DRAM

DVC provides fantastic opportunity: NetApp

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NetApp has introduced the Data Visionary Engineering Center (DVC) in Bangalore. Paul van Linden, manager, EMEA and APAC EBC Program, said that as of now, there are four DVCs: in Sunnyvale and RTP North Carolina, USA, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and now, Bangalore.

Having a DVC does make a difference. Linden said: “Partners are hugely important. In a 2017 APBM survey, 86 percent said their purchase size increased due to visit. 30 percent said that NetApp is a trusted advisor. 42 percent said that their sales cycle had reduced (by up to 9 percent). And, 79 percent said that they discovered additional products (gone up by 15 percent).” He added, “We provide proven business acceleration.”

On the question of why have a DVC in Bangalore, he said: “Global customers have some very unique requirements. Eg., they would like to have detailed conversations with coders. This (DVC) is a fantastic opportunity.”
NetApp
Anil Valluri, president, Sales, India and SAARC, said: “It is a recognition of two things – one, the vibrancy of the market, and two, the huge amount of engineering talent in India. There are a lot of services being launched by the government. There is a growing market, with a lot of cutting-edge technology. We can tell people how to embrace digital transformation.

“The global SIs architecture centers are here. They can come here, and use technologies. It is a recognition of the potential of the Indian market. We can also serve as the knowledge center.”

Deepak Vishweswaraiah, MD and SVP, Data Fabric and Manageability Group, noted: “The whole digital transformation is not unique to NetApp. We are helping customers to progress on their data journey visions. Customers need to find new ways to do business. They have to find newer customers and newer ways to do business.

“We are also introducing the NetApp Cloud Volumes for Google Cloud Platform (GCP). We are now delivering data services with all the world’s largest hyper-scalers, such as Azure, AWS and Google Cloud Platform.

“We have modernized the IT architecture with Cloud Connected Flash. Powerful AI and high-performance applications with the world’s fastest enterprise all-flash array, the AFF A800 end-to-end NVMe.

“The NetApp ONTAP 9.4 storage OS improves performance, efficiency and data protection, also providing the industry’s first enterprise 30TB SSDs. It enables GDPR compliance and secures the data. New, intelligent cloud services further reduce TCO. The Active IQ provides insights for higher operational efficiency.

“We have also announced the NetApp Cloud Insights – Hybrid Cloud ITIM, delivered via SaaS. It improves customer satisfaction, pro-actively prevents failures, and optimizes to reduce cost. We have automated the tamper-proof retention of critical financial data.

“We are now accelerating our data visionary footprint in India. We have the largest R&D teams for NetApp in India.”

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Semicon industry in for an exciting decade ahead: Lam Research

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Lam Research is a global leader in wafer fabrication equipment and services since 1980. It is the world’s second-largest semiconductor equipment manufacturer. Lam Research India was established for software development and support in 2000. Now, it provides hardware and software engineering design services, and plays a strategic role as part of the Product Engineering and Global Operations teams.

With a centre in Bengaluru that houses over 800 employees, Lam Research India’s proximity to the customer and supplier base in Asia, as well as 24×7 operational support enabled by the time zone difference with the headquarters in Fremont, CA, makes Lam India an indispensable part of Lam.

While Lam does not manufacture in India, there is a manufacturing support system here that is involved in planning, procurement and logistics that caters to a worldwide network of suppliers and manufacturers.

Innovation in semicon
Let’s look at the work and innovation happening in the semiconductor space

KrishnanKrishnan Shrinivasan, MD, Lam Research (India), said: “It is a very exciting time to be in the semiconductor ecosystem. There is a full spectrum of next-generation solutions that we have been working on for about five years now. We have made some headway in its implementation. Non-volatile memory (NVM), which is about the cloud and data storage, driven by the amount of distributed sensors that are collecting data that needs to be stored and monetized, has possibly experienced the highest growth.

“Another key transition is from two-dimensional architecture to a three-dimensional architecture. In a two-dimensional architecture, one is constantly working on shrinking, but on a single dimension. Now, we have an opportunity to continue to work on shrinking, but, also have an almost unlimited opportunity to vertically scale. We are just in the third- or fourth-generation of an inflection that will create an impact for at least ten generations to come.

“In terms of the logic roadmap, it has already transitioned from the world of planar transistor to the FinFET transistor scheme, and there are further generations of innovation in FinFET technology and a new transistor structure in later architecture.

“This roadmap is a 5-10 year one for the logic industry. While the clearest roadmap for the industry from a technology point is in NVM, all of the elements, logic and memory, including DRAM and NVM, have a technical roadmap, which is as good – if not stronger – than it has been in many years.

“The semiconductor industry is looking at an exciting decade from a technological advancement point of view. The level of innovation is being driven by an increasing number of applications for predictive medicine, autonomous vehicles, innovations in space and climate. All this would not have been possible without silicon.

“The innovation in silicon enables the development of the application space. Application development and growth can only be sustained through continuous innovation in the semiconductor industry.”

Transformative memory tech
Next, what about transformative memory technology and its latest inflection

Shrinivasan added: “The semiconductor industry is facing multiple technology inflections simultaneously. Revolutionary approaches are being sought after in place of incremental or evolutionary scaling strategies in order to provide consumers with smaller, faster and power efficient devices.

“The current inflections are focussed on multiple patterning, FinFET, advanced packaging, and 3D NAND. NAND flash has traditionally been made using two-dimensional (2D) or planar methods. However, in order to squeeze in more memory capacity without having to shrink feature dimensions, 3D NAND provides a viable option. This memory structure is different therefore, it requires new fabrication methods which are being developed. 3D NAND is being driven by several important advantages that it offers, including its ability to deliver higher capacity with a lower cost per bit.
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MOS memory investors, China to correct DRAM imbalance

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penn1According to an IC Insights report, the 47 percent full-year 2017 jump in the price-per-bit of DRAM was the largest annual increase since 1978, surpassing the previous high of 45 percent registered 30 years ago in 1988! This sounds interesting!

Are the rising DRAM prices aiding startup Chinese competitors? Are major DRAM suppliers somehow stunting global DRAM demand?

Dr. Walden C. Rhines, president and CEO, Mentor Graphics, a Siemens Business, said: “The DRAM business has always gone through cycles of imbalance between supply and demand. Growth of demand in the last 18 months has been stronger than growth of supply.

“Substantial investments in 2017 by the MOS (metal-oxide semiconductor) memory producers, as well as the addition of China to the supply chain, will correct this imbalance late this year or, at the latest, early next year.”

The DRAM price-per-Gb has been on a steep rise. To this, Dr. Rhines said: “It is a commodity, although there are many types of specialty DRAMs emerging. Because DRAMs are viewed by customers as a near-commodity, the price is heavily influenced by the availability of supply. Supply has been very tight during the last 18 months.

Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, UK, added, “This is supply and demand, pure text-book economics.”

Are the rising DRAM prices opening the door for startup Chinese competitors?

Dr. Rhines noted: “Chinese competitors made their decision to invest in DRAM capacity long before the recent strengthening of demand in the balance of supply and demand. Of course, higher, or stable, pricing may make it easier for new producers to absorb the costs of ramping up new capacity and developing experience with a new technology.”

Malcolm Penn agreed: “Potentially yes, and to anyone else. Coca Cola were contemplating building DRAMs in the 1990s. DSRAM market boom, again, pure text-book economics. Whether or not they succeed is an entirely different matter. If the Chinese do enter the market, can they then survive the inevitable downturn and cycles? That remains to be seen!”

Can the startup Chinese DRAM producers field any competitive product soon? Dr. Rhines noted: “They probably can. But, they will have to develop a production base of “learning” to reduce cost, improve yields and maybe even reliability. This will take some time.”

Penn added: “Technically (i.e., meeting the spec), probably, yes. Reliability, probably no, for the Tier 1 customers (that will take several years to build up the production experience). Cost, definitely not!

“Their small fab scale and late learning curve start means that their die cost will be sizably higher than those of Samsung and SKH, and also Micron. Plus, their yields will be lower. Then, there’s the deep cash pockets issue to fund these ongoing cost disadvantages.”

300mm fabs
In a separate situation, some 300mm fabs closing, for example, ProMOS. Dr. Rhines said: “It’s because of an imbalance of supply and demand for the products they make, thus limiting their profitability. It could also be because they don’t see an adequate investment return from the expensive new capacity investments, and therefore, find it more attractive to phase out some of their existing capacity.”

Malcolm Penn felt that the fabs were too old and technically obsolete.

Finally, are there more IC companies making transition to fab-lite or fabless business model?

Penn noted: “There’s no-one left to change! Everyone’s now fablite or fabless, except for Intel and Samsung (logic) and the memory manufacturers.”

Dr. Rhines said: “Based upon the growth of foundry revenue vs. total semiconductor revenue growth, there must be a continuing transition of capacity away from IDMs toward foundries. In addition, IDMs like Samsung are finding it economic to build the foundry business to increase the volume base of products that utilize their technology and capital investment.”