Agilent outlines mobile opportunities in the cloud

Santa Clara, CA. The nature of design and test is changing rapidly because of the increasing dominance of mobile devices and cloud computing. That was my takeaway from a press conference presented by Agilent Technologies this morning at DesignCon. Ross Nelson, general manager for digital debug solutions in Agilent's Electronic Measurement Group said increasingly pervasive mobile computing devices are now driving the development of new technology. “No longer can you simply down-deploy last-generation computing technology into mobile/embedded/consumer designs,” he said. “The technologies used in mobile computing designs must deliver similar performance as those used in server-computing but must be optimized for low power, low cost, and low profile.”

Nelson (no relation) noted that the mobile devices offer sufficient bandwidths via Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G networks to place demands on the cloud servers that need to handle the data the mobile devices generate and demand—driving innovations in severs that enable the cloud. While end-user demand is shifting from client/laptop devices to smart mobile devices, he said, the cloud will continue to drive server-computing innovations.

He cited iSupply figures from December 2011: “The cloud computing market is heading into the stratosphere as companies seek to offer services designed to serve tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices…projected to surge to $110 billion in 2015, up from $23 billion in 2010.”

The combined innovation shift driven by mobile and cloud innovations, Nelson said, “has changed the conversation around T&M needs to address designer’s debug requirements.”

Mobile devices, Nelson said, are driving innovation in areas including low-power high-performance multicore processors; high-performance internal system, display and I/O buses (including CSI, DSI, DigRF, LLI, UFS, and UniPro) ; advanced memory components (including LPDDR, UFS, and UHSII); and connectivity bandwidth (including cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and RFID). Meanwhile, servers are driving innovation in DDR4 and GDDR5 memory as well as high-speed interfaces.

“Innovation is needed in Mobile Computing, and must be continued in Server-Computing to support growth of the cloud,” he said.

The innovations present significant challenges for designers looking to debug their designs. One challenge is to contend with eye-diagram data-valid windows that have shrunk in area by a factor of 100 in three years. Agilent offerings to address such changes include logic-analyzer capabilities that, said Nelson, can acquire eye-diagram information from many channels simultaneously to show where to do additional analysis with a real-time oscilloscope, minimizing “scope-and-hope” trial and error.

Nelson presented several slides showing the many test instruments Agilent offers to address debug for a variety of scenarios involving MIPY D-PHY and MIPI M-PHY transmitter, receiver, and protocol test. He said it's unlikely that Agilent will fit all the capabilities into one box. He likened Agilent's approach to that of a high-end audio manufacturer offering components to audiophiles. Some may opt for an all-in-one system, but the ultimate in performance and flexibility will be available to those willing to select optimized instruments for each measurement task.

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