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INDUSTRY INSIDER

Industry Insider

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Intel has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Wind River Systems, under which Intel will acquire all outstanding Wind River common stock for $11.50 per share in cash, or approximately $884 million in the aggregate. As a leading embedded software vendor, Wind River will become part of Intel’s strategy to grow its processor and software presence outside the traditional PC and server market segments into embedded systems and mobile handheld devices. Wind River will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel and continue with its current business model. The acquisition will deliver to Intel software capabilities in embedded systems and mobile devices, both important growth areas for the company.

“This acquisition will bring us complementary, market-leading software assets and an incredibly talented group of people to help us continue to grow our embedded systems and mobile device capabilities,” said Renee James, Intel vice president and general manager of the company’s Software and Services Group. “Wind River has thousands of customers in a wide range of markets, and now both companies will be better positioned to meet growth opportunities in these areas.”

“Our combination of strengths will be of great benefit to Wind River’s existing and future customers,” said Ken Klein, Wind River chairman, president and CEO. “As a wholly owned subsidiary, Wind River will more tightly align its software expertise to Intel’s platforms to speed the pace of progress and software innovation. We remain committed to continuing to provide leading solutions across multiple hardware architectures and delivering the same world-class support to which our customers have grown accustomed.”

The implications of the acquisition can be many. The companies state that the new subsidiary will continue to support other architectures, but it would be difficult to imagine that Intel’s mission, which is to sell silicon—namely its own silicon—has changed. The acquisition of Wind River should be regarded in that light. The acquisition brings not only the VxWorks RTOS and a real-time version of Linux under Intel’s roof, but also development tools like the Eclipse-based Workbench tool suite, test management tools and the Tilcon graphics suite.

While there have been no indications from Intel, the opportunity certainly exists to gradually move this software arsenal to more Intel-specific purposes such as pricing strategies, support programs and performance-enhancing modifications that can be tied directly to the chip architectures and kept proprietary. This type of move would definitely give Intel an advantage over its x86 competitors AMD and VIA Technologies as well as a weapon to use more generally in competition with other embedded rivals like ARM and Freescale.

There have been remarks already that this shows that Intel has “finally discovered the embedded market.” These people have not been paying attention. Intel has for some time had an embedded roadmap with devices specifically aimed at the needs of embedded developers, including guaranteed life cycles. The advent of the low-power Atom family along with 45nm Core Duo processors is targeted at embedded systems and is expected to be followed later this year by a new generation of 32nm devices. Intel didn’t just discover the embedded marked; it has been ruthlessly pursuing it for some time.

At the same time, the acquisition of Wind River puts Intel into direct competition with other embedded software vendors, many of whom offer products targeted at the x86 architecture. One of the more intriguing of these is, of course, Microsoft, which also long ago “discovered” the embedded market. Intel is reportedly making a push into (among other things) the market for Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), small, handheld multimedia devices with wireless Internet connectivity. There, it apparently wants to dominate with its Atom and follow-on processor families, but now also with the embedded Linux acquired with Wind River. There it runs smack into Microsoft with its Windows Mobile, CE and/or XP Embedded. Since Microsoft doesn’t make silicon, the availability of an integrated mobile hardware/software platform could be a distinct advantage. The same goes for automotive applications, medical devices and a whole range of small applications.

Reaction from embedded software vendors has been generally optimistic. John Carbone, VP of marketing for Express Logic said, “I see this as a good deal for just about everyone. It’s good for software vendors in general because it shows that a mega-company like Intel recognized the value of software as a necessary solution to offer customers, and the valuation ($885M) is a good one, given the current state of the market. It benefits Wind River by giving them an inside track to the Intel customer base and Intel sales channels. It benefits Wind River’s competitors by moving Wind River to a perceived Intel-centric role, making them less attractive to companies using Freescale, MIPS, ARM and others. Finally, it’s good for Intel because it gives them a one-stop-shop solution that’s appealing to customers, and positions them ahead of Freescale and their other competitors [e.g.: AMD, as you observed] in this area.”

QNX Software was also upbeat. According to CEO Dan Dodge, “Intel’s acquisition of Wind River presents a significant opportunity for QNX Software Systems, as we remain committed to an architecture-agnostic strategy that provides tools, middleware and RTOS technology for ARM, MIPS, Power, SH-4 and x86 platforms.” He went on to note, “Intel and QNX have worked together for more than 20 years, and we will continue to work with them and other silicon vendors to support our multi-platform approach. In fact, QNX fastboot technology for the Intel Atom processor recently won an innovation award from Intel Embedded and Communications Alliance.”

Green Hills Software, one of the largest RTOS vendors, appears to be quite optimistic about the acquisition as well. President and CEO Dan O’Dowd stated, “In a few years Green Hills Software will be the only vendor supplying tools and OSs for multiple processor families. Intel has removed a competitor from the board. Its aim is not to provide a convenient way to write software that can be easily migrated to another vendor’s chips. Our business model is to be the vendor you go to when you don’t want to be locked in.”

The potential rivalry between Intel and Microsoft for the more consumer end of the market served by OSs like CE and Linux is of less interest to Green Hills. “What we want is the traditional embedded market of industrial control, automation, instrumentation, etc. It’s really hard to imagine a better scenario. Intel will begin to take them (Wind River) out of the ARM, PowerPC, MIPS, etc.”

O’Dowd let it be known that he sees an additional advantage. “I bought a million shares of Wind River over the years,” he says, “Every time it went below seven dollars.”

ZigBee Smart Energy Proposed as Basis for an IEC Standard 

In an effort at helping speed the development of the Smart Grid, the ZigBee Alliance, a global ecosystem of companies creating wireless solutions for use in energy management, commercial and consumer applications, has announced it is proposing use of the ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as a basis for an IEC standard. 

ZigBee Smart Energy is a standardized home area network solution that meets the requirements of leading utilities worldwide. The deployment of an estimated 30 million ZigBee-equipped smart meters is underway in North America. Working with the IEC on an even broader global standardization is expected to benefit the energy sector and public by placing more emphasis on energy management and smart grid development.

“The ZigBee Alliance is doing heavy lifting in the industry, offering new possibilities for seamlessly integrating the home area network with the electric system to deliver long-awaited value and functionality as part of a larger smart grid,” said Richard Schomberg, convener of the IEC Smart Grid Strategic Group.

Greg Robinson, convener of IEC TC57 Working Group 14, added, “Basing and harmonizing the ZigBee Smart Energy profile on the IEC Common Information Model (CIM) would improve data fidelity and minimize overall life cycle costs for exchanging information among home area networks, metering systems and utility back office systems.”

“ZigBee Smart Energy is in wide use today,” said Bob Heile, chairman of the ZigBee Alliance. “Our goal will be to ensure the highest level of compatibility with all ongoing, and soon to begin, deployments of ZigBee Smart Energy. With its inherent Internet connectivity, use of global wireless frequencies and robust security, ZigBee Smart Energy is in deployment around the world.”

Semiconductors Are Now the Driving Force behind U.S. Energy Efficiency Gains

Semiconductor technologies are so essential to advances in energy efficiency gains that the U.S. economy could expand by more than 70 percent through 2030 and still use 11 percent less electricity than it did in 2008, according to a new study by the nonprofit and independent American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Titled Semiconductor Technologies: The Potential to Revolutionize U.S. Energy Productivity, the new ACEEE report concludes that semiconductors already are the leading factor behind energy efficiency gains. The report states: “Compared to the technologies available in 1976, we estimate that the entire family of semiconductor-enabled technologies generated a net savings of about 775 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the year 2006 alone.”

Energy solutions that are described as “smart”—from smart buildings to smart appliances to the Smart Grid—have semiconductor sensors to measure temperature or other variables; communications chips to receive and transmit data; memory chips to store the information; and microcontrollers, microprocessors and power management chips to adjust energy loads. Smart grid technologies also enable a more cost-effective deployment of decentralized but cleaner renewable energy resources such as solar panels and wind turbines, which are also enabled by semiconductors. Smart grids may also enable plug-in hybrid cars to stretch gasoline dollars, and provide battery storage units for the nation’s electric generation system. 

U.S. energy intensity (energy per constant dollar of GDP) declined an average of 1.2 percent annually between 1950 and 1995. The level of U.S. energy intensity further declined 2.1 percent between 1995 and 2008. A significant portion of these gains appears to be the result of the explosive growth in technologies supported and the related shift in the predominant technological paradigm.  

Additionally, huge additional energy efficiency gains will be seen over the next 20 years. The cumulative net electricity bill savings enabled by semiconductors might exceed $1.3 trillion through 2030. Perhaps not surprising, a more productive economy might also support some 935,000 more jobs while substantially reducing environmental impacts—notably a reduction in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions that would exceed 700 million metric tons, also by 2030.”  

The need for 300 more power plants could be eliminated. Smart investments “can facilitate productivity gains that reduce electricity use to only 3,364 billion kWh by 2030. The resulting savings of 1,242 billion kWh in 2030 means that the economy may actually consume 11 percent less electricity than it did in 2008. In other words, semiconductor-related technologies may support an economy in 2020 that is 35 percent larger than today, but one that uses 7 percent less electricity

Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) Interoperability Validated

The Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA), a non-profit international organization of manufacturers, systems integrators and vendors, has announced that it successfully completed its second FCoE Plugfest the week of May 12th at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL).

Sponsored by the FCIA, leading Fibre Channel vendors worked together to ensure interoperability for the stable FCoE standard. This year’s Plugfest provided a forum for testing the interaction of FCoE end devices with data center bridge exchange (DCBx) switches. Participating companies in the Plugfest included Amphenol, Brocade, Cisco Systems, Finisar, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IXIA, Mellanox, Microsoft, NetApp, QLogic, Tyco Electronics and UNH-IOL.

Bill Martin, FCoE Plugfest chair and engineer consultant for the Office of Technology at Emulex, volunteered to execute the successful Plugfest event. “Adding Converged Enhanced Ethernet-capable switches in this Plugfest allowed vendors to validate discovery over an FCoE fabric, priority flow control, separation of Ethernet traffic based on priority, and interoperability with other Ethernet traffic in the same environment. This added testing has allowed the industry to move forward toward quick implementation of an interoperable converged network environment,” said Martin. Member companies have already delivered or are in product development and gearing to deliver FCoE solutions over the coming months.

 

Hybrid Locomotives: GE Partners with NY in Facility for New Battery Technology

General Electric has announced that it will open a new, state-of-the-art battery manufacturing plant in upstate New York that will serve as the main manufacturing facility for GE’s newly formed battery business. The initial investment in the factory will be $100 million. It will be located in the Capital Region and will create 350 new manufacturing jobs at GE and thousands more in the supply chain. The announcement coincides with GE’s submission for federal stimulus dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy.

GE has invested more than $150 million to develop advanced battery technologies, including a high energy density, sodium-based chemistry battery that will provide energy storage for several future product applications. The first application will be GE’s hybrid locomotive, which will be commercialized in 2010. In addition, GE has launch customers in several industries, including mining, telecommunications and utility, with key applications for heavy service vehicles, backup storage and load leveling for the smart grid.

This investment in sodium battery technology complements GE’s investment in A123, a leading supplier of lithium batteries for plug-in electric passenger cars. With these two technologies, GE now leads the world in applications for high power and high energy density storage systems.

GE’s planned facility will employ a high wage “green collar” workforce that will produce approximately 10 million cells each year when the facility is at full capacity. That translates to 900 megawatt hours of energy storage, or enough energy storage to power 1,000 U.S. homes for a month, or enough energy to support 1,000 GE hybrid locomotives.

The new battery business will be a part of GE Transportation and will serve customers in the rail, marine, mining, telecommunications and utility sectors. This battery technology will allow GE to be the first manufacturer to introduce a hybrid, heavy-haul freight locomotive that reduces emissions while improving fuel efficiency, putting GE well ahead of its competition.

GE hopes to secure additional federal funding for the new facility later this summer. Applications for Department of Energy funding are due next week. The goal is to have the new manufacturing operation producing batteries by mid-2011

PICMG Forms Technical Committee Focused on Large-Scale Physics Applications

A new PICMG subcommittee has been initiated by an international group of physics labs that are using or actively exploring usage of both AdvancedTCA and MicroTCA platforms in experimental research machines and detectors. These include applications in such diverse fields as high energy, photon, astro, fusion and medical physics. The Committee will tackle AdvancedMC channel usage models, rear transition module definitions, timing synchronization, and the generic design of AdvancedTCA and AdvancedMC modules needed to allow PICMG’s xTCA family of products to be used in the broad physics community.

The main goal of the subcommittee is to develop a set of xTCA specifications, sub-specifications, design guides, requirements documents, and other documents while maintaining maximum compatibility with existing xTCA specifications. This subcommittee will serve as a coordinating committee for study of solutions, specific tasks, resources and timelines for a number of closely coupled working groups.

“PICMG is very excited about the formation of this subcommittee,” stated Doug Sandy, PICMG vice president of technology. “It proves PICMG’s xTCA family of specifications, including AdvancedTCA, MicroTCA and AdvancedMC, has application beyond their telecommunications focus. It also shows how open specifications can be enhanced within the PICMG organization to permit broader use of the technologies.”

“The physics scientific community was among the first to pioneer interoperable modular instrument standards beginning in the 1960s,” said Ray Larsen of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, chair of the Coordinating Committee. “This special relationship of physics with PICMG aims to create xTCA features to serve the new generation of intelligent, highly available large-scale physics systems, along with strong industrial support.”

ZigBee Alliance Plans Further Integration of IP Standards

The ZigBee Alliance has announced it will incorporate global IT standards from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) into its specification portfolio of low-power wireless networking standards. This move will expand the growing portfolio of successful ZigBee specifications and should further advance the rapid growth of Smart Grid applications that have widely adopted the proven ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile.

By incorporating IETF standards, ZigBee Smart Energy products will enhance their application capabilities with native IP support, allowing seamless integration of Internet connectivity into each product. ZigBee members will also benefit from the knowledge and experience contained in IETF standards for large-scale network addressability, security and IT integration, further building on existing expertise from developing the world’s leading technologies in the area of reliable, low-cost wireless sensor and control networks.

Through cooperative efforts with IETF, ZigBee members will create additional solutions for wireless sensor and control networks as part of the new specification. Internet connectivity is currently provided by existing ZigBee specifications; however, the addition of native IP support will offer tighter integration from wireless devices all the way to large-scale utility IT networks. The resulting specification will further broaden ZigBee’s suite of low-power wireless network solutions to meet the diversified needs of companies in the home, automation, healthcare, commercial building automation, telecommunications and consumer markets.

IDT to Acquire Tundra Semiconductor

Integrated Device Technology and Tundra Semiconductor have announced the two companies have entered into a definitive acquisition agreement pursuant to which IDT will acquire Tundra for CDN$6.25 per share, for an aggregate purchase price of approximately CDN$120.8 million.

“IDT is excited about the proposed acquisition of Tundra. We look forward to better serving our customers by utilizing the Tundra core strengths in serial switching and bridging using PCI Express, RapidIO and VME, with the existing IDT mixed signal product portfolio,” said Dr. Ted Tewksbury, president and CEO at IDT. “We believe the result of this transaction will provide our customers with a broader product offering as well as improved service, support and future roadmap of serial connectivity innovations. This transaction reflects our commitment to extending our technology leadership in the communications end market, which is particularly critical in the current challenging economic environment.”

Tundra announced earlier that Gennum notified Tundra that it would not exercise its right under the amended arrangement agreement between Tundra and Gennum to match the IDT offer. As a result, Tundra has paid the CDN$5.0 million termination fee to Gennum and has terminated the Gennum Agreement in accordance with its terms.