Tag Archive for BRCM

Can Toshiba Stay in Business?

Can Toshiba Stay in Business?Updated 06-22-2017 – As predicted below, the NYT reports that the Japanese government formed a coalition including the US venture capital firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba’s microchip division. Estimates are the deal is worth approx. $20 Billion.

Toshiba is being driven to sell off its crown jewel, its microchip business, to stabilize the international giant. The New York Times reports that the stalwart of Japan’s postwar rise as a global industrial giant warned that its has doubts over whether it could stay in business. In a filing in Japan, Toshiba said it wrote off more than $6 billion connected to Westinghouse Electric’s troubled nuclear reactor projects in the United States, had created “substantial uncertainty” over its ability to continue as a going concern.

ToshibaThe Toshiba microchip division is the number two global provider of NAND flash memory. NAND flash memory is a type of non-volatile storage technology that does not need power to retain data. Flash memory is electronic (solid-state) non-volatile computer storage medium that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed.

Toshiba originally invented flash memory in the early 1980s from EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory). They introduced it to the market in 1984. Called flash memory, after the flash on a camera, the chips have become an essential building blocks of the modern electronics industry.

WestinghouseThe two main types of flash memory are named after the NAND and NOR logic gates. The individual flash memory cells have internal characteristics similar to those of the corresponding gates.

Where EPROMs had to be completely erased before being rewritten, NAND-type flash memory may be written and read in blocks (or pages) which are generally smaller than the entire device. NOR-type flash allows a single machine word (byte) to be written—an erased location—read independently.

NAND flash memoryThe NAND type operates primarily in memory cards, USB flash drives, some solid-state drives, and similar products for general storage and transfer of data. NAND or NOR flash memory is also often used to store configuration data in many digital products, a task previously made possible by EEPROM or battery-powered static RAM. One key disadvantage of flash memory is that it can only endure a relatively small number of write cycles in a specific block.

Toshiba manufactures its NAND Flash Memories at its Yokkaichi Operations to maintain quality.

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) is the biggest maker of flash memory chips, followed by Toshiba, SK Hynix and U.S.-based Micron Technology (MU).

many as 12 companies have approached Toshiba with proposalsA sale of Toshiba’s chip business, while offering the business a lifeline, would take away its most successful business — and, more broadly, would represent a shift of a major technology away from Japan, depending on the buyer. The Toshiba sale is still in its early stages, and the NYT say as many as 12 companies have approached Toshiba with proposals. Reports are that Toshiba is asking bidders to value its operations at about $17.6 billion (2 trillion yen), and make at least a 50 percent investment.

One of the better-known suitors is Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn. Foxconn is the assembler of Apple (AAPL) iPhones and is world’s largest contract electronics maker. Foxconn is based in Taiwan but performs most of its manufacturing in mainland China. According to the article Foxconn could pay billions to buy the business.

offered $27 billionSources told Japanese public broadcaster NHK the first round of the Toshiba auction drew 10 offers. Toshiba has narrowed the field of bidders for its chip unit to four: U.S. chipmaker Broadcom (AVGO), a private equity firm Silver Lake Partners which reportedly offered $18 billion; SK Hynix; Western Digital (WDC); and Foxconn (2354), reports say Foxconn offered $27 billion.

Apple is considering teaming up with its supplier Foxconn to bid for Toshiba semiconductor business, Japan’s NHK reported. Apple is considering investing at least several billion dollars to take a stake of more than 20 percent as part of a plan that would have Toshiba keep a partial holding so the business remains under U.S. and Japanese control, NHK reported.

The authors point out Toshiba’s situation is a remarkable turnabout for Japan, a country that once controlled the majority of microchip markets. In the past Japanese companies have banded together to rescue flailing domestic rivals and not let them fold or be acquired by foreigners.

BankersThe article speculates that the Japanese government may cobble together a “team Japan” offer, but the response from potential participants — who would have to explain the spending to shareholders — has been tepid. “It is fundamentally unthinkable that the Industry Ministry would intervene and take some kind of action,” Hiroshige Seko, the industry minister, said at a news conference, further dampening expectations.

Mark Newman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, argued in a report that Toshiba’s memory business remained valuable enough that selling it amounted to “selling the crown jewels to pay next month’s rent.”

Apple teaming up with its supplier Foxconn to bid for ToshibaJapanese politicians and industry leaders have voiced concerns over Chinese investors’ buying advanced chip production technology; semiconductors and memory are a major priority of China’s industrial policy. That could hinder any deal with Foxconn, said Mr. Newman, of Sanford C. Bernstein.

The worry is that Foxconn “would build huge fabs in China,” Mr. Bernstein said, referring to semiconductor fabrication plants. “The jobs would move to China from Japan, and furthermore China would go after market share at the expense of crushing industry economics, so the U.S., Taiwan, Korea, Japan all get hurt substantially by this arrangement.” Foxconn has been successful in attracting subsidies from the Chinese government to build large-scale production facilities in China.

The article speculates that Foxconn could take the Toshiba technology and manufacture it more cheaply in China. Such a move could drive down pricing for memory, a boon for Apple and low-cost Chinese smartphone makers. But it would also propel China forward in its long push to become internationally competitive in semiconductors. Mr. Newman has warned that competition in NAND chips could heat up next year, creating the possibility of oversupply and putting more pressure on Toshiba’s ability to put in effect next-generation technologies.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Ethernet Marches On

Ethernet Marches OnIt has been a while since we talked networking on the Bach Seat. So it is time to get back to my roots. Ethernet continues to dominate the world. The IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group recently ratified 4 new Ethernet related standards. The committee approved IEEE 802.3bp, IEEE 802.3bq, IEEE 802.3br, and IEEE 802.3by.

IEEEEIEEE 802.3br has implications for IoT and connected cars. This new standard addresses the needs of industrial control system manufacturers and the automotive market by specifying a pre-emption methodology for time-sensitive traffic. IEEE 802.3bp, addresses now Ethernet operates in harsh environments found in automotive and industrial applications.

The 2 more interesting new standards to networkers are IEEE 802.3bq and IEEE 802.3by. These standards help define how 25 GB and 40 GB Ethernet will work and more importantly how products from multiple vendors should interoperate in the data center. For a summary of the rationale for the new standard here is the IEEE presentation  (PDF).

Data centerIEEE 802.3bq, “Standard for Ethernet Amendment: Physical Layer and Management Parameters for 25 Gb/s and 40 Gb/s Operation, Types 25GBASE-T and 40GBASE-T“, opens the door to higher-speed 25 Gb/s and 40 Gb/s twisted pair solutions with auto-negotiation capabilities and Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) support for data center applications.

IEEE 802.3by, “Standard for Ethernet Amendment: Media Access Control Parameters, Physical Layers and Management Parameters for 25 Gb/s Operation”, introduces cost-optimized 25 Gb/s PHY specifications for single-lane server and switch interconnects for data centers.

Siemon’s Standards Informant explains that 25GBASE-T will be backwards-compatible with existing BASE T technology and both 25GBASE-T and 40GBASE-T are planned for operation over TIA category 8 cabling. The deployment opportunity for 25GBASE-T is aligned with 40GBASE-T and defined as the same 2-connector, 30 meter reach topology supporting data center edge connections (i.e., switch to server connections in row-based structured cabling or top of rack configurations).

BASE T technologyThe standard’s ratification comes shortly after the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) approved its standard specifications for Category 8 cabling, the twisted-pair type designed to support 25GBase-T and 40GBase-T.

Though 25 Gigabit Ethernet is only now becoming an official standard, Enterprise Networking Planet reports that multiple vendors already have technologies in market. Among the early adopter of 25 GbE is Broadcom (AVGO) which announced back in 2014 that its StrataXGS Tomahawk silicon would support 25 GbE. In 2015, Arista (ANET) announced its lineup of 25 GbE switches. Cisco (CSCO) is also embedding 25 GbE support in some of its switches including the Nexus 9516 switch.

That is where 25-Gb/s Ethernet comes in. It uses the same LC fiber cables and the SFP28 transceiver modules are compatible with standard SFP+ modules. This means that data-center operators can upgrade from 10 GbE to 25 GbE using the existing installed optical cabling and get a 2.5X increase in performance.

The IEEE 25GbE standard seems to have come out of nowhere, (especially considering the L O N G D R A W N O U T 8 0 2 . 1 1 n process but the technology actually came into being as the natural single-lane version of the IEEE 802.3ba 100-Gb/s Ethernet standard. The 100-Gb/s Ethernet standard uses four separate 25-Gb/s lanes running in parallel, so defining a single lane makes it a straightforward and natural subset of the 100-Gb/s standard.

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IEEE P802.3by and P802.3bq were initially targeted for server connections in mega data centers like Amazon, Facebook and Google. In the next 5 years, 25G will be the next mainstream server upgrade from 10G, even for smaller data centers. SMB data centers will be facing a connectivity crisis in the future as the pace of virtualization increases.

According to IDC, the typical virtualized server supported about 10 virtual machines (VMs) in 2014 and will support in excess of 12 VMs by 2017. In many organizations, the majority of production workloads are already virtualized and almost all new workloads are deployed on virtualized infrastructure, placing inexorable stress on server connectivity.
In order to accommodate this growth Twinax copper and short-reach MMF are included in the “by” standard, while 25GBASE-T (twisted pair) was added to the existing 40GBASE-T “bq” project making 25G possible in smaller data centers without having to re-wire the data center.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Activity Tracker For Dogs

Fitbark is one of a small number of startups working to maintain and even improve the health of dogs. Business Insider reports that Fitbark just raised $80,000 on Kickstarter from 697 backers — more than double the amount it was seeking to support their product and mission of fun and responsible dog parenting.

Fitbark“We looked around and realized there’s a black hole in the way we track the health and activity of our dogs throughout time,” Fitbark co-founder Davide Rossi tells Business Insider. “If you cannot measure it, you can’t improve it.”

New York based FitBark recommends daily goals for your dog based on breed, weight, size, and age. From there, a dog owner can tweak those recommendations. The article says FitBark aims to provide rich information with actionable insights for dog owners. That way, owners can quickly gauge what kind of day their dog is having, even if they’re away from him or her. They can also use that data to share with the veterinarian at their dog’s next check up.

KickstarterFitBark’s “Bark charts” let owners know if their dog is moving less than normal, which could mean the dog is sick. Owners can also gain better insight into how their dog acts around different people. The author says the data can be used to suggest that their dog is more active with one pet sitter than the other. Or maybe one boarding home makes their dog exercise more than the other.

BI reports that if FitBark notices that a dog is nowhere close to hitting his or her daily goal, the owner may get a notification suggesting to take their dog on a walk. But if the dog is with a pet sitter, the owner could call and check in.

FitbarkThe FitBark device attaches to a collar and collects data on the dog’s activity levels 24/7 and sends the information it collects to FitBark servers when the wearable device is within range of an authorized smart phone or a FitBark base station. Once this occurs, the dog’s data is analyzed and sent back to the owner’s phone. Owners can then compare his or her dog’s actual activities levels to the dog’s daily fitness goals.

Down the road, Fitbark envisions trainers or even veterinarians tapping into its API to help implement a custom exercise plan. “Trainers will complain that they prescribe or recommend a program for dogs and owners, but there’s no way to monitor compliance,” Rossi says.

Tech DogAnother application could be for lifestyle recommendations. So a developer could make an app to suggest certain types of pet foods, sync that up with Fitbark, and see if there are any noticeable changes in activity.

GigaOm points out that Fitbark pulled an earlier attempt at crowdfunding the device to rethink the business model, scrapping the monthly subscription fee and opting for a fixed price-tag of $69 via Kickstarter or $99 for general retail.

Bull MastiffBroadcom (BRCM) CEO Scott McGregor has announced its entry into the wearable tech market with the company’s low-cost, low-power Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED) hardware platform for connected mobile devices. PCMag reports that Broadcom sees a lot of potential for simple, inexpensive, purpose-built products that use one or more connectivity technologies like FitBark.

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I covered a similar product called Tagg back in 2012 here. A lot of things have changed since then. Machine to Machine communications and the Internet of Things are all the rage. The Cloud was a viable business model.  Big-data analytics is allowing the NSA to spy on the world. And now all of that has come together, M2M dog tags run thru a big-data analytics stored in the public cloud so the NSA can spy on US dogs. What a country!

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me atFacebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

A Close Look at 802.11ac Wi-Fi

TA Close Look at 802.11ac Wi-Fiech pundits argue that the new Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac will replace wired gigabit Ethernet networking. 802.11ac is a supercharged version of 802.11n, offering link speeds ranging from 433 Mbps, up to multiple gigabits per second.

WirelessTo make 802.11ac dozens of times faster than 802.11n, the new standard works exclusively in the 5GHz band, uses a huge chunks of bandwidth (80 or 160MHz), operates in up to eight spatial streams (MIMO), and a technology called beamforming.

At its core, 802.11ac is essentially an updated version of 802.11n, according to Sebastian Anthony the author of an ExtremeTech article “What is 802.11ac WiFi, and how much faster than 802.11n is it?” 802.11n was a huge performance increase over 802.11a and g. 802.11n introduced some key technologies that brought massive speed boosts over . Whereas 802.11n had support for four spatial streams (4×4 MIMO) and a channel width of 40MHz, 802.11ac can use eight spatial streams and has channels up to 80MHz wide, which can be combined to make 160MHz channels. This means that 802.11ac has 8 x 160MHz of spectral bandwidth to play with, versus 4 x 40MHz – a huge difference that allows 802.11ac to send vast amounts of data across the airwaves.

Beamforming802.11ac also introduces 256-QAM modulation (up from 64-QAM in 802.11n), which sends 256 different signals over the same frequency by shifting each signal to a slightly different phase. In theory, this quadruples the spectral efficiency of 802.11ac over 802.11n. Spectral efficiency is a measure of how well a given wireless protocol/modulation/multiplexing technique uses the bandwidth available to it.

802.11ac also introduces standardized beamforming Matthew Gast, Director of Product Management at AeroHive Networks published an article, “Investing in Beamforming: Is it worth it?” that explains beamforming.

TargetRather than transmitting a radio signal in all directions, beamforming figures out where the receiver is, and focus the energy towards the receiver. Instead of spraying radio energy all over the place, send packets as a “rifle shot” directly to the receiver’s antenna Mr.Gast explains.

Beamforming is a two-step process: First, figure out how to “aim” the transmission at the receiver, and second, send the transmission. With beamforming, a transmitter is betting that by paying the cost of the channel measurement process, the data transmission that follows will speed up enough to pay off the cost.

Aerohive802.11n Beamforming was non-standardized, in 802.11ac, there is only one method of beamforming, called the Null Data Packet (NDP). (rb- Read the AeroHive article for a full description of NDP)

Aerohive’s Gast concludes that by steering the energy towards a receiver, beamforming enables you to take a step up to a higher data rate. Mr. Gast estimates that 802.11-based beamforming gives you a 3-5 dB gain.

802.11ac is fastIn theory, at the 5GHz band with beamforming, 802.11ac should have the same or better range than 802.11n  However, Mr. Anthony says the 5GHz band, has less penetration power so it doesn’t have the same range as 2.4GHz (802.11b/g). The ExtremeTech article concludes that’s an acceptable trade-off: there simply isn’t enough spectral bandwidth in the cluttered 2.4GHz band to allow for 802.11ac’s gigabit-level speeds.

ExtremeTech‘s Anthony calculates there are two answers to how fast is Wi-Fi 802.11ac, the theoretical max speed, and the practical max speed that mere mortals will get surrounded by lots of signal-attenuating obstacles.

He calculates the theoretical max speed of 802.11ac is eight 160MHz 256-QAM channels, each of which are capable of 866.7Mbps – a grand total of 6,933Mbps, or just shy of 7Gbps. That’s a transfer rate of 900 megabytes per second. Compare this with 802.11n’s max theoretical speed, which was 600Mbps. He then says in practice, the current max speed of 802.11ac devices is 1.7Gbps.

802.11ac spec chart courtesy of Meru Networks

ExtremeTech points out there will be a second wave of 802.11ac devices – due in 2014, after the standard is finalized – before 160MHz channels and multi-gigabit speeds become a reality. The max speed over an 80MHz channel is 433.3Mbps, and there aren’t any 802.11ac chipsets that support up to eight streams.

BroadcomKevin Fitchard at GigaOM reports that recently the Wi-Fi Alliance kicked off its 802.11ac certification program. First to get the official Wi-Fi stamp of approval was the Samsung Mega 6.3, followed by two other Samsung models.

As with the 802.11n certification process, the Wi-Fi equipment makers are moving faster than the standards bodies. The IEEE is actually still putting the finishing touches on the 802.11ac standard, which is not due until 2014.

802.11ac certifiedThe Wi-Fi Alliance expects the first batch of ac devices will support speeds of 433 Mbps and progress into more advanced levels of the standard. The Alliance has pre-certified systems from companies like Broadcom (BRCM), Qualcomm (QCOM), Realtek and Marvell (MRVL). Cisco (CSCO) was one of the first vendors to get an access point certified.

“AC is going into mobile and portable devices first…,” Wi-Fi Alliance Marketing and Program Management Director Kelly Davis-Felner said. ABI Research estimates that 40 percent of all ac devices shipped in 2013 will be handsets.

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Cabling messWhile tech pundits argue that the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi will replace wired gigabit Ethernet networking at home and in the office. While the comsumerization of IT and BYOD are strong forces, the life-cycle of cabling infrastructure is 25 years, a cost not lightly abandoned in the walls. it is more likely to happen at home first. Who wants all the crappy wires running all over the house?

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

802.11ac – Clears the Way for Collaboration

802.11ac - Clears the Way for CollaborationThe emerging gigabit Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, is the current darling of the hype-machine. The standard will be finalized in February 2014. However that has not stopped manufacturers from shipping 802.11ac routers, access points and mobile devices. Shortel (SHOR) recently provided their opinion on what this means for your business.

IEEE 802.11acThe article points out that more people are using mobile apps and devices. Shortel calculates that a typical worker may have three IP addresses, while digital natives may have up to six IP addresses. These stats suggest that mobility has become a must-have and the author claims that 802.11ac can meet the needs of increasing mobility because 802.11ac is faster, more reliable, and delivers more Wi-Fi capacity. 802.11ac is:

  • Faster – 802.11ac is three times faster than 802.11n. 802.11ac will deliver up to 1.3 Gbps, which is about three times faster than 802.11n. This capacity will be ideal for real-time applications, such as IP voice and streaming video. Faster data throughput means better battery life for mobile devices, too.
  • More reliable – 802.11ac is more reliable with less interference. 802.11ac operates at 5 GHz, which is far less crowded than the 2.4 GHz band that by 802.11b/g/n access points — as well as cordless phones, automatic garage door openers and other home appliances. That means that there’s less interference from other Wi-Fi enabled devices, which will result in a better user experience.
  • Improved throughput. 802.11ac uses multiple antennas for transmitting and receiving RF signals, and that means better data throughput. More specifically, MIMO, or Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output, is key to providing wireless performance that is more switch-like, compared to the shared media nature of 802.11n.

Wi-Fi AllianceShortel believes that Gigabit Wi-Fi can be a real asset for unified communications, streaming media and other bandwidth-hungry apps. They plan to use the greater capacity of 802.11ac to support more devices and more apps. In the workplace teams want to engage and share without hassle using modern collaboration tools with the devices of their choice creating the need for BYOD.

The newest generation of workers are digital natives, who are more inclined to use videoconferencing for quick chats or to share ideas. In addition, many people use tablets to stream media, and more organizations are turning to streaming media over Wi-Fi for digital signage, training, company meetings and customer support. And those bandwidth-hungry applications will love the new gigabit Wi-Fi.

Digital nativesShoretel reassures those that have deployed an 802.11n WLAN recently, you don’t need to be in a hurry to move to 802.11ac. You can be confident in the investment that you made, as the first-generation 802.11ac will offer only incremental benefits over 802.11n. But if you are replacing old Wi-Fi or expanding your wireless LAN or looking to downsize your wired network in favor of wireless, you should weigh the options between 802.11n and the new 802.11ac.

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802.11ac will only get faster, the theoretical max speed of 802.11ac is just shy of 7Gbps, which you will never see in the wild, but don’t be surprised to see link speeds of 2Gbps or more in the next few years. At 2Gbps, you’ll get a transfer rate of 256MB/sec.

To reach such speeds, chipset and device makers will have to figure out how to make second generation chipsets with four or more 802.11ac streams in software and hardware. The engineers at Broadcom (BRCM), Qualcomm (QCOM), Marvell (MRVL), and Intel (INTC) are already working on ways to implementing four and eight-stream 802.11ac solutions. A lot of work will need to be done by the chipset and device makers to make sure that advanced features, such as beamforming, comply with the standard and are interoperable with other 802.11ac devices.

In general, then, you can certainly expect some impressive speeds from 802.11ac in situations where you don’t need the performance and reliability of wired GigE. But I do not believe that 802.11ac will replace a wired Gigabit Ethernet network just yet.

What do you think?

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.