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Monday, 19 June 2006 14:21

ARM ramps up Indian operations

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ImageThe India centre of digital design company ARM has come a long way from being a mere design center working on the fringes of collaborative projects from the parent company based in Cambridge, England.

Not only has it become a microcosm of what ARM is (working in high end design technologies) but it is also increasing its tempo with a number of Indian companies working on silicon design services.

ARM, which is ramping up its Indian operations, currently has five companies, Wipro Technologies, MindTree, HCL Technologies, Sasken Communications and IBM Global Services India as its approved design centers.

The Indian embedded technology centre will be hiring about 150 highly skilled design engineers to increase its headcount from the current 200 to 350 in a year’s time.

Co-founder and COO of ARM, Tudor Brown, who was recently here in Bangalore to inaugurate the new facility told iTWire.com: “We don’t want to grow too fast but we want to grow in a stable manner.  We want to reach a critical mass in CPU validation, IP and embedded software development.”

 “Wireless is an area where frantic activity is taking place. This is is one area that we are strongly focusing on and using virtual prototyping to accelerate product development,” Atul Arora, president, commercial operations, ARM Embedded Technologies, India said.

Software development is the critical link in the development of today's embedded wireless applications, amounting to 50 to 70% of overall product-development costs.

“To remain competitive, wireless designers must be able to write and test out their new software code simultaneously when the hardware is being developed. This is now possible through the use of a virtual prototype that can accurately model processor, bus, and peripheral behaviors,” Arora explained, adding that virtual prototyping also holds good for any other digital design in verticals such as automotive, consumer applications, aerospace, etc.

When designing at the electronic systems level (ESL), a well-constructed virtual-prototype model will provide a platform upon which real embedded software can be executed. This also allows the designer to accurately predict the system's behavior, which is mandatory for high-level, architectural tradeoff analysis. “This trend which we were talking about two years back is now beginning to take off,” he said.

Meanwhile ARM’s  "DesignStart" program, which aims at enabling companies that lack financial resources to come up with designs rather than requiring them to pay the license fee at the start, has found many takers worldwide.

“We have seen around 100 smaller firms which include five Indian firms downloading the kit (which is free) under this program, which we had started last year,” Brown said.
 
The program enables design teams target emerging applications, improve the success of their projects and cut development costs by more closely aligning intellectual property (IP) investments with the production and shipment of the final product.

"This program is specifically meant for the smaller firms to focus their money and talent on what they do best, instead of paying for an ARM license at the beginning. It is more like a deferred payment model - these companies need to take a license for single use from us only at the tape-out stage," said Tudor Brown, ARM's chief operating officer.

The processor which is a free download is the ARM7 (an entry level processor) “For a start-up in design space, any amount of money, even if it is not a huge amount, is big money. If we can offer this to a kit free of charge at this stage, it comes as a breather,” added Arora.

“Maybe not all the 100-plus firms will go all the way to the tape-out stage – but a 30 to 40% hit is also great for us,” he said.

Interestingly, two Chinese firms recently have taken licenses from ARM under the same program.

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