Confluence of AI/ML with EDA and software engineering: ISQED 2021

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The International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design (ISQED) 2021 started today virtually in the USA. It is the premier electronic design conference. . ISQED bridges the gap between electronic/semiconductor ecosystem members, providing electronic design tools, IC technologies, packaging, assembly and test, semiconductor, etc., to achieve total design quality.

ISQED is the leading conference for design for manufacturability (DFM) and quality (DFQ) issues. ISQED emphasizes a holistic approach toward design quality to highlight and accelerate co-operation among the IC design, EDA, wafer foundry and manufacturing communities.

Arun Venkatachar, VP, AI and Central Engineering, Synopsys, presented the keynote on the confluence of AI/ML with EDA and software engineering. He talked about how AI/ML can help in chip design and product development.

Chip design a tough game to play. There are deluge of challenges. There is debug, DFM, DPT, etc. We can leverage AI and Big Data to design silicon faster, and more cost-effectively. There are connected analytics, insights, time-series, patterns, etc. Algorithms generate a ton of data. Data has become the epicenter. Synopsys has three different vectors of innovation: enabling AI chips, AI-enhanced tools, and AI-driven apps. AI/ML looks at the data.

Synopsys has AI-enhanced tools and apps. These improve the performance, QoR, and productivity, beyond what is possible algorithmically. They are also using RL for design space optimization. ML enables new way of thinking about design.

Another example is VC LP, or faster violation debug with ML. There are manufacturing-related opportunities. AI/ML use cases have finally gone into production at customers. Customers are also more savvier, and understand the importance of good data diligence. Deployment of AI solutions are different than current EDA product deployments. However, not all problems can be solved with AI/ML. Confluence of data, algorithm, etc., is need.

AI/ML can also help build better EDA products, leading to better software engineering. Systemic complexity growth has been happening in product development. Products and engineering complexity is also increasing. We need to improve the release quality and predictability, improve R&D productivity, etc.

Quality can be managed by design, such as preventive measures and built-in quality, validation, such as test and failure analysis, and defect management, such as responsiveness and support. Path to actionable insights need data points, Big Data, and intelligence. AI/ML takes the insights and starts to predict. We can also do quality-by-analytics. You need to know the defects, tests, and code. Insights enable shift-left in quality and improves productivity. Shift-left strategy is enabled by quality-by-analytics and information at the disposal of the developer.

Synopsys has ML-infused apps. There is CodeQuarry, Plan Better, Failure Triage, Bug Triage, Intelligent Test Selection, Release Analytics, and Predictive Score. An example is the code hotspot analysis tool. We need to identify the functions that are hot. This will prioritize the R&D work that yields high RoI.

In bug triaging, new bugs are automatically compared to others, and clustered, based on stack similarity. There is also the check-risk analysis. We need to identify who should review the code change, whether dependent code modules need to be considered, related bugs, etc. Today, you can link and search collaterals across the organization, using NLP.

You need to establish a unified data management strategy. Streaming data access on a unified data platform can enable a true ecosystem via data sharing. Connected analytics can yield key insights and open up new avenues. Tap into the convergence! It all starts with good data-diligent approach and process management. Use AI/ML as a new paradigm shift to improve quality, productivity, and efficiency.

Semiconductor outlook 2021 — navigating through turbulent times

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SEMI Silicon Valley Chapter and SEMI Northeast Chapter organized a conference today on Semiconductor Outlook — Navigating Through Turbulent Times – Is the End Near?

David Anderson, President, SEMI Americas, said that the pandemic saw our homes become offices. We had to adapt quickly and our industry kept on going. He added that the Semicon West 2021 has been rescheduled to Dec. 7-9, 2021, in San Francisco, USA.

Memory and storage in data economy
Indradeep Ghosh, Senior Director, Market Intelligence, Micron Technology, talked about memory and storage in the data economy. Electronics today has become a necessity of life. We have seen an acceleration in digital transformation. Memory and storage consumption has been accelerating. DRAM and NAND consumption has been growing per capita. DRAM and NAND revenue has been growing faster than the semiconductor industry.

Indraneel Ghosh.

Technology innovation has unlocked the data economy. Two major trends are AI and 5G. The data-centric cloud is moving to the intelligent edge, on to devices. They are accelerating innovation. New wave of innovation will transform the multiple industries over the next decade. These include mobility, healthcare, media and entertainment, agriculture, and industrial.

A few examples are connected smart vehicles and fully autonomous driving, remote health monitoring and early progonosis, remote operations and IoT in hospitals, immersive media, AR/VR and ubiquitous live streaming, AI-enabled user generated content, robotics, drones, satellite and soil sensors, end-to-end traceability for food safety and spoilage, and cloud control of machines, AR, video analytics, etc.

Interesting markets
Data center DRAM is critical for compute-intensive apps. There will by ~13X AI server adoption by 2025. AI servers have ~6X the DRAM content of industry-standard servers. AI will become more pervasive. AI core use cases will be in business apps, content and collaborative, data management, gaming, media streaming, and web and app servers. AI use cases will also be in recommender systems, conversational technologies, image and video analytics, autonomous driving, cyber security, smart manufacturing, etc.

Data center NAND will be critical for data-hungry apps. NAND content on servers will more than double from 2020-2024. There will be 32 percent CAGR data center storage bit shipment growth. Few high-growth apps include structured data analytics, content apps, collaborative apps, app development and testing, etc. Performance will be across unstructured data analytics, media streaming, security, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and engineering/technical apps.

Automotive will be the fastest growing memory and storage market. Content today is mostly infotainment driven. The ADAS adoption will be huge, with L1/L2 ~50 percent in 2020, and L3 <10 percent in 2025. Growing capabilities will be in large screen digital cockpit, ADAS L1/L2 and L3, event data recorder/driver monitoting, and telematic gateway.

In mobile, 5G will drive the smartphone content growth. There are growing 5G use cases. In photography and social, there are use cases such as 100+MP snapshots, 4K/8K video capture, triple picture/video capture, AI-enhanced real-time editing, 4K video livestream, LiDAR and advanced sensors. In entertainment and gaming, there are 4K display/immersive media, AR/VR shopping and gaming navigation, eSports/desktop-level gaming, etc. For healthcare and fitness, there are advanced sensors, AI-based health monitoring, etc.

For PCs, there will be new use cases driving a resurgence in demand. PCs saw double-digit growth in 2020. They are an essential device for WFH and remote learning. There are expanding use cases, such as video conferencing, apps to create, collaborate and productivity, entertainment, gaming and social.

The long-term DRAM bit demand CAGR will be of mid-high teens. The long-term NAND bit demand will be CAGR of approximately 30 percent.

State of EDA
Next, Jay Vleeschhouwer, MD, Griffin Securities, presented the state of EDA. The combined enterprise values of Cadence Design and Synopsys are ≈$80 billion, or more than 12x 2020 combined revenues, and almost 12x estimated 2021 revenues.

Jay Vleeschhouwer.

Five years ago, the combined enterprise values of Cadence, Synopsys and Mentor was ≈$16.1 billion. The material increase in value has been sustained by a combination of bookings growth, increasing backlog, increasing operating income (up 115 percent over the past half-decade), and increasing operating cash flow (up more than 115 percent over the past half-decade).

We estimate that EDA industry revenue increased by 11-12 percent in 2020 to more than $9.2 billion. The industry has continued to consolidate. Cadence and Synopsys – the Big 2 – accounted for ≈66 percent of industry revenues, as compared with ≈64 percent in 2015 and ≈53 percent in 2010. Mentor has also sustained its prior, pre-acquisition average share (19-20 percent), since it was acquired by Siemens in 2017. Mentor has shown good momentum in physical
verification (Calibre) and PCB. Synopsys-Cadence-Mentor-Ansys have nearly 90 percent of the industry revenues.

For 2021, we are estimating that Cadence’s revenues will increase 7 percent to $2.56 billion, and Synopsys’ EDA revenues will increase 7 percent to nearly $3.7 billion. Similarly, we are estimating that Ansys’ EDA business will increase by 7 percent to more than $360 million.

The earlier dip in EDA revenue was due to the recession. Japan has lost share, while Europe has gone sideways. Mentor has retained its revenue share. while Cadence and Synopsys have also increased their revenue.

The combined Big 2 EDA bookings were $5.89 billion in 2020, up ≈15 percent. We are estimating $5.93 billion for 2021 and more than $6.5 billion by 2023 – consistent with an expectation of better than mid-single-digit bookings growth and continued increases in backlog. The combined Big 2 backlog was $8.5 billion as of the end of 2020, up from $8 billion as of the end of 2019. We are estimating as much as $9 billion by the end of 2021. The combined EDA Big 2 operating income in 2020 was $2.075 billion, or 31.9 percent of revenues, vs. $1.574 billion in 2014, or 27.6 percent of revenues, and $967 million in 2015, or 24.4 percent of revenues.
For 2021, we are estimating combined income of $2.26 billion, or 32.5 percent of the estimated revenues, and $2.75 billion by 2023, or more than 35 percent of the estimated revenues.

Diverse growth
Growth has been diverse, across many categories. This diverse base is expected to continue and be a driver. According to industry data, IC implementation, PCB, synthesis, analog/mixed-signal simulation, analysis, custom layout, and hardware-based verification have each had multiple consecutive periods of growth on a trailing-twelve-month (TTM) basis, plus improving trends for physical verification and RTL simulation.

The regular, co-inciding demand across multiple product categories by both the semiconductor and systems customers has been fundamentally conducive to EDA revenue growth – and, this phenomenon is very likely to continue. Each one of the EDA Big 4 – Synopsys, Cadence, Mentor and Ansys – participates in at least two of the growing categories. In physical verification, Mentor has dominated.

One of the most important product mix changes over the past 5-10 years has been growth of hardware-based verification (emulation and prototyping). The combined Cadence-Synopsys hardware revenues were more than $470 million in 2020, nearly doubling from 2015. Combined EDA IP revenues for Cadence and Synopsys were ≈$1.39 billion in 2020, (over 20 percent of combined revenue), vs. ≈ $1.1 billion in 2019, and more than ≈$620 million in 2015. The 2015-2020 CAGR for Big 2 core EDA software revenues (ex hardware and IP) was about ≈6 percent.

Two arms races
There are two arms races underway in technology: software development and silicon development. The investments in silicon development – by semiconductor companies, still the majority of EDA revenues, and the always important class of systems companies, e.g., Apple, Microsoft et al – are dependent upon EDA’s role as a source of essential technologies and services, and as such are sustaining the EDA industry’s revenue, income, and cash flow momentum.

The EDA industry growth has been sustained by growing demand among multiple EDA tool categories – as compared with earlier periods of more narrowly based growth. This has been, and is likely to remain, an important phenomenon, supported by the growth of semiconductor R&D budgets and systems customer product engineering budgets. These customer investments are in turn sustaining, and enabled by, EDA investments in R&D.

In 2020, the combined Cadence-Synopsys R&D was more than $2.35 billion (≈37 percent of revenues), vs. $2.116 billion in 2019, $1.429 billion in 2015 and $845 million in 2010. Cumulative combined R&D over the past decade (2010-2020) was more than $15.7 billion. We are estimating almost $2.5 billion for 2021 and more than $2.72 billion by 2023.

In semiconductor R&D, a composite of more than 25 semiconductor companies showed total R&D of $45.1 billion in 2019, up 2 percent. Intel accounted for ≈30 In semiconductor R&D, of this total. For the TTM ended 3Q20, total R&D was more than $46.8 billion, up almost 4 percent. The total R&D spending, excluding Intel, was up almost 4 percent in 2019 and ≈6 percent for the TTM ended 3Q20.

Among the semiconductor companies that have reported 2020 results, AMD’s R&D increased by 28 percent, Infineon’s by 29 percent, Intel’s by 1.5 percent, NXP’s by 5 percent, Nvidia’s by 39 percent (including Mellanox), Renesas’ by 2 percent, and ST’s by 3 percent. We have calculated that Intel’s commercial EDA spending accounts for as much as a high-single-digit percent of EDA industry revenues (more than $625 million in 2020). About three-fourths of its spending is with Synopsys, plus Cadence, Mentor and Ansys. There has been good bookings for the big 3 players over an 8-year period.

Part 2 continues later.

Computational software for cyber-physical system design

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Dr. Paul Cunningham, Corporate VP & GM, System Verification Group, Cadence Design Systems, presented on Computational Software for Cyber-Physical System Design, at the 34th International Conference on VLSI Design and 20th International Conference on Embedded Systems (VLSID 2021).

Jaswinder Ahuja.

Jaswinder Ahuja, Corporate VP and India MD, Cadence Design Systems India Pvt Ltd, said there are five generational trends. They are 5G/communications, hyperscale computing, AI/ML, autonomous vehicles, and industrial IoT. Computational software is driving the transformation.

Data is driving the silicon renaissance. We are facing the Big Data challenge. We need to tag the data for training purposes. We need to build the right analytics and flow. The hyperscale era has storage, processing, memory, and networking, that have enabled the data journey. The latest industry announcements are looking at hyperscale computing. Hyperscalers are expanding solutions to the other verticals.

Paul Cunningham.

Dr. Paul Cunningham talked about cyber-physical systems. Alexa today is the third parent in our houses. The future is of intelligently connected devices. This cyber-physical revolution is driving semiconductor growth. Cadence has customer challenges such as intelligence performance, system performance, and silicon performance. They are intelligent, learning systems, that are continuously evolving.

At Cadence, computational software is the core competence. We are creating new systems and products. Cadence has also expanded into multi-physics analysis and simulation. Examples are Clarity 3D EM Solver, and Celsius Thermal Solver. There are the Clarity 3D Transient Solver, and recently acquired the Numeca for computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

We have also improved system performance in 3D ICs. Some other examples are the Palladium and Protium. Palladium is the emulator, and Protium is the prototyping machine. We also offer the Tensilica system-level compute solutions.

Cadence is also applying ML to digital full flow. There is the ML-driven system to optimize the results of the digital implementation flow. Benefits include designer productivity and PPA.

PC @ Famous Blogger’s Club!

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Friends, I stumbled upon this post recently! Actually, it was an interview that I had done sometime back in 2011, with the Famous Bloggers’ Club.

Some of my old friends from the past may remember this. Nearly everyone had predicted some big things for me. And, most of them have actually come true. Well, here is it again, in case anyone is interested! 😉

Famous Blogger Club: Tell the world something about yourself and what you do in life? (Add Twitter and Facebook profile link, if available).

That’s me! 😉

PC: I have over 20 years experience in the international technology media. I specialize in semiconductors, electronics and telecom, research., etc. I am associated closely with the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) as well.

My blog was selected by Electronics Weekly, UK as the world’s best blog in the Electronic Hardware Category, Dec. 2008 The blog also received an Honorable Mention in the category: Best Technology Blog at:the BlogNet Awards, Feb. 2009.

I was also a good cricketer at school/college, and dabble a bit in astrology, numerology and palmistry. I have also tried my hands at writing plays.

FBC: What was the story behind your blog? How did you start blogging – since when – how did you name your blog).

PC: When I returned to India from overseas in early 2007, I knew there was no good source for me to read up on electronics, semiconductors, etc. So, I decided to start writing or blogging on topics I would require to read. And, hopefully, it would be useful to others too. Since I am extremely bad with names, I just named it after myself.

Here’s a post I wrote some time back on my reasons for blogging:

a) I am really tired of searching Google and Yahoo, and other search engines for information, and hence, decided to write on key information on semiconductors.

b) My blog is also my archive — I am really frustrated at NOT being able to FIND my old articles on the Web. The few, I found on other sites, actually wanted me, as a user, to sign up! To read my own articles… really! So, Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog now archives all of my articles written over the past two years.

c) India DOES NOT have any magazine on semiconductors yet, and, till I also spun of a semiconductor site off the blog for CIOL, there wasn’t even a semicon portal in India! I hope I have managed to give India a small and decent site on semiconductors!

d) I wanted to be THE resource for the semiconductor industry… again, I have miles to go. It is not easy being a lone ranger 🙂

e) The sheer thrill of doing something difficult — sitting in India — which does not have such detailed blogs on semiconductors, especially. It has really been difficult :), but very thrilling! My colleague, Ms. Usha Prasad, pokes fun at me — saying, go, light your bulb (a la the Sharukh Khan movie, Swades!) Ok, I’ve done nothing of that sort, as this movie showed!

f) My blog posts are all exclusive pieces, as I’m a believer in: great content = great traffic! Again, it is really difficult writing exclusive posts, especially on semiconductors.

g) I wanted to see where I stand, as against my former employers 🙂 — EDN, US (Reed) and EE Times (Global Sources). Yes, I can never match them! 😉 These are the places where I developed myself as a writer and an editor, and I will forever remain indebted to Global Sources and Reed!

h) I also attempted to create a brand out of my name, using semiconductors, essentially, as a platform. I have yet to see how successful it has been 🙂

FBC: Have you earned any money from been a blogger? How did you it – add links to useful websites for making money online. If not. then tell us why you blog?

PC: Yes, some of my blog posts have been and are bought by international magazines such as Nikkei, etc. I have also blogged about companies and their products for payment, and continue to do so. I have also started a separate blog for Photonics, USA.

FBC: Would you tell us about one of your famous posts? Why do you think it’s famous. Is it because of “content – traffic – comments – search engines?

PC: Oh, it has got to be on the Top 10 embedded companies in India, simply because of the great interest in this subject all over the world. A close second would be the Top 20 Solar/PV companies.

May I add that my focus has only been on great content that will be useful to the industries I serve/work in.

FBC: If I asked you to suggest one blogger friend to send him/her a Famous Blogger Club invitation, who you will suggest?

PC: That would have to be either of Ms. Laura Peter, David Lammers or Aaron Hand — from Semiconductor International.

Three trends in emulation for 2021: Lauro Rizzatti

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I first met up with Lauro Rizzatti of EVE, back in 2010, along with Montu Makadia (now, with Mentor). Back then, emulation was strong, (and, remains). EVE had launched the Zebu Server, a scalable emulation system handling 1 billion ASIC gates. This was much before EVE was acquired by Synopsys in October 2012.

At that time, the global semiconductor industry was on the up, after some down cycles. It had reached close to US$ 300 billion at the end of 2011. The dominance of East Asia and China was getting stronger in semiconductors. If I am correct, East Asia and China comprises about 75 percent of the global semiconductor industry today.

Dr. Wally Rhines was the CEO of Mentor Graphics, there were some talks about 450mm fabs (where are they, today?), MEMS was growing, with new devices likely in handsets and laptops, Altera was around (remember this FPGA company?), as was Xilinx (till it was bought by AMD this year), while Magma Design Automation was still present in the EDA industry. IoT was still raw, there were initial talks about forming Industry 4.0, while there was no sign of 4G in India.

Three trends in emulation for 2021
Back to Lauro Rizzatti! Memories are too deep, and I got carried away!! 🙂

It was a pleasant surprise to bump into him again, this time, virtually, after so many years, and after so many changes in the technology world. Being an emulation expert, naturally, I asked him about the three trends that he sees for emulation in 2021?

Lauro Rizzatti.

Lauro Rizzatti said that first, emulation is today a mandatory verification tool, and there will be more of the same in 2021. All of the AI, 5G and self-driving vehicles designs need emulation. RTL simulation is still widely used for block level, and perhaps, for small (few million gates) IoT designs with very limited embedded software contents, but not for system level validation. I expect to confirm the above in 2021.

Second, there will be the rise of enterprise-class FPGA-based prototyping platforms. FPGA prototyping has been around for almost 40 years, but it has been mostly confined to in-house activities plus a bunch of small commercial outfits with very few (1 to 3) engineers working from their garages or basements. They all shared the same approach: 1 to 4 FPGAs on a board, clocked at 10MHz to 200MHz, and lots of manual efforts to make it working.

The enterprise FPGA prototype platform is a scalable engine that can be configured with hundreds of FPGAs, clocked at 1MHz to 10Mhz, and massive software support. The question is, what’s the difference between an enterprise-class FPGA-based prototyping platform and a hardware emulation platform? This is a topic for my upcoming articles. 😊

Third, there are three hardware emulators vendors designing their next-generation machines, pushing the capacity envelop well beyond 10 billion ASIC-equivalent gates. In 2021 some of them will make announcements.

Three trends in semiconductors for 2021
This is a pet question now: asking folks for the trends ahead. Naturally, to Rizzatti, too!

He said that the three segments served by semiconductors are literally exploding with attention and lots of money: AI, 5G and Self-driving vehicles (including drones).

Not only are the big guns enjoying good times, but a plethora of startups are also springing up all over the world. Some will succeed, and many will fail, but that’s the name of the game. There are exciting times to play in these industries today.

EDA software adoption by IT companies contributing to growth: Dr. Wally Rhines

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The electronic design automation (EDA) industry revenue increased 12.6 percent in Q2-2020 to $2,783.9 million, compared to $2,472.1 million in Q2-2019, with most categories logging double-digit increases, as per the Electronic System Design (ESD) Alliance Market Statistics Service (MSS).

The four-quarter moving average, which compares the most recent four quarters to the prior four quarters, increased by 6.7 percent. The ESD Alliance is a SEMI Technology Community.

Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, Executive Sponsor, SEMI EDA Market Statistics Service, President and CEO, Cornami, and CEO Emeritus, Mentor, A Siemens Business, said that the EDA industry is experiencing amazingly strong growth right now, at least through the second quarter.

Dr. Wally Rhines.

“We just reported 12.6 percent worldwide growth in revenue compared to the same quarter as last year. The last four quarters show growth of 6.7 percent. In the second quarter of 2020, every category tracked by the ESDA Market Statistics Program grew in double digits, except PCB design and services. Even so, PCB is still on track to be the fastest growing segment in 2021 with 12.4 percent growth in the last 12 months.”

Right now, all the segments are increasing. Will this trend continue, going forward?

Dr. Rhines said: “Of course, no one can predict the future. But, the underlying fundamentals causing current growth suggest that this is not a short-term effect. The biggest contributor right now is the adoption of EDA software by companies that have not historically designed their own electronics. That includes the IT community of companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, and many more. In addition, the other systems companies in areas like automotive electronics are doing their own chip and board designs, while continuing their dependence upon tier one providers like Bosch, Denso, and many more.”

So, what is the growth likely for EDA during 2021? According to him, Japan grew at a very strong 9 percent rate in Q2-20 versus Q2-19. But, for the last 12 months, it has been flat. Korea EDA revenue decreased about 10 percent over the past 12 months, compared to prior years, and was flat in Q2-20 vs. Q2-19.

And, how are the semiconductor markets in Korea and Japan looking right now? Dr. Rhines noted that Japan is relatively flat. Korea has easier comparisons with last year, since the decrease in semiconductor revenue in 2019 was heavily influenced by memory price declines. He would expect that Korea will grow its semiconductor sales more than the overall world average in 2020 due to some recovery in memory pricing, influenced by the strong demand for server capacity in data centers.

Logic performance
Next, will logic performance improvement at fixed power slow down in 2021? How do you get around that? Dr. Rhines said that semiconductor logic revenue was relatively flat in 2019 despite the overall semiconductor market decline. It appears to be continuing that trend in 2020. The year 2021 will depend upon a post Covid-19 economic recovery. That is by no means certain, and it’s probably influenced by other factors, such as the elections in the USA.

Will there also be more heterogeneous integration, enabled by 3D technologies? “Absolutely! Heterogeneous integration is growing rapidly,” noted Dr. Rhines. And, multi-chip 2D and 3D packaging has made many new capabilities possible. Integration of PCB layout tools with IC design environments also helped. The support of foundries, like TSMC, with their “3D Fabric”, has helped too. Chiplets are an interesting extension to this packaging capability. It is interesting to see what AMD and Intel are doing in this space.

NVM and edge AI on the rise
Further, does the industry see the emerging non-volatile memories on the rise? He added that non-volatile memories are currently leading the transistor cost learning curve for the semiconductor industry. About 512 layers in flash memories is achievable, making for amazing NAND flash capacity in a single package. At this same time, it is a period of growing interest in new memory process technologies, like MRAM, ReRAM, FRAM, and more. Cost per bit continues on the long-term learning curve, and the continued doubling of total memory storage, both appear very predictable.

On the same token, I asked for his thoughts on the edge AI chip industry, going forward. As per Dr. Rhines, edge AI is entering a new wave of growth. It is inevitable that the intelligence in the cloud will make its way downward to embedded systems. It always has in the past as silicon capability allows us to compute locally that which we used to compute centrally in mainframes or servers.

“Dozens of new post-Von Neumann neuromorphic computing architectures have been funded as chip startups starting in 2017 and the pace continues at about $2 billion of venture investment per year in these companies. Working for one of these companies, Cornami, that promises orders of magnitude further performance and power dissipation improvements gives me some visibility into this trend. It is not slowing down.”

Finally, does the NAND industry need to consolidate to generate sufficient returns? He said that most semiconductor mergers and acquisitions are no longer driven by manufacturing economies of scale, unlike the 1970s and 1980s. Memory manufacturing efficiency does, however, depend upon scale. Samsung has nearly 30 percent of the market, and is very profitable, although, the commodity nature of memory makes the revenue and pricing more volatile than non-memory semiconductor products.

“Behind Samsung, we have Kioxia (formerly Toshiba), Micron, Western Digital (SanDisk) and SK Hynix. I suspect that harvesting economies of scale from merging any of these companies would be difficult because of the differences in products, processes and geographic locations. But, it could certainly happen!”

Trends that shook the world 2010-2019!

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You’re a good soldier, choosing your battles
Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and back in the saddle
You’re on the front line, everyone’s watching
You know it’s serious we’re getting closer, this isn’t over
The pressure is on, you feel it, but you’ve got it all, believe it
When you fall get up oh oh, and if you fall get up oh oh
Tsamina mina zangalewa, ’cause this is Africa
Tsamina mina eh eh, Waka waka eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa, this time for Africa! 😉
By Shakira, from World Cup Soccer, 2010! 😉

We have come to the end of a very interesting decade! While it was not so engrossing as the 2000s, there were several developments worth noting. But first, let me take you all back to March 15, 2016!

Around 2.30am, I was in the bathroom. All of a sudden, my legs simply gave way! I didn’t know what was happening to me. Also, there was a sudden increase of chest pain! I clung on to the bathroom door, and somehow crawled to my bedroom. There, I tried to wake up my wife! By the time she was up, I was lying down on the floor, sweating heavily, and blacking out! Mind you, I never drink!

My wife and brother rushed me to Sodhi Nursing Home, where the doctor diagnosed me with a severe heart attack. He recommended that I be immediately taken to Action Balaji Hospital. There, the doctors took one look at me, and rushed me to the operation theater. I was later told that I had a massive heart attack, with 99 percent blockage in my veins. I don’t even know what the doctors did, but here, I am before you, presenting my state! This is a trend, I never even imagined, would happen to me!

Given here are some of the global technology trends and happenings that shook the world during the last decade:

Mobile Internet, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Back in late 2000, at the ITU World Telecom event in Hong Kong, the first mobile phones with Internet browsing were being touted. Back then, mobile Internet was all the rage! As, were 3G and Bluetooth! This was the 3G technology based on W-CDMA and also, TD-SCDMA. Those were also the days when ‘WAP is CRAP’ made more headlines, and bore the brunt of many ‘telecom jokes’! Today, we can’t even imagine a life without the mobile Internet! And, we are greatly bothered if we can’t access a page on our mobiles!!

In early 2002, I wrote an article for Electronics Business News Asia (EBN Asia), Singapore, on Bluetooth, which was still trying to find its bearings. I can’t locate that article anymore! Some of the comments are worth remembering. One comment was whether Bluetooth and Wi-Fi could co-exist! Today, the world is into launching Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1!

March 2011, we saw the Japanese earthquake – The Japanese earthquake and tsunami stunned the global electronics and semiconductor industries!

Tsunami and earthquake
The preliminary assessment of Texas Instruments’ manufacturing sites in Japan revealed that the fab in Miho suffered substantial damage during the earthquake. Teams are working to reinstate production in stages, reaching full production in mid-July. TI’s fab in Aizu-Wakamatsu was damaged, but was being re-started with full production estimated by mid-April. TI’s third fab in Hiji was undamaged and running at normal capacity.

Sony Group Operations were said to have been affected by the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and related power outages. For Elpida, the Hiroshima Plant suffered little impact as it is located in Hiroshima in the southwest of Japan, However, the Akita Elpida memory plant is not in operation as of the time of the announcement due to power shut down caused by the earthquake, and it is hoped that normal business will resume when the power returns.

Tsunami hits Japan!

Iwate Toshiba Electronics did not report any casualties, but as of March 15, there was power lost, with limited partial recovery to start from March 13. As of March 15, 12:00pm, seven factories out of 22 of the Renesas Group’s factories in Japan temporarily shut down production.

The Shin-Etsu group reported that as of 1pm, March 15 (Japan Time), necessary inspections were carried out at Shin-Etsu Chemical Kashima Plant (Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture) and Shin-Etsu Handotai Shirakawa Plant (Nishigo Village, Fukushima Prefecture), both of which were out of operations.

Mitsui Chemicals Group reported the effects of the Kanto-Tohoku earthquake on its operations. The operations at the Kashima Works (Kamisu City, Ibaraki Prefecture), was suspended since the earthquake. Operations were resumed after assessment of damage by the earthquake and tsunami.

At its Ichihara Works (Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture), production at the ethylene plants was according to schedule. The operations at Mitsui DuPont Polychemicals and Chiba Phenol plants were suspended since the earthquake.

At the Mobara Branch Factory (Mobara City, Chiba Prefecture), operations at acrylamide and paint toner binder resin plants have been suspended since the earthquake. After assessing effect of scheduled “rolling” blackout, operations were resumed.

USB 3.0 also became widely available, while 22nm chips entered mass production. Consumer-level robotics were also booming.

Birth of EVA
In May 2011, the Embedded Vision Alliance was born! Over 15 leading technology companies, came together in Oakland, USA, to ‘speed up the adoption of computer vision capabilities in electronic products.’ BDTI, Xilinx, and IMS Research initiated the EVA, and were joined by Analog Devices, Apical, Avnet Electronics, CEVA, CogniVue, Freescale, NVIDIA, National Instruments, Texas Instruments, Tokyo Electron Device, MathWorks, Ximea, and XMOS as the founding members.

Still in June 2011, June 8 happened to be World IPv6 Day. Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Akamai and Limelight Networks were among some of the major global organizations offering content over IPv6 networks on a 24-hour test flight! World IPv6 Day’s goal is to motivate organizations — ISPs, hardware vendors, OS vendors, web companies, etc., to prepare their services for IPv6, as IPv4 addresses ran out! IPv6 was designed to succeed the IPv4.

End of Harry Potter, Steve Jobs
In July 2011, we saw the end of the spectacular Harry Potter movies! Right from the time Harry confronts Helena Ravenclaw or the ‘Grey Lady’, the Death Eaters attacking Hogwarts, the very brave resistance put up by the school inhabitants, led by Prof. Minerva McGonagall, the tragic death of Severus Snape at the hands of Voldemort and his pet snake, Nagini, and Snape’s final meeting with Harry, following which, Harry views Snape’s pensieve and learns about his love for Lily Potter, up to the time Harry enters the Forbidden Forest to meet his death! Or, was it Harry, or Voldemort, who dies? It’s all breath-taking!

October 2011, Steve Jobs, the master of the game, is gone! I first had a look at the Apple Mac, while at SBP Consultants & Engineers, back in 1988. I was surprised to find a computer that could do desktop publishing so well! By then, Jobs had gone out of Apple, fired by John Sculley, then Apple’s CEO, sometime in 1985. Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, a time when he had floated PIXAR and NeXT — the company Apple eventually bought, and returned Jobs to Apple. The rest is history!

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Global semicon industry likely to grow +4.4pc in 2019: Dr. Wally Rhines, Mentor

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Happy new year, to all of you. 🙂 And, it gets even better, having a discussion with Dr. Walden C. Rhines, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Mentor, A Siemens Company, on the global semiconductor industry trends for the year 2019.

Semiconductor industry in 2018, and 2019
First, I needed to know how did the global semiconductor industry performed last year? And, what is the way forward in 2019.

Dr. Walden C. Rhines.

Dr. Wally Rhines said: “2018 was another strong growth year for the global semiconductor. IC bookings for the first 10 months remain above 2017 levels and silicon area shipments for the last six quarters have also been above the trends line, with fourth quarter YoY growth 10 percent. And, IC revenues overall continue to have strong double-digit growth for 2018, with fourth quarter YoY growth of nearly 23 percent.

“However, analysts are expecting much more modest growth in 2019. Individual analyst predictions for growth in 2019 vary from -2 to +8 percent, with the average forecasts at +4.4 percent.

“Much of this is due to the softening memory market, along with concerns about tariffs, inflation and global trade war. While the rest of the IC business has been relatively strong with Samsung and Intel noting solid demand for ICs for servers and PCs, sentiment by senior managers of semiconductor companies is near a record low level. So, I’m not expecting much growth, if any, in 2019 and more likely a decline.

EDA in 2019
On the same note, how is the global EDA industry performing, and what’s the path in 2019?

He said: “Revenue growth of the EDA industry continues to be remarkably strong, fueled by new entrants into the IC design world, like networking companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.) and automotive system and Tier1 companies, as well as a plethora of new AI-driven fabless semiconductor start-ups. Design activity precedes semiconductor revenue growth so it would not be surprising to continue to see strong EDA company performance even with a weak semiconductor market in 2019.

“EDA venture funding has rebounded, reaching a 6-year high of $16.5M showing a renewed confidence in the future of EDA. The major companies all have sighted better than expected results. On the semiconductor side of EDA there seem to be more technology challenges than the industry has faced in a long time.

“Some of those include new compute architectures, the emergence of photonics, increased lithographic complexities involving EUV and other techniques, new and more complex packaging, massive increases in data, and the multiplication of sources of design data (often created according to differing standards).

“The challenges on the system side of EDA are multiplying as expected. It is becoming more difficult to be at the leading edge when designing end-products in silos. Embedded software, mechanical, PCB, packaging, electrical interconnect, networking (access to the intranet) and security are just a few of the domains that need to work closer together in a more integrated manner. The increasing complexity is also making each of the domains more challenging. This all pushes new materials and methodologies into each of the domains listed above.”

Five trends in semicon for 2019
I wanted to find out about the top five trends in semicon for 2019.

He said: “The top five semiconductor technology trends include:
* the ongoing ramp of next-generation technologies, led by Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and cloud, and SaaS demand on the datacenter,
* the roll-out of IoT – especially in manufacturing,
* 5G development,
* computing on the edge, and
*the increasing semiconductor content within electrical devices.”

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.”

Artificial Machines enables smart product innovation with strategic partnerships with Mentor Graphics and Qualcomm

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There are a lot of things in electronics manufacturing happening across, in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. When that activity in electronics manufacturing happens in India, it is a matter of great pride for the country. The company bringing pride to India is the Pune-based Artificial Machines.

Artificial Machines was founded in April 2008. Headquartered in Pune, India, it has sales office on Wall Street, New York, USA. It is focusing on IoT, smart machine design, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Manish Buttan, CEO, Artificial Machines, said: “We are one of the oldest IoT companies. We work with automotive and electronics companies. The HAZE platform was developed in 2015. We are focused on converting traders to makers. We are designing over 20 product lines in consumer electronics.

“We are currently building the TV platform for Videocon and the Videocon Aryabot 2 AC, which is in progress right now. For Eureka Forbes, we have done a few water purifiers. We are also working on a few products for Tata Housing including a door phone, smart lock, smart camera, fire safety, and several products for Godrej & Boyce.

“We are a design house, and designers at the PCB level. We make everything in India. The idea is to develop the IP. We can connect anything built on the HAZE platform. For example, a video doorphone has built-in VoIP. We are lowering the automation costs as well.”

What is HAZE?
Artificial Machines has developed the HAZE platform. The HAZE platform is not just an IoT platform. It is a smart product innovation platform.

“We will develop artificial intelligence for cars by 2018. We will also build the entire electronics for the cars,” Buttan added.

Artificial Machines has partnered some of the largest OEMs in India that have licensed the HAZE platform to develop a range of products in India. Buttan said: “As of today, we have five licensees – Eureka Forbes, Godrej & Boyce. Tata Housing, Usha International, and Videocon. Their products will soon show the ‘Powered by HAZE’ Logo.

“All HAZE Platform Intellectual Property belongs to Artificial Machines. Our customers are promoting the platform by adding our logo to their products. The HAZE License requires that the primary components be purchased through us. The HAZE IP is free to license for customers and we charge a subsidized customization fee for modify HAZE for their requirements. We are heading into a $20-$50 million turnover over the next five years.

“PCBs are being made in India. Also, in China. With Usha, we are doing smart fans, air coolers and lighting brands. With Godrej & Boyce we are doing refrigerators, ACs, smart washing machines, etc.

Over the years, Artificial Machines has participated in developing products such as the Mahindra XUV BlueSense App, Savant home automation System, Vidyo conference platform, Lifeshield home security system, Brookstone grill monitoring app / baby monitor app, and the Videocon Aryabot AC, which are in the market.

Products to be launched include a few water purifiers, smart refrigerator, and next-gen air conditioners. Products that will be completing this year include air coolers, smart lighting, Android TVs, Android refrigerators, video door phones, smart locks, smart cameras, fire safety equipment, and washing machines.

Roles of Mentor Graphics and Qualcomm
What role does Mentor Graphics play in all of this? Mentor Graphics came into the picture, and gave Artificial Machines their tools. Mentor PCB development and validation process involves over 75 processes of reliability. Mentor Graphics has strategically partnered with Artificial Machines and invested EDA tools worth $15 million.

This makes Artificial Machines have the world’s best design tools in PCB design, embedded, automotive, chip design, and manufacturing validation.

Buttan said: “We have a strategic partnership with Mentor Graphics. All of the tools are available to traders. We also have an agreement with Qualcomm. Each OEM can innovate their ideas.”

Qualcomm has been very supportive with the Snapdragon chip licensing to Artificial Machines. Microchip is a premium partner for low-and mid-segment processors. All of these give Artificial Machines some of the widest range of processors and platforms to work with – Bare Metal, Linux and Android. This makes it easy for customers to build Android hardware with HAZE licensing.

Artificial Machines also works closely with several large global manufacturers. Having in-house Valor manufacturing validation tools allows it to provide pre-validated hardware for manufacturing.

Thanks to Mentor Graphics for introducing me to this company.