Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AppliedMicro) is a leading innovator in semiconductors and a global leader in energy efficient sustainable solutions to process, transport, and store information for next-gen Internet data centre and telecom carrier central office (CO) equipment. As a leader in high-speed digital signal, Internet Protocol, Ethernet packet and storage processing, its patented innovations provide highly integrated systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) for telecom, enterprise and consumer applications.
In an exclusive with Pradeep Chakraborty, Anil Gupta, managing director, AppliedMicro India, talks about the company’s legacy and how it has carved a niche for itself. Excerpts:
JULY 2012: Q. Please give us a brief on AppliedMicro’s legacy, leadership and market presence.
A. Founded in 1979, AppliedMicro is a fabless semiconductor company with a strong legacy in energy-efficient SoC solutions for data centres and telecom carrier central offices. We provide embedded processing and computing solutions that are an ideal balance for conserving energy and lowering costs while maintaining high performance. Our embedded processing solutions deliver a balance of control plane and packet processing for I/0 control, storage networking and security. For example, our embedded processor that delivers very high data rates is the industry’s number one preferred solution for wireless access points.
Our leading edge low power, mixed-signal IP is integrated into the SoCs to provide value added solutions for telecom and datacom markets. For example, AppliedMicro’s 10 Gigabit per second framer-mapper-physical layer devices are designed into multi-service switches, routers and dense wavelength division multiplex (DWDM) equipment in long-haul, core and metropolitan networks. Systems equipped with AppliedMicro’s solutions enable telcos to deploy higher data rate of 10/40/100 Gig broadband connections, high reliability, low error rates, low latency and high quality of service.
The world today is increasingly going mobile as an expanding base of both consumer and enterprise users connect from an increasing number of devices. Remotely accessing localised files is no longer an acceptable solution and next-generation data centres are being tasked with supporting the migration to the cloud.
This migration is driven by the emphasis shifting from pure compute to data access, moving from heavy computational workloads to millions of relatively smaller workloads. This new workload has created an inflection where large organisations are moving from clamoring only for high performance CPUs to needing chips that give optimum performance and energy consumption, thereby reducing the overall operating costs significantly. Thus the emphasis is shifting from ‘performance at any cost’ to ‘reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Taking advantage of this inflection, AppliedMicro launched X-Gene in October 2011, the world’s first 64-bit ARM architecture based ‘Server-on-a-Chip’ solution in a single footprint, designed to deliver disruptive performance levels at low power and cost points. In doing so, we are heavily leveraging our 30 years of experience in delivering state-of-the-art datacom and telecom solutions to the marketplace. In April 2012, we announced the world’s first web server implementation running on the 64-bit ARM based X-Gene platform.
The level of server integration done with X-Gene has never been done before. Today, it takes two to three chips to power a server. With the X-Gene technology we are completely changing how servers are designed. We are looking at disrupting the current notions on server power, CPU performance and integration keeping TCO in mind.
Q. What makes AppliedMicro the leading provider of energy-efficient silicon solutions for next-gen data centres and Internet infrastructure?
A. The SoC solutions from AppliedMicro are designed to operate at low power to minimise demand on limited power supplies, offset the need for cooling resources, and increase the energy efficiency of the systems they are designed into, all without sacrificing performance. Low-power chips help solve critical design challenges for the developers who design leading-edge transport, datacentre, enterprise, and consumer systems by lowering overall system cost. They also help reduce the carbon footprint of the deployed solutions that keep us all connected and contribute to ENERGY STAR compliance and other green initiatives.
Energy efficiency is all about doing the required minimum to simply get the job done. Anything over and above this is wasted effort and wasted energy. Our existing SoC solutions are very carefully architected with this fundamental goal in mind. We work very closely with our customers and even their customers to understand the system level requirements and then develop the chips that go into those systems.
One of our recent key announcements is the launch of X-Gene, the world’s first 64-bit ARM processor based ‘Server-on-a-Chip’ solution in a single footprint, designed to deliver disruptive performance levels at low power and cost points. This Server-on-a-Chip addresses cloud computing needs at less than half the power and cost of existing solutions.
The SoC design integrates server-class dynamic power management to maximise power savings during the idle state while maximising performance and responsiveness with the ability to configure thermal dissipated power (TDP) to meet varying system requirements. This technology allows the SoC to achieve an unprecedented level of standby power of less than 300mW. In addition, the integration of network elements and interfaces on to the same chip reduces the power footprint drastically when compared with existing board based multi-chip offerings.
Q. Give us an overview of AppliedMicro’s Connectivity BU, which has a dominant presence in providing integrated Systems-on-a-Chip (SoC) for telecommunications.
A. Whether it is in the Internet, wireless or wireline service all the traffic in the backbone is routed through wired infrastructure. AppliedMicro’s Connectivity BU has been offering silicon-based solutions in this domain for the past 30-plus years. We are the number one player today in terms of the number of Optical Transport Network (OTN) sockets we are designed in. Our mixed-signal, low-power silicon enables telecom carriers to converge voice-based networks into high speed Internet technology. The transition enables the seamless delivery of video, voice and data services as traffic volumes continue to explode.
AppliedMicro’s 10 Gigabit per second framer-mapper-physical layer devices are designed into multi-service switches, routers and dense wavelength division multiplex (DWDM) equipment in long haul, core and metropolitan networks. Our embedded processors are designed into cellular base stations that enable mobile device communications.
Systems equipped with AppliedMicro’s solutions enable Telcos to deploy higher data rate broadband connections, high reliability, low error rates, low latency and high quality of service. We work closely with Telcos to understand the need of the market five years in the future. We realise that the transmission of data is increasing in leaps and bounds and the industry is already talking about technology that will support transmission of 400 GbE.
As a leader in SoCs for telecommunication, AppliedMicro views this as a tremendous opportunity and we are leveraging our global presence such as in India for conceptualisation, design and implementation of SoC solutions for telecommunication.
The 64-bit ARM based ‘server-on-a-chip’ platform, X-Gene, that we announced in 2011, leverages a lot of our experience in the Connectivity BU to provide solutions for the next generation cloud-based data centres that are seeing a metamorphosis in the way computing and connectivity have been provided in the past.
Q. What are the trends in the market impacting the telecom equipment ecosystem in the long-term and network readiness strategy of the telcos and network equipment OEMs?
A. Computing has moved from being solely in the corporate precincts to being present with each and every individual in the form of mobile phones and tablet computers. This growth of personalised computing devices for the individual will act as the key catalyst in driving content consumption. According to a study by Cisco, mobile phones and other smart devices as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) connections are driving up the demand for connectivity.
By 2016, the forecast projects there will be nearly 18.9 billion network connections, almost 2.5 connections for each person on earth, compared with 10.3 billion in 2011. The telecommunication market is going to grow exponentially with consumers shifting from 10 GbE to 100 GbE bandwidth, more or less skipping the 40G deployment.
With this shift to cloud based infrastructure, there are very significant changes afoot in the server as well as connectivity domains. The datacentre is going to see a major restructuring to more efficiently manage the content consuming requirements of billions of these devices. Not only would per-port speeds go up but also the number of ports per switch. Where the typical top-of-the-rack switch serving 8-10 blade servers in the rack accommodates 24 to 48 10G ports today, it is shifting to 64 to 128 ports each handling 100Gb of traffic.
At the same time, where the deployment of 10G took almost a decade, it appears that deployment of 100G would take two to three years, thus indicating the pace of change that is taking place.
Q. What is AppliedMicro’s status with respect to the Indian telecom market?
A. Coming close to home, it should be noted that India is also seeing an enormous growth in the telecom market. With the world moving to cloud, there is no way of being left out. These new technologies would need to be deployed here at the same time they are being deployed in the developed world. India will itself have two billion networked devices by 2016, double from the 1 billion devices in 2011!
India is one of only six countries worldwide to have commercial LTE TDD services according to the latest statistics from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). During the course of 2012 and into 2013, India will become an increasingly important market in the global LTE TDD sector as a growing number of BWA license-holders will launch services, introduce competition and stimulate the LTE TDD ecosystem of chipset firms, device manufacturers, applications developers and network infrastructure vendors.
All of these and the introduction of 3G and 4G will lead telcos and network equipment OEMs to quickly re-jig their strategy. They are actively considering next-generation silicon technologies that will enable them to support the data transmission. The government has little choice but to quickly resolve the mess and paralysis created by the 2G spectrum scam.
In view of these massive changes occurring in the marketplace, we have aligned AppliedMicro to leverage our expertise in telecom, optical, silicon and server-on-a-chip technology to create data centre solutions that will support transmission, storage and security at the high-speed rates required by this next generation infrastructure.
What is going to be the role of India design centres in AppliedMicro’s solutions development?
India is very strategic for AppliedMicro. One of the main reasons for us to come to India is to work closely with our customer and partner ecosystem. India also possesses the design leadership skills and technical maturity that we require to lead the development of next-generation technologies in the evolution of computing and connectivity infrastructure.
Our Bangalore and Pune design centres will participate in the design, development, verification, physical design, validation and software development of all our core technologies. For example, unlike typical design centres in India, our Bangalore design centre will drive key product conceptualisation and development for global products.
The engineers will be involved in several processor-based designs based on the X-Gene platform as well as in SoC designs for our Connectivity products. Our team here will be at the top of the value chain in terms of design development. They will not only have the opportunity to be at the core of product conceptualisation and development, but also have the key responsibility of project ownership out of here.
By being directly involved in shaping AppliedMicro’s X-Gene ‘server-on-a-Chip’ platform, our Pune and Bangalore centres will have the opportunity to be pioneers in energy management in cloud computing, and work with some of the industry’s best partners and most-demanding customers. Engineers will get a unique and rare once-in-a-career opportunity to be part of a team building the next generation server and datacentre connectivity architecture/solution.