Chip design: Destination India
The availability of skilled talent and cost advantages are
the reasons for the growth of chip design services in India, reports Vinita
recent ISA-IDC report found that the total chip design market is expected to
surpass $7.37 billion in 2008, with a huge chunk of revenues coming from embedded
software, followed by VLSI design and hardware/board design.
Gartner states that the market for third-party chip design services in India
is estimated at about $400 million. Ganesh Ramamoorthy, Principal Research Analyst,
Gartner, said, Gartner estimates that the market will grow by 26% in 2008,
year-on-year. Between 2007 and 2012, we expect third-party chip design services
market in India to grow at a CAGR of about 22.3%, to reach nearly $830 million
of the recent trends seen in the chip designing space is that of embedded
- Kasthuri Jagadeesan
Research Analyst, A&E "Practice, Technical Insights, Frost &
is at the forefront of VLSI design owing to the cutting-edge chip design
activities taking place at multinational design companies that have large-scale
engineering operations here"
- Dasaradha Gude
MD, AMD India
design service companies are gaining an increasing share of designs in
advanced process nodes. Designs in new process nodes bring with them their
own set of challenges but at the same time, as they are cutting-edge,
they also result in fatter margins for vendors"
- Ganesh Ramamoorthy
Principal Research Analyst, Gartner
Traditionally Taiwan has been the favorite destination for
chip designing, but during the last few years, India has also seen the market
grow. The availability of a large engineering talent pool and cost advantages
as compared to other countries has been one of the key growth drivers for this
industry in India.
Dasaradha Gude, MD, AMD India, mentioned that some of the
other influencing factors include a strong technical education system, reduced
entry barriers, government support in the form of STPI and EOU schemes and a
strong IPR framework.
He added, India is at the forefront of VLSI design
owing to the leading, cutting-edge chip design activities taking place in multinational
design companies that have large scale engineering operations here. These captive
units take advantage of the availability of skilled and low-cost workforce to
develop products for global markets. If the same is to be done in their respective
countries, the development cost will be at least 300% compared to India.
The main factor is the large availability of talent in the
country. Also, the cost of engineers may have been the reason for companies
to move their design operations to India in the past. However, that may not
be true in the coming years as salary levels continue to rise for Indian chip
engineers, pointed out Ramamoorthy.
He felt that the domestic market would not get much of a boost from the growing
Indian chip design service industry. This is primarily because designs that
Indian vendors create, mostly cater to international markets.
Global slowdown, rising consumption at home
Globally, the semiconductor industry and the worldwide market
for semiconductors has matured and appears headed for single digit growth in
coming years, compared to the double digit growth of yesteryears. However, the
scene in the Indian semiconductor industry is quite different. Rising middle
class income levels have created a huge market for semiconductor intensive products
and we may see this trend to continue for some more years.
Over the years, most global chip companies have set up their
development centers in the country to take advantage of market proximity and
the talent pool. India as an emerging semiconductor hub has clearly gone beyond
the cost advantage to innovating and creating Intellectual Property (IPs) that
is resulting in complete product development.
Kasthuri Jagadeesan, Research Analyst, A&E Practice, Technical
Insights, Frost & Sullivan, said, One of the recent trends seen in
this space is that of embedded systems development.
According to Ramamoorthy, globally, the number of new design
start is declining however, the value of each new design start is increasing.
This is mainly due to the continuing trend of system-on-chip integration.
- Highly skilled and cost-effective workforce.
- Respect for Intellectual Property Rights
(IPRs): India has a good track record of safeguarding the IPRs of foreign
companies, which encourages them to establish design centers in India.
- Emergence of R&D and design centers
of homegrown companies, including software providers like Wipro and
- Emergence of start-up design firms.
- A rise in outsourcing: Asia is the hub
for electronic manufacturing services, primarily because of low manufacturing
cost and relatively low cost labor, and pressure from consumer electronics/telecommunications
Moving to 45nm
In a couple of years, lot of designs will shift from the present 90- and 65-nanometer
[Globally companies are contemplating 22-nanometer designs. While 32-nanometer
designs are the next step after 45nm, Big Blue is trying to leapfrog the rest
of the pack by getting a head start on 22nm. - Editor]
Ganesh said, The transition to 65nm and 45nm has begun. Indian design
service companies are gaining an increasing share of designs in advanced process
nodes. Designs in new process nodes bring their own set of challenges with them,
but at the same time, as they are cutting-edge, they also result in fatter margins
Jagadeesan believed that the semiconductor integrated circuits (IC) industry
is driven by the need for small, low-cost, high performance devices. Increasing
demand from the consumer electronics industry and the telecommunications sector
and Moores Law are all fueling the need for miniaturization and the move
towards ever-shrinking form factors. Different types of materials and device
configurations are investigated to reduce the size of a chip without compromising
on a devices functionalities.
For example, scaling becomes an issue with eDRAMs (embedded Dynamic Random Access
Memories) below the 45nm node. However, by using different configuration of
eDRAM, such as capacitor-less DRAM, it is possible to scale eDRAM devices below
45 nm. Conventional eDRAM consists of a transistor and a capacitor, but these
capacitor-less transistors employ one or two transistors, which can scale down
to 22 nm process node.
The one transistor DRAM [1T-DRAM] is known as zero-capacitor
RAM [Z-RAM] and the two transistor DRAM [2T-DRAM] is termed as twin transistor
RAM [TTRAM]. These capacitor-less devices are fabricated using floating body
effect (FBE) silicon on insulator process (SOI) technology rather than bulk
CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) process. This technique reduces
power consumption and increases switching speeds compared to bulk CMOS technology.
- Indian companies need to provide end-to-end
- Infrastructure facilities need to be beefed
- High investment costs for R&D need
to come down.
- Competition from other Asian countries
has to be met.
- Inadequate support from government for
the capital-intensive semiconductor industry is affecting feeder segments
like chip design.
- Indian industry is beginning to feel the
heat of a talent shortage.
The demand for chip design engineers outstrips
current supply. Both the industry and the government need to take initiatives
to set things right.
Mobile vs. desktop processors
Most mobile processors are based on the same design as their desktop counterparts
but will have thermal and power properties customized for notebook use, as battery
life is one of the primary features that any user looks for before making a
purchase decision on a notebook.
Another difference between mobile and desktop processors
is with regard to the number of cores. The evolution of multi-core technology
has made computing much easier and allows a user to run several applications
at the same time without the system malfunctioning or performance issues cropping
up. At present, desktop processors have up to four cores, while laptops have
two and are just as fast as those found in desktop PCs. Although, laptops have
just two cores, these cores are used for advanced multi-tasking, serious gaming
and rendering digital media and entertainment.
|Intel India was responsible for the end-to-end design
of Intels first six-core microprocessor. This is the first time that
a microprocessor came to life in a lab in India. Intel had never taken work
on 45-nanometer technology outside the US until now. It is also the first
time that Intel has released the first design iteration of a chip.
The microprocessor packs 1.9 billion transistors
and is smaller than a matchbox. Intel hopes that it will strengthen the
companys position in the enterprise server mart. Until now, both
Intel and AMD have been selling dual and quad core chips.
The project came to India about two
years ago and finished two months ahead of the schedule. The Intel India
team planned and executed the complete design activities, including front-end
design, pre-silicon logic validation and back-end design. Intels
Bangalore facility took care of post-silicon validation, which tests the
market readiness and product-performance. The project involved creating
a design, optimizing said design to meet all performance and cost targets
and finally, a complete simulation of the design.
Source: The Financial Express
Usually both mobile and desktop processors have a similar design; however
there are a few exceptions such as the PUMA platform, which has been designed
with notebooks in mind. PUMA comes with the Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core Mobile
Processors, AMD 7-Series chipset, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3000 Series Graphics
and the latest draft 802.11n and 3G wireless technologies, mentioned Gude.
While there has been an upsurge in Indian manufacturing over the last few years,
especially in the telecom, consumer and industrial segments where business has
been boosted by sub-contract manufacturing activities, India still has a long
way to go in catching up with countries like China and Taiwan that are the manufacturing
hot spots in Asia.