Posted by: Marek Maroszek
Siemens is buying Finland-based Sarokal. In this interview for VanillaPlus, Jean-Marie Brunet, senior director of Marketing at Mentor, a Siemens business tells Lauro Rizzatti, hardware emulation expert, at Rizzatti, LLC outlines the strategy behind the purchase.
(Sponsored Feature) Lauro: Jean-Marie, recently Mentor announced the acquisition of Sarokal, a small company that specialises in 5G testers. Can you explain the rationale that drove this acquisition?
Jean-Marie: The rationale behind the acquisition of Sarokal includes three aspects.
First, 5G is going to dramatically change the telecommunications and networking industries.
Second, it was a perfectly targeted acquisition because of the unique position of the company, and the unique skillsets of the team. Sarokal is a leader in the 5G space. It develops and sells fully integrated hardware and software equipment to test 5G designs/chips. It employs talented people, and is focused on its objective. Sarokal is located in Finland, close to Nokia.
Third, the acquisition helps us expand the user base for the Veloce hardware emulation platform. When deployed in virtual mode, Veloce is the leader in the networking market segment. We anticipate a massive migration of the market toward 5G, and our goal is not only to continue to enjoy the leading position in this market, but to capture its expected expansion.
Let me return to the first point. What is 5G and why is it changing the networking and telecommunications industry? All previous wireless standards, from 2G to 3G to 4G and LTE, targeted person-to-person mobile communications. The upcoming 5G is not only enhancing the person-to-person mobile communications, but also massive machine-to-machine communications. That is, a large number of connected devices typically transmitting a relatively low volume of non-delay sensitive data, and critical machine communications where ultra-reliable and low-latency communications are compulsory, such as car-to-car communication or self-driving cars.
In terms of equipment, 5G is fundamentally different. Before 5G, a transmitter had a remote radio unit (RRU), consisting of a radio head and an antenna, on the top, and at the bottom, a baseband unit (BBU) where a conversion of radio frequency from/to binary data took place. The baseband unit processes data via a diffused communication protocol through different communication standards. The set-up is established in terms of the locality of the radio head, antenna and the baseband, and it is contained in one single piece of equipment.
5G completely changes the above. In 5G, BBUs and RRUs are de-correlated. In 5G, there are far more antennas in many different locations connected to a BBU. In turn, the BBU is connected to the core network. Since they are now physically de-correlated, they’re not in the same piece of equipment. The BBU could be local or distributed in an area installed in many different locations throughout the network. They have a tendency to go toward the core or the edge of the network. This new set-up is impacting suppliers of the networking infrastructure. Suppliers suddenly see this BBU popping up in the core or at the edge of the network and this is opening the market to revenue players who want to become key vendors of these infrastructures in the telecommunications and networking space.
For example, companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon are interested in 5G because they see this baseband unit positioned at different locations than where it is today. Controlling information, controlling data, controlling protocol of network communication is interesting to them for obvious reasons, such as database, machine learning, and so on. 5G is changing completely the way the vertical supply chain is addressed.
In regard to the second point, I mentioned that the Sarokal team possesses an incredible skillset–– they are competent. They developed a business designing and selling networking hardware testers and related software, specifically targeting 5G applications. We plan to utilise its testers and continue to sell the hardware and integrate the software in our Veloce emulation environment.
As for the third point, most of our networking users are going to be affected by 5G because of what I mentioned before. The baseband unit is moving to the core or the edge of the network. The processing of the data has to adapt to a new protocol or communication between the radio heads and the baseband unit, implemented via fibre optics, CPRI, eCPRI, etc. Current networking users must adapt to the new 5G silicon requirements. Most of them are using Veloce, and we want them to continue to use Veloce, which drives us to offer additional vertical options to support the new 5G standard.
Those are the main three reasons behind the acquisition of Sarokal. To reiterate, the market is changing affecting our current networking users. The Sarokal team provides highly specialized hardware and software in an integrated fashion, suitable to be added to our Veloce emulation platform. And since our current networking users are affected by this market change, we want to adapt to the change to continue to serve this market.
Lauro: Interesting, Jean-Marie. 5G is going to dramatically expand the market, opening many opportunities for new companies to enter it via creative designs.
Jean-Marie: That is correct. With 5G, we have an opportunity to not only keep our current networking user base, but also expand it by adding new users entering the telecommunications and networking food chain. As mentioned earlier, 5G is addressing different new markets, in addition to traditional 3G, 4G wireless and networking communication. This requires the design of new hardware, and in the process, creates many different verticals.
Lauro: Great news. Let’s talk about Veloce, and what do you plan to do to deploy the emulator in these new markets.
Jean-Marie: As I said, we will continue to sell the Sarokal testers, and will add additional in-circuit emulation (ICE) speed adapters to Veloce. We currently have an iSolve product for Ethernet, and we are going to add iSolve for 5G plus a connection to the tester based on the 5G protocol. We will also create new Veloce applications, new virtual software products by virtualising most of the protocols offered by Sarokal in its box, either via transactors or via what we call VirtuaLAB.
In fact, we are creating applications targeting the virtual market for 5G and the timing is now. Today, there are few large users designing systems and chipsets for 5G. You have Nokia, Ericsson, HiSilicon, Huawei, Cisco, and few others. They need a pre-silicon environment to adjust to changes in the 5G specifications rather than creating silicon and testing it in the lab on the testbench or target board using a tester to verify the behaviour of the silicon is matching the specifications. They need a virtual environment because the market is getting extremely competitive.
We plan to work with our users to implement multiple revisions of their designs, and get close to the final baseband unit adapted for 5G via a virtual emulation offering. With a virtual emulation solution, they can dynamically verify their 5G designs quickly in a pre-silicon environment and verify that their designs meet different 5G specifications. The different specifications may be related to the evolution of the standards, or they may be related to adapting the standards to different geographical regions served by the providers of 5G equipment.
Offering a 5G virtual environment from today to a year and a half ahead of us is going to be of critical importance. For those companies who cannot burn silicon to verify that their chips meet specs, they will be able to adapt the testbench and virtual environments quickly and verify the chip that way.
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Dr. Lauro Rizzatti is a true global citizen whose 30-year career in the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) and Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) industries has spanned the globe enabling him to reside in places like the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. While cultivating his affinity for living abroad, he held management positions of significant responsibility. His expertise in product marketing, technical marketing and engineering made him an attractive candidate to the biggest names in EDA and ATE.
Currently a marketing expert and consultant, his impressive resume includes leadership positions at EVE (acquired by Synopsys), Get2Chip (acquired by Cadence), Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, Teradyne, Alcatel and Italtel. Dr. Rizzatti has published numerous articles and technical papers in industry publications and has presented at various international technical conferences around the globe. He holds a doctorate in Electronic Engineering from the Universita` degli Studi di Trieste in Italy and presently divides his time between the U.S. and Europe.
Jean-Marie Brunet is the Senior Marketing Director for the Emulation Division at Mentor, a Siemens business. He has served for over 20 years in application engineering, marketing and management roles in the EDA industry, and has held IC design and design management positions at STMicrolectronics, Cadence, and Micron among others. Jean-Marie holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from I.S.E.N Electronic Engineering School in Lille, France. Jean-Marie Brunet can be reached at email@example.com