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EETE OCTOBER 2012

NEWS & TECHNOLOGY ExECuTivE iNTErviEW Positioning itself around industry needs: ASIC vendor LSI By Nick Flaherty LSI LogIc haS had a long history in Europe. As one of the first data is hot to keep on the card,” he said. “This is huge. There’s aSIc vendors, it has run fabs and packaging plants in Europe a $2bn opportunity by 2015 and it’s growing very rapidly.” For and for a time was a major player in set top box chipsets. Richardson this demonstrates the new LSI – combining the hard over the last decade it has been going through a fundamental disk drive read channel expertise that is in over 30% of all hard change, moving away from being a pure play aSIc company drives with the Sandforce NAND controller, the RAID control- but using its skills in digital signal processing to become an ler software and the network processing expertise on the other aSSP provider in the storage and networking market. side. on the way it has acquired companies big and small: from The digital signal processing for hard disk drives is a core agere Systems to storage specialist Symbios and this January, part of the strategy. “Today one of our largest businesses is de- solid state disk controller Sandforce. But this veloping the SoCs for hard disk drives – we had left the strategy a little broad, and over have a 35% share of that market and work the last year it has returned to its roots as a with all the hard disk vendors,” said Richard- pure play semiconductor vendor, selling off son. “Sandforce has created a name for that the systems business it acquired with Sym- market and we have kept it as a sub-brand, bios to Netapp in March last year. it’s a natural extension for us in the hard disk “What we have done is position the com- side because we have the technology,” he pany around the problems that the industry is said. “over 40m SSDs will ship in 2012 and facing,” said Jeff Richardson, executive vice 30% of that market is LSI so we think we are president and chief operating officer. “A year in a leadership position”. having leading edge ago we had a storage systems business that process technology is a key element of the we sold to Netapp so now we are a pure play mix, says Richardson. semiconductor, not a systems company.” “We are starting to ramp up 28nm and “We are starting to see the results of the in development with 20nm with multiple change, with 32% growth in Q2 over Q2 last foundries,” he said. “TSMc is the lead but we year, and analysts are projecting 25% growth work with other major foundries as well. We in 2012. To drive transformation in the semi- expect 20nm to ramp in volume in late 2014 conductor industry takes years and we are and early 2015 so it’s still a couple of years really happy with where LSI is right now.” LSI’s Executive Vice President away. It’s a necessity for us to do this but the The key to the business is storage and value of the device is in the architecture and networking, based on the digital signal pro- and Chief Operating Officer, software that sits on the chips.” cessing and silicon design skills that have It is also looking at the 3D Finfet technol- Jeff Richardson “We have always been part of the company. In March ogy first introduced by Intel at 20nm and now the company announced its axxia range of built a lot of offload engines being offered by other foundries. “We are network processors was moving to the ARM studying this Finfet technology very carefully architecture, providing differentiation from that really no other company and there are benefits of moving from our MIPS-based vendors such as Broadcom and has been able to replicate” current technology to that. We always have to cavium. But the key is the DSP accelerator make sure that we look at all the options and blocks that are in the device handling functions such as deep we take a multiple generation perspective. We are comfortable packet inspection and data offload, says Richardson. through to 14nm.” “We have built a lot of offload engines that really no other LSI Logic was an early aSIc vendor and perhaps surprisingly company has been able to replicate both for enterprise net- over half the business is still custom. working and wireless,” he said. This is at the heart of the push “50% of our business is custom but in a very different way,” into Europe. said Richardson. “Now we have customers wanting custom ver- “Europe is extremely important to us,” he said. “one of our sions of our axxia network processor, and most of our hard disk priorities is to grow in mobile infrastructure and take the axxia drive business is custom where customers take our read chan- network processor family into the basestation market. The nel technology and build their own designs around it to provide architecture is very well suited to multiple radio 4g and LTE the SoC. That’s very different to the old LSI.” systems and we have deep engagement with European oEMs, LSI is still on the acquisitions trail, both for medium and small there’s a lot of energy out there,” he said. companies, and will work in several ways, says Richardson. Using the technology from the Sandforce acquisition in “We have made nine acquisitions in the last seven years around January is opening up opportunities in the data centre, he says. storage and networking technologies. We have a strong cash he points to a new range of products, putting 200gbytes to position and will use that to help cultivate small companies 4Tbytes of NAND flash storage in front of the RAID hard disk to help them progress quickly. a good example of that was arrays in the data centres. These PcI-Express cards provide Sandforce where we made some initial investments and then “The key is the software running on the server, deciding what acquired the company.” 10 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2012 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE OCTOBER 2012
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