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LSI banks on wireless base stations

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless base stations? signal processing technology? flash cards?

CEO Ahbi Talwalkar believes wireless base stations will fuel the next big round of growth at LSI. The company has some still-secret signal processing technology that will help drive that opportunity, the chief executive said in an interview at LSI's annual conference.

Despite the hard times, Talwakar claimed he sees light at the end of the tunnel. He took the reins at LSI from industry icon Wilf Corrigan in 2005 to turn the struggling ASIC maker into a growing fabless company. Since then, LSI shed its fabs, acquired communications chips with Agere and, more recently, a superhot flash controller with Sandforce.

"We are in the top 15 per cent of our peers with a 16 per cent compound annual growth rate over the last three years, operating performance we have not seen in 12 years, and we are just getting started," Talwalkar told EE Times.

Much of the good news lately has been from the Sandforce unit exceeding expectations with sales of flash cards into everything from big Hadoop servers to svelte Ultrabooks. With today's electronics markets increasingly polarized into mobile and cloud segments, the big in-between space of PCsincluding Ultrabooksincreasingly looks like a yawning chasm where semiconductor makers once sold 45 per cent of their chips.

"I'd love to see someone find the right recipe to create a compelling need to buy a PC and spur demand," said Talwakar. "LSI has up to 25 per cent of its business exposed to PCs, but we don't need the PC market to grow well as a company."

Talwalkar reserved judgement on whether x86 Ultrabooks can fend off an onslaught of ARM-based tablets until Intel ships early next year Haswell, its first CPU to use its 22-nm FinFET process. In the meantime, he's placing LSI's bets on growth in data centres and carrier networks.

On the show floor, LSI demonstrated a variety of ways it is plugging its Sandforce flash products as cache into a wide variety of servers and networks to accelerate performance on a host of apps. It also launched a new sub-brand called Syncro for shared storage products.

The first big Syncro product is a collaboration with Microsoft on cluster-in-a-box systems using Windows Server 2012 and LSI chips to share a disc array, initially between two servers. Eventually the systems will scale to the sweet spot of four to eight shared servers.

Multiple OEMs will start shipping the servers early next year as everything from complete systems for small businesses to building blocks for mega data centres, said Thomas Pfenning, a general manager in Microsoft's server group, who spoke at the LSI event.

"We are quickly becoming the storage arm of data centres because we touch every aspect of storage now with flash and hard drive silicon, Talwalkar said.

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