics products.

Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst for semiconductor manufacturing, iSuppli.

Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst for semiconductor manufacturing, iSuppli.

“During the first three quarters of 2010, foundries were under intense pressure to meet customer demand,” said Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst for semiconductor manufacturing at iSuppli. “The pressure is leading to increased revenue, as consumer spending has come back with a vengeance following a dramatic downturn in the fourth quarter of 2008 and for all of 2009.”

iSuppli has raised its revenue forecast for all semiconductor foundry activity for 2010 to $29.8 billion, up 42.3 percent from 2009’s $22.1 billion. It had previously predicted revenue would rise 39.5 percent this year.

By 2014, total pure-play foundry revenue will reach $45.9 billion, managing a CAGR of 9.4 percent from $26.8 billion in 2008. Pure-play foundries are contract manufacturers whose business consists of producing semiconductors on behalf of other chip companies.

Thanks to my good friend Jon Cassell, I managed to hook up with Len Jelinek to find out more.

Enhancing foundry forecast
I started by asking Jelinek what were the chief reasons for enhancing the foundry forecast. Jelinek said: “The forecast increase is based on the anticipated strength in demand for products in Q2 and beyond. Additionally, it is also simple math. The foundry market had a good Q2, and last year, Q1 and Q2 were quite challenging. So, by having a good first half of the year, the percentage must increase.”

Also, given that there has been renewed demand for consumer electronics products, what are the specific CE products, besides netbooks, mobile phones, that have been seeing renewed demand, and why?

He added that televisions have shown significant growth. “Also, if you look at all of the consumer products that are growing — they are the new products that require advanced chips. The foundry suppliers are the primary suppliers of advanced technology 45nm and below. These are also the most expensive products that a foundry manufactures. This of course means that the revenue will go up. This trend will continue into the future because, with the exception of Intel, Samsung, IBM and Toshiba, there are no IDMs that have large volume production capacities at 45nm.” Read more…

NXP India’s Rajeev Mehtani on top trends in global/Indian electronics and semicon!

December 9, 2008 Comments off

When a new year approaches, we start analyzing the year gone by and try to gauge what could happen in the coming year. This really holds true, as far as the technology industry is concerned.

It’s been a week since I’ve been mulling over these myself, especially, pondering over developments in the global semiconductor and electronics industries, as well as what could happen in India during 2009. Well, lots will happen, and I can’t wait for the new year to start!

I caught up with Rajeev Mehtani, vice president and managing director, NXP Semiconductors, India, and discussed in depth about the trends for 2009. Here’s a look at that discussion.

INDIA — ELECTRONICS & SEMICONDUCTORS

1. The DTH story will continue to increase in India with companies such as Tata Sky, DISH TV, BIG TV, etc., gaining market share. Owing to these challenges, there would be significant consolidation among the cable operators. Digitalization will also be seen in 2009.

2. The slowdown will affect growth across all sectors. Our view is that LCD TVs as well as STBs will continue to grow.

3. The year 2009 will witness e-commerce revolution and the RFID sector will grow at a 40-50 percent clip. The government has been sponsoring a lot of projects, which include RFID in the metros, e-passport cards and national ID cards. By mid-2009, we can expect a mass deployment of these projects as well as micro payments.

4. Manufacturing in India will continue to grow; EMS or OEMs, such as Samsung, Nokia, Flextronics, etc.

5. There could be a move from services to products in electronics and semiconductor spaces. The number of funded startups has grown significantly over the last years and more and more ideas are coming on the table.

6. The solar/PV sector will grow in India. High entry cost of capital for panels will be a barrier for this sector. Government enhancement is necessary. India will be different than other countries as people won’t push energy back into the grid; it will be used more for household consumption. The India grid is unstable. Tracking it requires a lot of expensive electronic switching. Solar deployment could be at the micro level, and also community level, where it makes more sense.

7. The startups in India are mostly Web 2.0 based, although there aren’t many hardware startups.

GLOBAL — ELECTRONICS & SEMICONDUCTORS

1. The semiconductor industry is truly global, That is mostly because it is a very expensive industry.

2. Things are a bit murky in the semiconductor industry. It would probably be dipping 10-15 percent next year.

3. Globally, energy management and home automation will start to take off in 2009. Satellite broadcasters will also continue to gain more strength.

4. On a worldwide scale, 3G will win. You will have 3G phones, and you’d add LTE to those. India is slightly different. Only 20 percent of Indian households are ready for broadband access. In India, WiMAX could be a way to have wireless broadband at home.

5. Industries moving to 300mm fabs will be making up only 20-25pc of the market. Not many need 45nm or 40nm chips. People will question any major capex, until there’s a big return and wait for recession to end. The bright spot is solar!

6. The fabless strategy would be the only way to go forward. While MNCs with fabless strategy are present in India, Indian startups in this space are quite few.

AMD’s roadmap 2009 provides lots of answers… now, to deliver!

November 14, 2008 Comments off

AMD’s roadmap 2009, or guidance, presented during its 2008 Financial Analyst Day on Nov. 13th, provided a lot of answers to several of the questions it had been facing. Also, AMD did something Intel hasn’t! It did not revise the Q4 guidance!! During a webcast, AMD CFO, Bob Rivet, said he would offer an update to the company’s earnings outlook in the first week of December. Also, one of AMD’s announcements, the Yukon, is definitely not going to take on Intel’s Atom, and should be priced higher.

Kicking of proceedings, Dirk Meyer, President and CEO, talked about a complete AMD & Foundry Company realignment, which includes executing key technology transitions. These include: deliver 2nd wave of 45nm products and platforms — including chipsets; transition to 40nm graphics products; finalize 32nm designs for 2010 production. Also, deliver, market and sell platforms; and continue operational excellence.

Later, during the Q&A session, when asked about the validity of AMD’s cross-license for patents with Intel, Meyer said there was no legal issue. AMD’s agreement with Intel allows AMD subsidiaries to be licensed. The Foundry Company, 43.5 percent owned by AMD, qualifies as a subsidiary, as defined, as per the agreement with Intel.

Asset Smart strategy
According to Rivet, who spoke last during the Webcast, it has been a tough operating environment. However, AMD launched Asset Smart; achieved operating profitability in Q3-08 and is now making progress toward $1.5B operating income breakeven by early ‘09. It also has a richer MPU product mix and the first 45nm product has been launched. Graphics has returned to operating profitability. AMD has already divested its DTV business and plans to sell handheld.

Asset Smart manufacturing strategy
* Strategic commitment from Mubadala
* The Foundry Company plans multi-billion dollar build-out of leading edge fabs in Dresden and Upstate New York
* Expanded IBM partnership delivering leading-edge bulk and SOI process technology

Stronger financial structure
* ~$1B new cash investment
* ~$1.2B debt assumed by The Foundry Company
* Future fab capital expenditures optional
* Reduced process technology R&D costs
* Improved free cash flow by elimination of required fabrication capital expenditures offset somewhat by wafers purchased for cash (foundry model)
* Leaner and more variable business model, with a lower breakeven point of ~$1.5B

The Foundry Company
Doug Grose, Senior VP, Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management and Incoming CEO, The Foundry Company, highlighted AMD’s 2009 manufacturing priorities. These are: transition to best-in-class foundry model; complete conversion to 45nm production; and successful 32nm technology development.

This October 7, AMD and the Advanced Technology Investment Co. announced their intention to create a new global enterprise, The Foundry Company, to address the growing global demand for independent, leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing. This announcement was the lynchpin of AMD’s Asset Smart plan, and a key initiative designed to enable the company to achieve sustainable profitability.

At the 2008 AMD Financial Analyst Day event, AMD provided more details on what its manufacturing operations will look like once the spin-out of The Foundry Company is complete.
* For the Silicon on Insulator (SOI) and bulk manufacturing processes needed to build AMD CPUs and APUs, The Foundry Company plans to offer AMD 65nm, 45nm and 32nm manufacturing capabilities at:
– Fab 36 (Dresden)
– Fab 38 (Dresden)
– Fab 4x (Saratoga County, NY)
* For the bulk manufacturing processes AMD uses to manufacture its chipsets and GPUs, AMD plans to have access to 55nm, 40nm and 32nm manufacturing capabilities at:
– TSMC/UMC (Taiwan)
– Fab 38 (Dresden)
– Fab 4x (Saratoga County, NY)
* The Foundry Company also provided an update on its progress towards moving to a new 32nm manufacturing process for bulk and SOI production. The company confirmed that it will complete 32nm test chips in Dresden by the end of year, and is on schedule to successfully incorporate High-k Metal Gate within this process node. 32nm technology development will ramp in late 2009 in preparation for 1H 2010 volume production.

Platforms for ultraportable notebooks and mini-notebooks
There has been lot of interest in ultraportable notebooks and mini-notebooks, owing to their small form factor and lightweight profile. AMD also announced new platforms aimed at serving these markets.
* AMD introduced two ultraportable notebook platforms — Congo and Yukon. Congo is based on the dual-core Conesus CPU with the RS780M and SB710 chipset. Yukon is based on a single-core CPU with the RS690E and SB600 chipset. While targeted at the ultra-portable market, these platforms are designed to address a portion of mini-notebook market, especially at the dissatisfied users of limited Internet experience of mini-notebooks. Yukon is planned to be available in 1H09 followed by Congo in 2H09.
* AMD announced the 2010 ultraportable notebook platform code named Nile. It will feature dual-core Geneva CPU utilizing DDR3.
* In 2011, AMD plans to introduce the dual-core Ontario APU for ultraportable and mini-notebook platforms.

Server platforms
* Fiorano, the first AMD platform to combine AMD server processors and chipsets. It is on schedule for mid-2009 introduction based on planned release of the AMD SR5690 chipset. Fiorano will likely support Shanghai and the upcoming six-core Istanbul processor in 2H09.
* AMD’s next-generation, DDR3-based server platform, Maranello, remains on track for introduction in 1H10.

Desktop platforms
* Dragon is set to launch in Q1 2009 and feature AMD’s upcoming 45nm AMD Phenom II X4 quad-core processors, codenamed Deneb.
* Kodiak is scheduled to enhance AMD Business Class platforms in 2H09.
* Pisces mainstream desktop platform will debut in 2H09.
* Maui is its new home theater platform planned for launch in Q408.

There you have it! Everyone wants the global semiconductor industry to be humming and chirping! It would be great if AMD delivers on its promise and hopefully, becomes profitable all over again as well.

For those keen, PDF files of all of AMD’s presentations can be downloaded from its web site.

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