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Pine Trail — Intel’s next-gen Atom platform for netbooks, nettops

May 26, 2009 Comments off

Last week, Intel had announced the first new details around a next generation Atom platform for netbooks and nettops, while also reiterating that Moblin version 2 beta is available for download.

Welcome Pine Trail
The next Atom platform, due out later this year and codenamed Pine Trail, will feature a three-to-two chip partition for better performance and lower average power, plus increased graphics performance and a smaller overall footprint.Source: Intel

This morning, Sujan Kamran, Regional Marketing Manager, Intel Asia Pacific, introduced the Pine Trail to India as well! The image here presents the Pine Trail roadmap.

According to Kamran, the netbook and nettop categories are now firmly established and the Intel Atom processor has become the is processor of choice. This has led to an unprecedented ramp of tens of millions of units, backed by significant momentum and ecosystem support. There have been nearly 300 design wins across netbook and nettop segments.

Entering the next phase indicated that while netbooks are still a growth driver, opportunities are still lying untapped with large markets being underserved. Hence, Intel expected a strong year ahead for nettops with broad adoption likely. This presents a perfect scenario for a new Atom processor platform!

Kamran said that with the Pine Trail, Intel had moved on to a two-chip solution. The graphics and memory controller now move into the processor, leading to package area and power savings. There is now an increase in the performance of the core CPU. The two-chip architecture enables 4L PCB routing. The fanless potential enables reducing the BOM. All of this leads to easier design with package area reduction.

Moblin project and v2.0
Kamran also touched upon the Moblin — an optimized Linux operating system project that delivers a visually rich Internet and media experience on Intel Atom processor based devices, such as MIDs, netbooks/nettops, in-vehicle infotainment, and embedded systems.

Currently, Moblin-based netbooks are already in the market. The Moblin v2 alpha and beta releases expand the community’s innovations. Moblin v2.0 Beta is now released!

It is optimized for Intel Atom processor-based devices — fast boot, improved footprint and battery life optimization. It also features a complete user interface for Intel Atom processor-based netbooks and nettops now and extending to all Intel Atom processor-based devices. Besides, it has a broad ecosystem momentum.

Elaborating the Moblin v2.0 beta experience, Kamran said that the M-zone replaces the desktop — it is the entry point to the netbook and the nettop. It allows easy and personalized social networking, as well as simplified internet and rich media consumption. The solution is customizable for OEMs and service providers.

For those interested, Moblin v2.0 Beta is available for download!

PS: Intel today previewed the Intel Xeon ‘Nehalem-EX’ processor. Hope to bring you an overview soon!

Altera Nios II processor gets Wind River Linux support

March 5, 2009 Comments off

Wind River recently announced the Wind River Linux support for Altera’s Nios II embedded processor.

Commenting on the Nios II processor adoptiion, Mikeson Wang, Product Marketing Manager, Asia Pacific, Altera Corp., in Hong Kong, highlighted that it has over 20,000 licensees worldwide, and is used by each one of the top 20 OEMs. The Nios II processor happens to be the industry’s #1 soft core CPU, as per Gartner Dataquest. There exists a very vibrant Nios Forum community of over 10,000 users. It is also used by developers in all Altera markets.

Wind River delivers Linux support for the Nios II processor also means that the #1 FPGA processor is now supported by best-in-class embedded Linux. Also, Nios II plus embedded Linux = BOM cost reduction.

It is a compelling alternative to discrete off-the-shelf processors. Wind River customers have access to Altera’s full spectrum of FPGA and HardCopy ASIC solutions as well.

Wang added that the Nios II is popular because of providing design flexibility. Being a custom fit solution, it is also easy to modify hardware at any time.

Why Linux + Nios II
There are several reasons. First, it provides cost reduction through integration. Users can replace the existing CPU with an FPGA running Embedded Linux. Next, it provides protection from processor obsolescence. This in turn, protects the software legacy code, which happens to be a customer’s biggest investment.

This combination also allows design flexibility. Besides providing access to open source software, the time to market gets reduced as well.

Highlighting the reasons for the Altera-Wind River partnership, he added that Wind River is the best-in-class Linux partner, with worldwide sales, support, training and service infrastructure. Wind River is also the no. 1 embedded OS supplier for the communications market.

Altera itself has a strong presence in the communications market. Also, the FPGA processor use is a growing trend in embedded applications; and Nios II is leading FPGA soft processor. There is also a significant overlap of Altera and Wind River’s customer base, such as Huawei, ZTE, Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, etc., to name a few.

Deliveables include:
Altera
* Cyclone III FPGA Development Kit (3C120)
– DK-DEV-3C120
* Linux Hardware Reference Design (Quartus II Project)
– Current design: 125 MHz in 3C120
– Nios II performance: 150 – 300 DMIPS *

Wind River
* Wind River Linux Distribution
* Wind River Workbench for Nios II
– Workbench IDE with Nios II Support
– GNU Tool Chain, Board Support Package
* Flash files (HW & SW for 3C120 board)

The Cyclone III FPGA development kit is a complete platform for prototyping embedded systems.

In summary, the Wind River-Altera partnership helps reduce system cost and TTM, and increases system flexibility. Altera and Wind River already share several customers, and hence, this is a win-win partnership. The strategic partnership with Wind River complements Altera’s silicon, soft processor and FPGA development, besides, Wind River’s industry-leading embedded Linux distribution.

How will this partnership boost FPGA sales? According to Wang: “The current weak demand is due to recession. We see weak demand in every segment. However, we are still outperforming the market.”

Although leading-edge FPGAs are scaling to 40nm and beyond, have the tools caught up with these new and complex processes? Wang added that the process does not have any significant impact.

EVE betting strong on Indian semicon industry

August 10, 2008 Comments off

I have known Montu Makadia, Director and Country Sales Manager, EVE Design Automation Pvt. Ltd, since his days at eInfochips. It was interesting to learn more about the company and its strategy for India over the coming years.

For those who came in late, EVE offers a broad range of hardware-assisted verification solutions on the market, from acceleration to fast emulation and prototyping, with the most cycles per dollar. EVE products lead to a significant shortening of the overall verification cycle of complex integrated circuits and electronic systems design.

EVE products also work in conjunction with popular Verilog and VHDL-based software simulators from Synopsys, Cadence Design Systems and Mentor Graphics. Its sales headquarters in the United States is in San Jose, California. EVE’s manufacturing, R&D and corporate headquarters is located in Palaiseau, France.

Estimating the Indian semiconductor industry, Makadia said the global semiconductor market continues to grow, driven by the demand for consumer-oriented electronic devices. The Indian semiconductor industry, in particular, appears quite strong and is an attractive market opportunity for EVE.

“That’s because of its push into digital media, telecom and mobile communications markets that presents tremendous growth opportunities for companies such as EVE,” he said.

According to him, industry watchers should see strong growth in semiconductors in India in the coming years, propelled by smaller process technologies, multi-core architectures and the ever-increasing software content in system-on-chips (SoCs). With more SoC designs, the demand increases for hardware/software co-verification solutions.

EVE’s belief in the Indian market has been so strong that EVE Design Automation Pvt. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary based in Bangalore, was formed in 2007. EVE DA markets and supports the Zebu (for ‘zero bugs’) hardware-assisted verification platforms of accelerators, emulators and FPGA prototypes.

ZeBu enhances SoC performance
So, how exactly does ZeBu help analyze, benchmark and measure performance of the system-on-chip (SoC) over realistic scenarios?

Makadia said: “We have been really successful last year promoting the Zebu based emulation platform. Our existing customers, as well as new prospects in India, have shown great interest and recognized real value in adopting Zebu, not only for hardware verification but also for hardware and software co-verification.

“The Zebu platforms enable software validation and co-verification in a range of several megahertz, thus replacing the deployment of ASIC or prototype boards. For instance, we booted operating systems, e.g., Linux and WinCE, on processors designs mapped into ZeBu emulation platforms at 10-20 megahertz using a transactor-based verification methodology.”

How can EVE’s ZeBu be the choice of startups who need first-pass silicon success? Makadia added that startups in need of first-pass silicon success and designers worldwide have found that emulation tools such as Zebu are the only option for debugging hardware and testing the integration of hardware and software within complex SoCs.

He noted: “This is especially true when the task calls for executing billions of cycles in less than one hour and there’s a need for full visibility into the hardware. The ability to track hardware and software interaction offered by Zebu is considered a plus.”

ZeBu helps to analyze benchmark and measure SoC performance with realistic scenarios by running at speeds well above one megahertz. It is capable of executing complete test scenarios within an acceptable timeframe and just shy of running in real time.

This is interesting, and further examination needs to be done to evaluate how the emulation segment is performing and where it is evolving, especially, in India?

Makadia said: “After several years of stagnation, the overall market for emulation has been growing due to escalating complexity in hardware and in embedded software. Other factors have made emulators attractive once again. They run faster, are easier to use, have smaller footprints and are cheaper than older generations.”

The growth trend for emulation and hardware/software co-verification solutions will continue in the foreseeable future, especially in India.

Speaking on EVE’s overall strategy, he added that the company will continue to introduce even better performing emulation platforms through innovative architectures and enhanced supporting software to increase adoption by all market segments of the electronics industry.

Further, EVE is evaluating strategic partnerships and possible mergers with various synergistic companies to expand the attraction of its offerings.

Developers, go parallel, or perish, says Intel

May 22, 2008 Comments off

Parallelism or parallel computing involves the simultaneous use of more than one computer or processor to execute a program. Ideally, parallel processing makes a program run faster as there are more engines (CPUs) running it.

India has been slow off the blocks as far as parallelism is concerned. Intel is undertaking various programs to ensure that software developers in Inda keep pace with the latest developments.

Intel has been developing microprocessors for a long time. James Reinders, Chief Software Evangelist and Director of Intel Software Development Products, said: “You can double performance and reduce power. Power consumption in a microprocessor isn’t something that the industry wants. The solution is to add cores.”

There are bandwidth challenges with multicore. Intel will be adding QuickPath technology later this year. Providing point-to-point high-speed links to distributed shared memory, the Intel QuickPath technology unleashes the parallel processing performance of next-generation Intel 45nm microarchitectures (codenamed Nehalem and Tukwila). These microarchitectures, built from the ground up, will be the first to use the Intel QuickPath interconnect system and can see significant improvements in overall performance.

Reinders added, “We will also go to eight cores this year. We are looking at working with developers, so that they can take advantage of the cores. We need to look at how they can make parallel programming more flexible.”

Tech challenges
Intel has been seeing pretty strong trends of users using parallelism or perhaps, trying to figure out how to use it best. The most active areas where parallelism is currently being used are in scientific applications and high-performance computing. The challenge is in the high-performance computing area, which involves lot of digital media content, said Reinders.

Indian scenario
Commenting on the scenario in India, Narendra Bhandari, Director, Intel Software and Solutions Group, said: “In India, we have been interacting with the telecom software companies. They have gone on to build parallelism, and actually delivered to local customers.”

Reinders further added: “In Karnataka, we have interacted with an educational software company. We have tools that analyze what their programs do. Very quickly, they agree to discuss, and three to five weeks later, they are able to release new patches of their products.”

Citing Tally as an example, Bhandari said: “We were able help Tally look at their applications. As the data load increases, challenges increase as well. They have since seen dramatic improvements in their applications. Yet another example is an animation company. We looked at their rendering. In two months or less, they saw the results. We showed them where the paradigm was shifting.”

According to Intel, the interest levels in the adoption of the tools, as per the downloads and sales, etc., has gone up from 3x to 5x. “Traffic is quite high on our software network portal. This is the traffic to the geeky portion of Intel. All of these trends indicate that the awareness regarding parallelism has been very good in India,” added Reinders.

Two of Intel’s customers have applauded the company for its good work in parallelism — the Institute of Mathematical Sciences of India (IMSI) in Chennai and Philips Medical.

Training programs
Intel launched a University program two years ago (Go Parallel or Perish). As of the end of 2007, 407 institutions globally have signed up. About 200 of these are from India. According to Reinders, most of the professors that Intel meets do touch upon parallelism in their classes. “We’ve also seen improvements at the UG level.”

Bhandari added that Intel has a generation of programmers who have written code with non-parallel environments. “Parallelism skill is now going to be critical. The curriculum changes at institutes do not happen overnight. However, IIT-Kanpur built a curriculum two years ago and open sourced it,” he pointed out. “We also talked to NIIT. We introduced parallelism in their curriculum. This was 18 months ago. Elements of our courses are also going on at G-NIIT. The NIITs have large scale and scope,” he added.

Open Source
The fact that Intel does a lot of work on open source is perhaps, not well publicized. Reinders noted: “We do a lot of work in Open Source, and are right behind IBM and Red Hat. Linux eats up more power. The impact is the same on laptops and servers. We came up with seven different patches. Cutting power consumption on Linux devices is something that Intel is good at.”

Intel also does a lot of seminars and other software partner programs. Reinders said: “Our focus is more toward the developer community. DRDO and BHEL are some of the customers in India who have benefited from our software development.”

Three programmer challenges
According to Intel, programmers have three immediate challenges with parallelism: scalability, correctness and maiintainability. The rules of the thumb, as outlined by Intel are:

• Think parallel.
• Program using abstraction.
• Program in tasks (chores), not threads (cores).
• Design with the option to turn concurrency off.
• Avoid using locks.
• Use tools and libraries designed to help with concurrency.
• Use scalable memory allocators.
• Design to scale through increased workloads.

Parallelism offers new doors. Creativity is required to open these new doors. Developers would do well to look for these doors. Without any doubt, parallelism is central to Intel’s products. Multi-core needs parallel applications. Therefore, developers need to learn to either think and go or be parallel, or perish!

Top 10 tech trends likely to make waves in 2008

December 20, 2007 Comments off

It is quite a task to predict what the New Year has in store for us. My friend Radhika Nallayam at CIOL and I, present you a list of technology trends likely to make waves in 2008.

1. Greening of IT
Data centers of today are witnessing very high power consumption and cooling requirements. Skyrocketing energy consumption surely poses a challenge to the environment. Besides this, the hazardous effect of e-waste is also a major environmental concern in today’s IT sector. (It is estimated that more than 800 million PCs will be replaced during 2007 and 2012)

As a result, the IT world has started realizing the need for ‘greening of IT’ to minimize the harmful effects of energy expulsion from IT operations and data centers. (Green Data Center report from Symantec Corp. states that nearly three-fourths of respondents of the survey stated they have interest in adopting a strategic green data center initiative).

The ‘green IT’ movement has already succeeded in creating environmental responsibility among major IT vendors across the globe.

2. Is 2008 going to be the year of Linux?
It’s been years since we started talking about the ‘year of Linux’. Finally, good news for open source buffs? Well, we really can’t predict that. But, there is a hope that the coming time could be a real turning point in the history of open source, making 2008 the year of Linux on desktop. Though Linux will not be a direct replacement for Windows, we are definitely going to see a major increase in the number of end-users adopting Linux.

PC giant Dell, at the beginning of this year, gave us a positive sign by introducing Linux computers. A number of other vendors are also betting high on Linux. Ubuntu has already received recognition among mobile users and server market. Linux Desktop, though gradually, is gaining momentum. At this point in time, we can only wait and watch the game!

3. Will Vista be the OS to own?
When Microsoft launched Vista, Gartner’s analysts suggested ignoring the new operating system until 2008 and not to rush into upgrading. So, it’s time for us to rethink. Lots of users are still waiting for the first service pack to arrive before upgrading from Windows XP. And, hopefully, SP1 is likely to arrive in the beginning of 2008.

Vista definitely offers some advanced security feature and more polished interface. But due to some concerns related to application compatibility and more hardware requirements, consumers, till now, were reluctant to switch to Vista.

However, some recent surveys show that a lot of companies are now willing to upgrade to Vista. Microsoft expects Vista to be accountable for 85 percent of operating system sales in fiscal 2008 compared with 15 percent for Windows XP. Majority of the consumers will, sooner or later, have to migrate to Vista. Well, that could be in 2008.

4. IPTV sees big surge in popularity
IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is already in spotlight. It has opened up new possibilities for consumers, service providers and content providers. From a mere technology concept, IPTV has completed the first stage and has become a real service. In some countries, it is almost in the mass-market stage. IPTV is considered to be one of the most highly visible services to emerge as part of the development of next-generation networks (NGN).

There are many more questions to be answered pertaining to the business model, pricing, packaging and the technology itself. But, the coming year is definitely going to see more developments in the IPTV space.

One thing worth mentioning, which may prove to be crucial for IPTV to reach its market potential, is the devlopments of standards for IPTV. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently announced the first set of global standards for IPTV. So, there are definitely some good news for us. And, no doubt , as long as the demand for high-quality personalized content exists among the consumers, IPTV will not struggle to reach new horizons.

5. Will 802.11n arrive?
The 802.11n, the latest in the set of WLAN standards, comes with truly high speeds i.e. 4-5 times faster than 802.11g and fifty times faster than .11b! It also offers better operating distance comparing to the current wireless networks. Wow! This is really something the enterprises would love to invest in.

There is no doubt that 802.11n is well positioned to redefine wireless networking. But, would the new standard finally arrive in 2008? Ratification of the new standards is been delayed for quite a long time now and the users are really keen to see the faster version of Wi-Fi, without any more delay.

However, experts predict that ratification won’t happen overnight and it’s going to take some more time. Though some Wi-Fi vendors( Cisco, Aruba, Trapeze) have already launched 802.11n products, technology installations may happen only in the middle of 2008.

6. Short-range wireless technologies that will create a buzz
Short-range wireless technology is not just about Bluetooth anymore. New entrants like High-speed Bluetooth, Wireless USB and ZigBee are getting traction too. Demand for high data transfer rates has increased over the years with the increase in video and audio content on portable devices like mobile phones, laptops as well as on multimedia projectors and television sets.

Though high-speed Bluetooth is in its primary stage of development, it is expected to be 100 times faster than the current technology. This next-generation Bluetooth will hopefully hit the market in 2008.

Wireless USB is targeting 1Gbps throughput. Vendors have already introduced wireless USB hubs, adapters and laptops in the market. However, wide adoption of the technology depends on how soon it is going to be embedded into digital cameras, camcoders, MP3 players etc.

ZigBee is the wireless connection used by sensors and control devices. It is expected to find traction in commercial building automation in 2008.

7. No end in sight for high-definition (HD) war
Is the war between Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition video formats never ending? Well, there, definitely, is an end. But that may not be in 2008 Analysts in the industry predict that the high-definition war may last for another year and a few months. There is a strong market position for both the standards currently and this makes it difficult to predict the winner.

Meanwhile, there has been no improvement in the sales of both the technologies this year as consumers still feel both Blu-ray and HD DVD are expensive.

On the other hand, Toshiba recently introduced comparatively low priced HD DVD players. This initiative definitely poses a challenge for Blu-Ray companies. To cope with this, they will have to cut down the hardware prices of Blu-ray. If that happens, the war will continue for some more time.

8. Shift from magnetic to solid-state hard drives
At present, the market is dominated by magnetic hard drives. But the future seems to be of solid-state hard drives as magnetic hard drives have limited data transfer speed. Solid-state hard drives are based on flash memory and is much faster memory solution. They also have advantages such as low noise and low power consumption. High pricing is the primary hindering factor for solid-state hard drives to become mainstream.

Major players like Seagate are betting high on solid-state technology and have plans to offer it next year. Solid-state hard discs are likely to be more popular in the laptop market. If prices fall down, we can see a slow shift happening from magnetic to solid-state hard drives in 2008.

9. Is 2008 going to be a banner year for wireless?
We no more worry about the clutter of wires. Offices have gone wireless. Cities are going wireless. All portable devices have embedded wireless technologies. We are moving fast towards a ‘wire-free’ world. So, 2008, beyond doubt, is going to see much more technology developments.

Though the ‘wireless’ world won’t be a true reality so soon, the need for seamless mobility and freedom is surely going to drive more wireless technology advancements.

The upcoming 802.11n will redefine enterprise networking in the coming year. Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) will tie fixed and mobile networks to deliver enhanced user experience. 2008 is expected to be the year of Mobile WiMax as well. Above all these, 2008 will probably witness open access to all networks, which in turn will open up more opportunities.

10. The ‘iPhone mania’ to continue
iPhone rates as the most memorable new product for 2007. Yes, it literally shook the mobile phone world in 2007. Now, doubtlessly, companies would love to follow Apple’s path by introducing similar products. So, 2008 is certainly going to see mobile phones with more and more web services and multimedia functionalities integrated into it. So, 2008 could very well be a year of ‘iPhone-like’ products from Apple’s rivals.

Top 10 influential tech products of last 25 years

August 11, 2007 Comments off

It is becoming a season to talk about top things, ain’t it? About a fortnight back, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), announced its Top 10 list of the most influential technology products of the past 25 years.

According to CompTIA, a total of 471 individuals participated in the CompTIA survey, which was conducted in May and June. Products developed by Microsoft claimed four of the top five spots in the poll of information technology (IT) industry professionals, conducted in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of CompTIA. Apple’s iPod is the only non-Microsoft product to break into the top 5.

As per CompTIA, the top 10 most influential technology (or computing) products of the past 25 years are:

1. Internet Explorer (selected by 66 percent those surveyed)
2. MS Word (selected by 56 percent of survey respondents)
3. Windows 95 (selected by 50 percent of survey respondents)
4. Apple’s iPod and MS Excel (tied at 49 percent each)
6. Blackberry (selected by 39 percent of survey respondents)
7. Adobe Photoshop (selected by 35 percent of survey respondents)
8. McAfee VirusScan (selected by 32 percent of survey respondents)
9. Netscape Navigator and Palm’s PalmPilot (tied at 31 percent each)

While there will be differences of opinion about this list, and also the fact that components of MS Office have been broken up into separate components, it’s quite evident yet again that Microsoft rules the computing world, and will continue to do so for a long time. Well done to the great team at Microsoft!

Now, I have my own comments regarding these selections. First, I have always believed Mac OS to be better than Windows. So, I’d put Mac OS in place of Windows 95.

I won’t have MS Office there, or any components of MS Office, as I felt back in early 2000 that StarOffice and now, Open Office are equally good.

I’d replace IE with Opera, which is a lighter and much better browser, even back when it was first launched.

Yes, Apple’s iPod has revolutionized digital music, but don’t forget Real Player! The first time we all probably started watching videos and listen to music over the Web was by using the Real Player! For most, it was the first experience of streaming video and audio!

I agree Palm’s done very well and changed the way people looked at mobile computing. However, it was the short-lived Apple’s Newton, which first promised all of this. By the way, I must have the iMac on my list too.

My list would have another Adobe product, the Pagemaker, which revolutionized desktop publishing. Don’t know whether people remember Quark Express! I am tempted to add Unix, or well, Linux, as it really brought open source into the great, wide open!

Lot of people are enamored by the Blackberry today. However, it was way back in 2000 when I was using my Siemens GSM phone in Hong Kong and elsewhere to send and receive emails, and also use it to search for hotels and other establishments over GPRS. In fact, at a conference in Singapore in 2002, during a survey done among the participants, I was among the three people using the GSM phone to send and receive emails! So, shouldn’t mobile phones be the first on everyone’s list?

Finally, I’ll definitely add Tally to my list. Tally, as all Indians know, is the most widely used accounting software, starting way back in 1986. The mumbers achieved by this single accounting software is simply mind-boggling!

My Top 10
Therefore, friends, my list of the top 10 technology (or computing) products of the last 25 years would be:

1. Mobile phones (GSM phones, especially) — all down the years
2. Tied between Apple’s Mac OS and the iMac
3. Linux
4. McAfee’s VirusScan
5. Real Player
6. Tied between Quark Express and Adobe Pagemaker
7. Netscape Navigator
8. Tally
9. Tied between StarOffice and Open Office
10. Tied between Opera browser and Apple’s Newton

I am sure that most people will not agree with my selection/choices or even find my list appealing. That’s fine! It’s my own individual selection and I’m not canvassing for anyone in particular! These are purely my observations over the last two decades.

I am delighted at having had the privilege, like most of you, perhaps, to have had the honor of using all of these great technologies and products. Hats off to all the technologists of the world!

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