Category Archives: Silicon Architecture

Big Changes at Intel & Microsoft Signal a Major Industry Shift

2014's HereWith the resignation/retirement of long term Intel leaders and Microsoft’s announcement of a new CEO, the direction of the industry’s shift to non-X86 architecture Future Work
products is forcing both of these giants to rethink their corporate leadership philosophies.
Satya Nadella becomes only the third CEO of Microsoft while CEO Brian Krzanich of Intel follows a similarly small group of predecessors.  A good example is that Verizon and Intel in late January announced an agreement for Verizon to purchase from Intel the assets of Intel Media, a business division dedicated to the development of Cloud TV products and services.

The Future Work is an attempt to show how enterprises need to adapt to the changes in order to stay relevant in 2014 and beyond. Check out these links and judge for  yourself if Intel and Microsoft are headed in the right directions.

 

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Next “BIG THING” for Apps = Inteligent Network Adaptors

Next-Gen "Smart" Server AdaptorAs heterogeneous computing starts to grow, intelligent networking will be the facilitators of smart enterprise systems architecture. Basically hardware vendors are beginning to put intelligent silicon on network adaptors.  This provides the ability through deep packet inspection to realistically provide Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and true Software Defined Networks (SDN) as a part of hardware/software computing infrastructure.  This requires an intelligent NIC, Software Defined Networks (SDN) & Web Services/Cloud Servers must be engineered to “be aware” of the intelligence in the hardware so that software can make smart choices based on business logic context.

See more information about this trend here:
http://www.edn.com/design/wireless-networking/4422820/Next-gen-intelligent-application-adapters-for-100–network-programmability-?goback=%2Egde_35866_member_5798174629294006275#%21

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Microsoft buys Nokia… So what?

Various Nokia Windows Phones
Various Nokia Windows Phones

Now that Microsoft intends to buy Nokia and get into the handset market as a manufacturer rather than just an OS provider, what does this mean?  Here is Microsoft’s Rationale:http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/Press/2013/Sep13/StrategicRationale.aspx

Here is a copy of Ballmer’s internal email to all Microsoft employees:

From: Steve Ballmer
To: MS FTEs
Date: Sep. 2, 8:00 PM PDT (Sep. 3, 6:00 AM EET)
Subject: Accelerating Growth

We announced some exciting news today: We have entered into an agreement to purchase Nokia’s Devices & Services business, which includes their smartphone and mobile phone businesses, their award-winning design team, manufacturing and assembly facilities around the world, and teams devoted to operations, sales, marketing and support.

For Microsoft, this is a bold step into the future and the next big phase of the transformation we announced on July 11.

We are very excited about the proposal to bring the best mobile device efforts of Microsoft and Nokia together. Our Windows Phone partnership over the past two and half years has yielded incredible work – the stunning Lumia 1020 is a great example. Our partnership has also yielded incredible growth. In fact, Nokia Windows Phones are the fastest-growing phones in the smartphone market.

Now is the time to build on this momentum and accelerate our share and profits in phones. Clearly, greater success with phones will strengthen the overall opportunity for us and our partners to deliver on our strategy to create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.

We have laid out Microsoft’s strategic rationale for this transaction in a presentation that I encourage you to read.

This is a smart acquisition for Microsoft, and a good deal for both companies. We are receiving incredible talent, technology and IP. We’ve all seen the amazing work that Nokia and Microsoft have done together.

Given our long partnership with Nokia and the many key Nokia leaders that are joining Microsoft, we expect a smooth transition and great execution.

As is always the case with an acquisition, the first priority is to keep driving through close, which we expect in the first quarter of 2014, following approval by Nokia’s shareholders, regulatory approvals, and other closing conditions.

But I also know people will have some questions about what happens post-close. While details aren’t final, here is what we know, and how we’re generally approaching integration:

 

1. Stephen Elop will be coming back to Microsoft, and he will lead an expanded Devices team, which includes all of our current Devices and Studios work and most of the teams coming over from Nokia, reporting to me.

2. Julie Larson-Green will continue to run the Devices and Studios team, and will be focused on the big launches this fall including Xbox One and our Surface enhancements. Julie will be joining Stephen’s team once the acquisition closes, and will work with him to shape the new organization.

3. As part of the acquisition, a number of key engineering leaders will be joining Microsoft from Nokia, reporting to Stephen in his new capacity:

  

· Jo Harlow, who will continue to lead the Smart Devices team

  

· Timo Toikkanen, who will continue to lead the Mobile Phones team

  

· Stefan Pannenbecker, who will lead Design

  

· Juha Putkiranta, who will lead the integration effort on Nokia’s behalf

4. Regarding the sales team, we plan to keep the Nokia field team, led by Chris Weber, intact and as the nexus of the devices sales effort, so that we can continue to build sales momentum. After the deal closes, Chris and his team will be placed under Kevin Turner. We will develop a single integrated team that is selling to operators, and there may be other integration opportunities that we can pursue. Kevin will work with Chris Weber and Chris Capossela to make those plans.

5. Our operating system team under Terry Myerson will continue unchanged, with a mission of supporting both first-party and third-party hardware innovation. We are committed to working with partners, helping them build great products and great businesses on our platform, and we believe this deal will increase our partner value proposition over time. The established rhythms and ways of working between Terry and his team and the incoming Nokia team will serve us well to ensure that we do not disrupt our building momentum.

6. We are planning to integrate all global marketing under Tami Reller and Mark Penn. It is very important that we pursue a unified brand and advertising strategy as soon as possible.

7. Finance, Legal, HR, Communications, DX / Evangelism, Customer Care and Business Development will integrate functionally at Microsoft. Sourcing, customer logistics and supply chain will be part of Stephen’s Devices organization. ICM / IT will also integrate functionally for traditional IT roles. We will need to work through the implications for factory systems given the differing manufacturing processes and systems at both Nokia and Microsoft.

8. We plan to pursue a single set of supporting services for our devices, and we will figure out how to combine the great Nokia efforts into our Microsoft services as we go through the integration process.

9. There are no significant plans to shift where work is done in the world as we integrate, so we expect the Nokia teams to stay largely in place, geographically.

10. Tom Gibbons will lead the integration work for Microsoft.

While today’s announcement is big news, we have to stay heavily focused on running the current business. We have a huge fall and holiday season ahead of us, so we need to execute flawlessly and continue to drive our business forward. I have no doubt we will.

Steve

 

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Mobile War for China features Apple VS Samsung

Universal  Smart Phones
Universal Smart Phones

In recent consulting work in the PRC we have noticed that Apple is struggling to gain ground against Samsung. So, it is not surprising that the new CEO of Apple is wooing the large phone service providers in the PRC.  http://www.microsofttranslator.com/BV.aspx?ref=IE8Activity&a=http%3A%2F%2Ftech.sina.com.cn%2Ft%2F2013-07-31%2F02048590016.shtml

Also Apple has relied on the notorious Foxconn to deliver key iPhone products to the market.  Unfortunately because of really horrendous QA procedures and supplier bribes, Apple returned close to 8 million units back to Foxconn.  See here: http://www.microsofttranslator.com/BV.aspx?ref=IE8Activity&a=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.e23.cn%2Fcontent%2F2013-04-23%2F2013042300476.html

Samsung is winning because ofsmartphones 2 taking the time to invest in local stores and understanding the market.  Watch Lenovo, Huawei, & Samsung swing the revenue streams that Apple desires from the PRC consumer to their P&Ls from Apple’s.

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Intel & google look to Video Services as next Disruptive Technology

Both Intel and Google are eyeing the lucrative video delivery domain for possible new expansions.  This area if done properly by these two giants could provide a major disruptive technology and business set of offerings changing the face of the computer and TV industries.  This may become the major “big stakes” battlefield of the next-gen TV services domain space.

See; http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/business/media/google-is-said-to-mull-internet-cable-service.html?smid=li-share&goback=%2Egde_35866_member_258568352&_r=0

Apple is probably thinking in terms of the “next generation” TV service.  With its feet already wet via You Tube, they are giving strong signals that hey are serious about becoming players in this domain.

Also, http://gigaom.com/2013/07/12/intel-media-tv-service-oncue/?goback=%2Egde_35866_member_258568352

If able to pull it off, Intel will evolve to the next instantiation of this historic enterprise. This launch (probably 2014-ish) will challenge Intel’s ability to break away from its old internal models and practices to re-invent the enterprise to deal with content as an additional vehicle to achieve revenue goals rather than just HW.  If OnCue is allowed to operate as an independent company with separate iMBOs, they may have a chance.  The new blood recruited from various media sectors can help if they are given free reigns to establish a separate Intel subculture.  Has that ever really worked before for Intel????

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New Device Types are Driving Tech Company’s Organizational Change

The dramatic growth in smartphone, tablet and vertical market portable devices e.g., medical instrumentation is starting to drive major change at big tech companies.  If you watch product offerings and new positioning of Google, Microsoft, and Apple, you’ll see that significant investments are geared toward the mobile consumer and mobile information worker. These products require new device technologies such as flexible silicon and Thin flexible substrates for interconnect technology.

chip-flex_PR2

A good example of this is the lighting fast reorganization of Intel after Brian Krzanich’s installation as CEO.  Under Otellini’s tenure Intel missed a huge opportunity to become the chip supplier to Apple for iPhones even though the traditional conservative “number crunching/data driven” advice given to Paul Otellini went against his gut, Intel passed on the opportunity.  Their analysis misjudged the potential volume by a factor of 100 and over estimated the costs of manufacturing.  Basically the conservative mindset of “group think” there projected the iPhone as a losing business proposition.  See here  The new CEO has immediately reorganized the global enterprise to make it more agile and created a New devices Group reporting directly to him.  See here

Hopefully this will open Intel up to address new markets and new types of Si architecture along with manufacturing processes. Also the industry will hopefully follow Intel’s lead and innovate even more in this hot technology domain When you look at flexible silicon and thin film technologies, the future is clear. New companies will grow to tech giants that embrace this technology and benefit from lessons learned from the old tech giants.

Flexable Si
We will all use this soon
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When Moore’s Law is not Enough

When we look at the history of the PC industry, we see that while Moore’s Law is fantastic, it is always outpaced by consumer demand. Market expanding software solutions can be developed faster than hardware solutions to develop but are frequently performance constrained by the limits of running on general purpose processors. Eventually IHVs see a large enough market and have time for development of custom silicon to parallelize the process. This lag time between when the problem is first noticed and when it’s solved in silicon can be referred to as the “Wilson Gap” aphras coined by some Microsoft employees who worked with me and quoted my assessment as “Information consumer appetite/demand will always outpace CPU capability” which I stated in a meeting regarding complex computational transforms.

By doing a simple analysis of this “Wilson Gap” over a series of technologies we can see some very interesting patterns:

Wilson Gap analysis
Wilson Gap analysis

*Note: This illustration is based on 2011 estimates

The vertical axis represents the number of years a particular technology was on the market in software-only form before it was introduced in silicon as an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuits). Based on this data I would like to postulate that companies like Microsoft & Google have direct bearing on these figures, and that in many cases they can significantly reduce the Wilson Gap. But first, let’s review the situation a little further.

How the SW Industry Fights the Wilson Gap

While the flexibility general purpose CPU offers imaginative engineers the ultimate design surface, it likewise has the inherent limitation that code must be reduced to a lowest common denominator, that being the CPU instruction set. Time and again, this limitation has caused a Wilson Gap in what consumers want and what the PC platform is able to inherently deliver.

For Many of Today’s Needs Moore’s Law is too Slow

As the previous graph illustrates, the Wilson Gap was a limiting factor in the potential market for specific technologies, when the CPU was not fast enough for the consumer demand of floating point operations. Likewise, at various times throughout PC history, the CPU has not kept up with demand for:

  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
  • 3D Graphics
  • SSL Processing (encompassing 3DES, RSA, AES)
  • MPEGx Encoding/Decoding
  • Windows Media Encoding/Decoding
  • TCP/IP offloading
  • XML Parsing and Canonicalization

ASICs help reduce the Wilson Gap

When Moore’s Law is too slow we traditionally rely on ASICs to fill the Wilson Gap. In all of the examples above (Math Coprocessor, DSP, 3D, 3DES, RSA, MPG, etc…) we now have fairly low-cost ASICs that can solve the performance issue. Total time to solution and time to money are far too long for current industry economic conditions. These (ASIC) processors will typically accelerate a task, off-load a task or perform some combination of the two. But for the remainder of this paper we’ll use the term “accelerate” to include acceleration that encompasses CPU off-loading.

The Downside to ASIC Solutions

Unfortunately ASICs are inherently slow to market and are a very risky business proposition. For example, the typical ASIC takes 8 to 12 months to design, engineer and manufacture. Thus their target technologies must be under extremely high market demand before companies will make the bet and begin the technology development and manufacturing process. As a result, ASICs will always be well behind the curve of information consumer requirements served by cutting edge software.

Another difficulty faced in this market is that ASIC or Silicon Gate development is very complex, requiring knowledge of VHDL or Verilog. The efficient engineering of silicon gate-oriented solutions requires precision in defining the problem space and architecting the hardware solution. Both of these precise processes take a long time.

FPGAs further reduce the Wilson Gap

A newer approach to reducing the Wilson Gap that is gaining popularity is the use of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (or FPGAs). FPGAs provide an interim solution between ASICs and software running on a general purpose CPU. They allow developers to realign the silicon gates on a chip and achieve performance benefits on par with ASICs, while at the same time allowing the chip to be reconfigured with updated code or a completely different algorithm. Modern development tools are also coming on line that reduce the complexity of programming these chips by adding parallel extensions to the C language, and then compiling C code directly to Gate patterns. One of the most popular examples of this is Handel-C (out of Cambridge).

The Downside to FPGA Solutions

Typically FPGAs are 50% to 70% of the speed of an identical ASIC solution. However, FPGAs are more typically geared to parallelize algorithms and are configurable so as to received updates, and leverage a shorter development cycle (http://www.xilinx.com/products/virtex/asic/methodology.htm). These factors combine to extend the lifespan of a given FPGA-based solution further than an ASIC solution.

A Repeating Pattern

Looking at the market for hardware accelerators over the past 20 years we see a repeating pattern of:

  1. First implemented on the general purpose CPU
  2. Migrated to ASIC/DSP once the market is proven

Next the technology typically takes one of two paths:

  1. The ASIC takes on a life of its own and continues to flourish (such as 3D graphics) outside of the CPU (or embedded back down on the standard motherboard)
  2. The ASIC becomes obsolete as Moore’s Law brings the general purpose CPU up to par with the accelerator by the new including instructions required.

Now let’s examine two well known examples in the Windows space where the Wilson Gap has been clearly identified and hardware vendors are in the development cycle of building ASIC solutions to accelerate our bottlenecks.

Current Wilson Gaps

Our first example is in Windows Media 9 Decoding; ASIC hardware is on its way thanks to companies such as ATI, NVIDIA and others. This will allow the playback of HD-resolution content such as the new Terminator 2 WM9 DVD on slower performance systems. Another example here is in TCP Offload Engines (TOE); which have recently arrived on the scene. Due to the extensibility of both the Windows’ Media and Networking stacks, both of these technologies are fairly straightforward to implement.

Upcoming Wilson Gaps – Our Challenge

However, moving forward the industry faces other technologies which don’t have extensibility points for offloading or acceleration. This lack of extensibility has lead to duplication of effort across various product teams, but not duplication in a competitive sense (which is usually good), but more of a symbiotic duplication of effort, increasing the cost of maintenance and security.

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Technology Trends to watch in 2013(Social Media Impacts)

  • Social Media Marketing: Big corps will finally get serious because they’ll find a way to monetize the involvement with Social Media. So look for PR/Marketing plans to have integrated social media buys/plans
  • $3B annually is spent on Mobile ads but that is only 5%. Look for the trend setter to be advertising on tablets.
  • Enterprise Gamification across marketing platforms, enterprise employee training platforms and second-screen applications. In 2013 we will see enterprise gamification Surpass Consumer Gamification.
  • “So-Mofying”. Lots of VC money going into technology that makes enterprises more social & mobile. An inflection point will be created in the need to download these apps.
  • Mobile Retail: Technology drives in-store and out-of-store shopping experiences, in-store navigation experiences, and social and mobile sharing of products.
  • Set-Top Boxes In 2013: This technology goes through drastic changes. Content creator/owners and providers are try to increase engagement across channels and provide new UI application linkages to allow switching of context between VOD and programmed content.
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