Tag: mentor graphics

Armenia ups the IT ante

Armenian wine makerYou can probably tell from other stories I’ve filed recently, but last week I was in Armenia for the first time to report on the high tech in the country.

There’s plenty of famous Armenians – the one in the news most recently is Kim Kardashian West, robbed of millions of pounds worth of jewellery in Paris. But others include Hovannes Adamian – inventor of colour TV, Boris Babanal – father of supercomputing in the Soviet bloc, and many many more. You can find the impressive list here.

On that page you’ll also find a list of prominent chess players. Chess is Armenia’s national game. Another very famous Armenian was George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, born in Gyumri, Armenia’s second city and formerly called Alexandropol. This city suffered a devastating blow in 1988 when it was close to the epicentre of a 6.8 earthquake which killed an estimated 45,000 people. The country has suffered other tragedies, including mass genocide of around 1.5 million people starting in the days of the Ottoman Empire, something which modern day Turkey still denies.

I must say that speeding around Armenia over a period of five days I was very impressed by the strides in IT the country is making. We visited a number of lively companies including PicsArt, Digital Pomegranate, Volo,  and Energize Global Services.

In addition, I had meetings with Microsoft Armenia, Mentor Graphics and Synopsys – I’ve covered the last two in separate articles on TechEye in recent days.

And I took in visits to Tumo – the Centre for Creative Technologies, the Enterprise Incubation Foundation, ANEL – the National Polytechnic University of Armenia, and Gtech, based in Gyumri.

digitecLast Saturday I visited a computer exhibition in capital city Yerevan called Digitec Expo 2016 where I had the opportunity to meet a large number of other companies – big and small and just starting out. As a veteran of countless trade shows all over the world, I can tell you that while this isn’t the largest, it’s certainly buzzing with activity and enthusiasm and numbers aren’t everything. See that car on the right? That’s the president’s.

Did I say I’d been to a winery? I did that too. Shame you can’t easily buy those wines and those brandies here in the UK. The Armenian currency is called DRAM and a mere 600 of those will buy you a packet of cigarettes. 600 DRAM, by the way, is around a quid.

What really struck me was the level of education in Armenia, with universities, and computer companies cooperating with other in the IT sector. The youngsters’ enthusiasm was great to see – I don’t think their palates are quite as jaded as here in the UK and America.

I’m told that IT is the fastest growing sector in the country and represents a cool five percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

All of the companies and organisations I spoke to made it clear that Armenia wasn’t aiming to compete on price for outsourcing projects – quality is the name of the IT game there, and I was certainly struck by the professionalism of the people I spoke to.

In some ways, the Armenian tech sector reminded me of the early days of technology in Taiwan – not so much the type of IT, but the willingness of the people to roll up their sleeves and to work with will and enthusiasm. From being abandoned by the Soviet Union to its own devices, my assessment is that Armenia is already going places and has plenty of room to grow more.

Did I mention that the parts of the countryside I’ve seen are beautiful too?

Synopsys in push to power up Armenia education

intel_ireland_semiconductor_chip_fab_300mm_waferI was in Armenia last week, courtesy, you could barely Adam and Eve it, of the British Embassy,  and was given the chance to speak to many a vendor, to students, and to regular people too, and taste the atmosphere of this ancient country.

In particular, I was privileged to interview Dr. Vazgen Melikyan, the director of Synopsys Armenia’s education department  and believe you me, that was quite an eye opener. The company is running effectively a powerhouse university.

Like its competitor, Mentor Graphics, Synopsys is investing money in bringing Armenia squarely into the 22nd century. The country is noted for its development skills – for example, an Armenian invented optical laser surgery, while another, American Armenian, Charlie Demerjian, invented an influential magazine called semiaccurate.com.

The professor said that the Synopsys aim is to cooperate with the main American universities. He said: “We select the best students after the second year.”

He said the internal university also offers a PhD programme, an IC design programme and an electronic design course.

Synopsys licenses its tools to external students with each licence worth around $1.5 million. But its students get the tools free of charge.

“We’re changing our curriculum in response to changing conditions,” said Professor Melikyan. Ninety percent of its students get jobs in the semiconductor industry and 77 percent get jobs in Armenia. The rest work for competitors such as Mentor Graphics.

Synopsys Armenia has its own library, which we saw when we were there last week, and it’s pretty impressive.

The Armenian story appears to be largely untold, although here at TechEye we’ve known about the influence its scientists and engineers have for some years. What we particularly like, resulting from our visit, is the clear enthusiasm and dynamism of the ICT industry in the country.

It’s pretty clear to us that the story needs to be told outside the confines of the IT industry – this little country is clearly going places.

Good chip engineers are hard to find

FUTURE HORIZONS ARMENIA 2016 Mentor Graphics has offices all over the world but we talked to the head of its Armenian office and she had plenty to say about finding top engineers.

Irina Dumanyan said that that she looks after 150 people in Armenia and also runs an internship programme.

Mentor has a set of different projects which are worked on by people in its offices all around the world.

But its Armenia office was never in the business of hiring cheap labour.

“Engineers are hard to find, that’s why we established the internship programme,” she said. The company puts its internees on live projects.

She said universities needed to get more savvy about what graduates will actually need in the real world.

“The university mentality should be changed and lots more investment is required,” she said.  It’s hard for Mentor to cooperate with the Armenian state university.

Moore’s Law gets very warped in the sub 20nm era

After all the talk of “innovation”, Walden (Wally) Rhines), chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics, posed many questions about the future of semiconductors in the post 20 nanometre era at IEF2013.  He called it the Big Squeeze. Even Gordon Moore reckons that Moore’s Law is at an end. “No exponential is forever,” he said. When asked what he would like his legacy to be, his answer was “anything but Moore’s Law”.

Wally RhinesMoore’s Law might be going away, said Rhines, but not quite yet. It’s a strange law, he said, but it’s been reliable for nearly 50 years and it’s based on a law of nature – the learning curve. That’s even though Intel’s Gordon Moore changed the “law” from a year to two years and then 18 months.

Basically, it isn’t a law at all, he said. All cost reduction comes from shrinking the die, and a similar rule of thumb operates in many different sectors.

But the cost per function will continue to fall after Moore’s Law is obsolete, he said. Moore’s Law caused people to emphasise feature size. But marketing takes over in the end with people trying to warp peoples’ perceptions by saying, for example that their gate lengths were shorter than their competitors. The claims got out of control on gate length, he said.

The lies started again after everyone in the semiconductor industry decided to agree on a set of rules. The marketing started again. And the ITRS, the regulatory body,  said it was going to abandon the technology roadmap. And so now there are no rules.

The semi industry has been living in a 70 percent linear shrink for a long time – perhaps as long as fifty years, and in that framework everyone wins and that created a healthy environment. 

Marchitecture

The system worked well, he said, but now it’s changed at the 20nm node and there’s no cost/transistor crossover for the first time in history going from 28nm to 20nm.  We’re adding complexity and that’s increasing the price of a wafer to 41 percent for the 20nm generation.

Marchitecture

And if the industry does move to 450mm wafers, it doesn’t solve the problem as it did in the past. A move to 450nm will have an impact but it will be too little and it’s too late.

He suggested that cost per function will continue long after Moore’s Law is obsolete – and that could be because computing changes because of 3D stacking, bio switches, or carbon nanotubes.

So who gets squeezed? He quoted Lisa Su’s ISSCC keymore this year when she said there will be no cost/transistor crossver for the first time at the 28 to 20 nanometre change.

While, in the past, cost per wafer increases by 15-20 percent for each node, at the 16/14 nanometre stage the cost zooms to 41 percent more, with additional cost of double pattern/etch, FinFETs and the now infamous Extreme Ultra Violet delays.

A move to 450mm wafers will reduce costs, but while that will be significant it will be too little, too later. Additionally, it’s unclear which vendors will be moving to 450mm wafers.

The candidates for margins being squeezed include the food chain suppliers – wafer fabs, lithography, assembly, test and EDA software; silicon foundries, semiconductor companies and end users.  The answer is none of them can get squeezed. While Intel, he said, predicts wafer fabrication cost is the answer, a slide it’s doling out doesn’t make sense unless Intel process technology was really bad in the past. No one in the industry he’d shown this slide to said it made any kind of sense.

Marchitecture

One answer to this squeeze is for the entire industry to slow down the learning curve. But that’s probably not feasible. Growth in unit volume makes semiconductors different from other industries. While crude oil had a 1.1 percent ten year CAGR, automotive a 3.6 percent ten year CAGR, and computers an 11.5 percent ten year CAGR, semis have a staggering 72 percent ten year CAGR on the transistor front.

In fact, the insatiable appetite for transistors, doesn’t need Moore’s Law scaling, said Rhines. You can grow integrated circuits vertically by increasing density and functionality; stack dies in 2.5D or 3D; or place your faith in spintronics, silicon photonics, semisynbio or new materials, such as carbon nanotubes. DNA, he suggested, could be the ultimate hard drive.

We just don’t seem to need Moore’s Law any more. But, we suspect, Chipzilla will have a different tale to tell.

Man who can wants to buy Mentor Graphics

Billionaire Carl Icahn has offered to pay $1.91 billion to buy Mentor Graphics.He’s been nibbling away at the company for quite some time now.

Mentor Graphics is a semiconductor tool company and according to the WSJ, Icahm thinks other people might bid for Mentor Graphics too.

Icahn has been talking a lot about Mentor recently. Last week he said the company should put itself up for sale, while a week or two back he said that he wanted to nominate several people to join the Mentor board.

He already owns a 15 percent stake in Mentor Graphics while last year the company introduced a so-called “poison pill” provision to prevent a takeover.

Like other companies in the semiconductor business, Mentor Graphics is riding high and has forecast increased profits for its next financial quarter.