Rambus: Bringing Invention to Market

Date:   Friday , January 04, 2013

Walking into the India Design Center (IDC) of Rambus Inc. (NASDAQ:RMBS), the innovative solutions company that brings invention to market, in Bangalore, an overwhelming ambiance of silence and peace welcomes you. The tranquil aura can easily mislead a person as there is a beehive of activity within the IDC where work on some of the latest technologies that enhance the user experience are being developed. Bangalore is one of the key design centers where the company develops its valuable, cutting-edge solutions that are licensed to build the next-generation of electronics products.

Rambus technology is ubiquitous in a vast majority of electronic gadgets, including smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and LCD/LED TVs Rambus engineers are pioneers in memory, memory interfaces and high-speed data communication interfaces, and Rambus is synonymous with cutting-edge technology that redefines the user experience. In the past several years, Rambus has diversified to new business areas such Lighting and Display as well as hardware security, in addition to its renewed focus on Memory interfaces and High-Speed interfaces encompassing a wide range of protocols. Rambus’ breakthrough innovations and solutions help industry-leading companies bring superior products to market. Rambus licenses both its world-class patent portfolio, as well as its family of leadership and industry-standard solutions. Rambus today is known specifically for its

• Award-winning XDRTM Memory Architecture shipping in high volume
• Mobile Memory Architecture: High-bandwidth, low-power memory for next-generation mobile devices
• DDR: Digital controllers and physical interfaces for DDR2 and DDR3
• Rambus Lighting Solutions
• CryptoFirewallTM Security Cores

Rambus Memory and Interface Solutions
While the ever-exciting applications in mobile platforms push the memory bandwidth needs further, increasing cloud-centric applications are driving memory and speed demands at data centers. Apart from significant innovations in analog circuit design techniques in deep sub-micron geometries (down to 28nm CMOS), the required differential signaling and interfaces support such high speeds on an SoC-based platform also calls for many path breaking innovations in packaging and signal integrity challenges on both the chip and platform levels. Some of the memory-intense applications in gaming, graphics and multi-core computing demands reliably and constant transfer data between memory and the processors ? this is the core of Rambus innovation.
Rambus has developed a LPM (low power memory) solution which is fully backward compatible with LPDDR3/2 standards. It achieves a signaling rate of 1.6 to 3.2 Gbps at extremely low power. It achieves best-in-class 2mW/Gbps signaling power efficiency, including the command address and clocking overheads. Rambus technology is able to address the needs of controller physical layers for consumer segment. Rambus has developed DDR3/2 physical layers which are available as hard macros or reference designs. These physical layers are silicon-proven up to 28nm process nodes in different foundries.

Rambus Lighting & Display solutions

Rambus Lighting and Display technology bring to the world a new era of energy efficient and high performance LED lighting fixtures. Solutions from Rambus focus on precise control of light output and unmatched optical efficiency, giving lighting system designers a new freedom to build next generation lighting solutions. Rambus' broad portfolio of patented innovations backed by support services for new lighting system design and manufacturing, is proving a compelling winner which has attracted the global majors of lighting solutions world over. The new business model of Rambus in this segment where it enables its customers with access to innovative Optical technology, coupled with system engineering, power delivery and thermal management expertise. As can be seen in the solution stack alongside, Rambus goes way beyond the traditional solutions with drivers, control, sensing and thermals to the upper layers of optics management to make LED lighting a different user experience. It goes beyond the traditional lumens per watt to ensure that the light energy is delivered to a desired area with precise ray angle control and luminous control. achieve the highest application efficiency in excess of 92 percent.

Cryptography Research, Inc., a division of Rambus:

The third vector of Rambus Business is Cryptography Research, Inc. (CRI) Rambus acquired the leaders in the encryption business in 2011 with a vision of securing modern day semiconductors and systems through fundamental innovation in cryptography. The innovative solutions from CRI are in the areas of tamper resistance, content protection, anti-counterfeiting, network security and financial services.

Two examples of these technologies are hardware-based CryptoFirewall solutions for content security as well as for anti-counterfeiting and Differential Power Analysis (DPA) for encryption key protection. A modern day semiconductor integrates numerous high value IP's to achieve multiple functions. The need to secure these IP's on a chip and enable them to valid users of the system is one of the challenges in next generation systems which have higher pervasiveness.

Content security is an area where CRI innovations cater to multi-platform content enablement in a secure way, be Pay TV or Set Top Box or mobile content access. Another innovation from CRI is in differential power analysis (DPA) technique which helps its licensees secure mobile devices which may inadvertently leak the cryptographic keys while an app is processed by the core of the chip through its EM emission signature.

INDIA DESIGN CENTER: the seat of constant Innovation and flawless execution

Process technology nodes are shrinking in semiconductor design and development today. Deep sub-micron process nodes of 65 nanometer (nm) or 40nm are becoming the accepted industry standard when it comes to analog and mixed signal design. Many companies are yet to reach the 40nm mark but at Rambus, the baseline process now is 28 nm. This culture of always staying ahead of the technology curve is not merely an added advantage for Rambus but an absolute necessity. The technology and IP licensing company develops revolutionary concepts and solutions that usher in a new class of products and solutions unknown to the users. These solutions form the bedrock for any new end user system development. When electronics system scales in performance and applications demand more compute power, two aspects usually come under pressure. One is silicon area and the other is power consumption. System designers always demand more compute power for less silicon area and lesser power consumption. A paradox it seems, but this makes the life of semiconductor designers exciting.

Riding this wave is K Krishna Moorthy, Managing Director, Rambus IDC who handles Rambus' core business in India to develop futuristic, new wave technologies which redefine consumer and enterprise products alike. The company's existence in this space is engrained in its capability to innovate and its dedicated R&D. Krishna, as he is known in the industry, is the epitome of simplicity and calm and is the immaculate personification of still waters running deep. Tirelessly, he leads the charge of making Rambus IDC to orchestrate a technological high tide, "Be it memory interface, which defines the speed at which dynamic memories store and transfer data within an SoC, or ultra-high speed data communication with external world, this applies equally to all," says Krishna. "We have a head start in terms of process node technologies access. We also have a head start in bringing out solutions in those process nodes that the industry will need in the coming years," he adds.

Today Rambus engineers are working on deep sub-micron process nodes of 28nm and lower to deliver high speed and low power memory physical layers (PHYs) and high-speed connectivity technologies for the next-generation semiconductor ASICs, which will address a new generation of applications that can change the user experience significantly. Such acts of managing and developing complex technologies are Rambus' core strength.
Having made its presence felt in the sphere of consumer and enterprise products, the company's clientele reads some of the biggest names in the industry. "We have a great deal of the major semiconductor companies as part of our customer base," says Krishna.

In India, very few companies work in analog mixed signal IC design. The majority of the semiconductor companies in India predominantly function in digital space and most of that in the backend of the digital space. But Rambus is unique as it works in the field of memory and high-speed interface where data is digital but the interface is largely analog and mixed signal. In context, data transfers at 25 gigabits per second and beyond, the integrity of the data known as 'Signal Integrity' becomes an extremely complex entity to handle. This requires design skills of the highest order. The ability to manage complexity is what sets this design center apart from its other counterparts, it is a quality engrained in the engineers at Rambus IDC.

Krishna has tightly integrated the IDC with the global development process as it contributes largely to the company's valuable technology pool. "It starts from the top level architecture exploration, to detailed analog and digital design, simulations and verifications, implementation, layout and complete silicon characterization and first-level chip quality assessments, as well creating the required infrastructure, for the same." With skills of the highest order, Rambus India engineers work shoulder-to-shoulder with their customer SOC companies by not only delivering the technologies but also working through the product cycle to ensure yield and reliability for high-volume manufacturability.

The India center also does custom development for a discerning customer. "We have very good success in supporting customers in Japan." Rambus technology is present in the Sony PLAYSTATION®3. In addition to designing the first generation technology for this platform, but also later generations of cost reduction shrinks. The IDC also provided design for the XIO interface and PCIe interface for a customer's GPU SOC for its laptops.

The anatomy of innovation:

Any structure with a strong foundation can stand tall against the test of time. Rambus as an R&D company has its roots in 'constant innovation' which keep the company ahead of the technology curve. Rambus is not a high head count company. They employ close to 500 employees worldwide with about 100 based in the IDC. "You need people with a different frame of mind, who can sit back quietly and think when a path breaking innovation adds differentiation," explains Krishna. Rambus engineers have an advanced sense of direction to which flawless execution becomes a way of life. "Our engineers are not measured on successful execution, which is the minimum they have to do, that is given. They are measured on how much differentiation can be brought to a new domain, solution or product, which will become a customer's delight," adds Krishna.

The company strives to create a culture of innovation and harbor an ecosystem for engineers to become as innovative as possible. This is achieved by initiating multidisciplinary innovation clubs where engineers from different areas of expertise join forces to battle challenges. We have a global mentoring program where global innovation leaders and faculties from leading institutions from around the world interact with our engineers is another way to keep employees motivated. This ecosystem, coupled with the freedom for engineers to try new things, brings forth the best results. The relentless approach to always stay ahead is to strive at being a leader and never a follower. With the perfect workforce and right attitude towards innovation in place, the company has its eyes set on moving up the value chain and also of coming up with breakthrough technologies.

As the mobile era spreads its expanse, exciting applications are pushing the memory bandwidth. There are applications that need more and so are the increasing numbers of cloud applications that drive the memory and speed demand. Rambus is spearheading this space by creating some of the memory intense applications in gaming, graphics and multi-core computing, all of which demand such performances to reliably and constantly transfer data between memory and the processors. The interplay of mobile platforms and cloud, high-speed data and memory bandwidth demands and high-end image processing, add to this the power of encryption and contents in the connected world many vistas of growth are opening up and Rambus is already working in all of them.

"Rambus is on a path of high growth with clear business objectives in the head and continued passion for innovation in the heart," concluded Krishna.