BENGALURU, India Top Indian chip designers are now tackling 45-nm designs while adding new capabilities to extend their design services and prepare for an expected surge in business.
Despite an expected weakening of the U.S. economy, industry observers here expect no let up in demand for Indian design services. One reason is the length of current design contracts. Moreover, cost concerns have historically meant more outsourcing of design work to India.
Hence, companies like Wipro, Mindtree Consulting, HCL Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services, Sasken Communications, KPIT Cummins and eInfochips are broadening their design services portfolios. Design revenues, which reached $583 million in 2005, are expected to rise to $2 billion in 2010 and over $5 billion in 2015, according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan. The company expects a compound annual growth rate in India of nearly 25 percent through 2015.
"We have seen a steady growth in demand from clients for our services and our team has grown at a rate of 30 to 40 percent annually during the last five years" to 2,100 engineers, said A. Vasudevan, vice president of semiconductor and system solutions at Wipro Technologies.
Wipro, which plans to add another 400 chip designers in 2008, has five design centers in India, three in Europe and one each in Singapore, Japan and the U.S. (Mountain View, Calif.).
"There is indeed a greater emphasis on end-to-end chip design services, ranging from architecture definition to chip supply," Vasudevan said. "We have invested significantly in ESL modeling, analog design and high-volume turnkey chip supply and added post-GDS II activities as a new service line."
HCL Technologies said it completed 10 chip designs this year, ranging from architecture definition to physical design in segments such as consumer electronics, networking, medical devices and semiconductors. HCL plans to add 120 design engineers in 2008.
MindTree Technologies, which was primarily focused on front-end chip designs until two years ago, has since added design for testability, physical design and layout along with analog design skills. With three Indian design centers, Mindtree plans to add 500 engineers during 2008.
"We have built capability to take up more end-to-end designs," said S.N. Padmanabhan, senior vice president for semiconductor industries at Mindtree Consulting Ltd.
KPIT Cummins recently boosted its capabilities in physical and RF design. "We have spec-to-GDSII capability and tie-ups with fab houses [and] test and packaging houses to deliver the completely tested device," said Praveen Acharya, vice president of semiconductor solutions at KPIT Cummins Infosystems Ltd. The company has just over 250 design engineers and plans to add another 350 over the next two years.
While beginning work on 45-nm designs, Wipro said half of its design work is divided among 90- and 65-nm projects. According to Vasudevan, Wipro has partnered with a startup to develop a PC-based acceleration solution for an interactive entertainment application.
HCL said it is seeing increased demand for 90- and 65-nm designs and is also working on a multiprocessor core design.
Mindtree's current 90- and 65-nm designs are being provided to consumer electronics companies. It is working on one 45-nm design along with multiple chip designs for mobile phone and next-generation digital TV applications.
KPIT's design work spans the 130- to 45-nm nodes for applications like automotive and communications networks. Acharya said KPIT it is working with a top European chip maker to develop an ARM-based SoC for car audio applications. "KPIT was responsible for defining specifications, macro-architecture, design, verification and FPGA prototyping. The ASIC implementation of the project is now in progress," Acharya added.