Sustainability, Ecosystems, And Consumer Requirements In 2022

Companies must cooperate to solve critical challenges and enable new solutions.


Last December, my 2021 outlook focused on “industry transformations” across different verticals. I had referenced a lot of the ongoing transformations in hyperscale computing, aerospace/defense, automotive, and healthcare.

2021 didn’t disappoint—most of what I discussed further accelerated pace. For instance, pretty much no booth felt complete at the annual Army AUSA event if they were not mentioning the terms “modernization,” “digital engineering,” or “transformation.” “Digital twinning” came up ubiquitously in most discussions I had with our customers in the automotive and aerospace/defense industries. The transformation in computing was evident at the recent annual gathering of the Open Compute Project (OCP) in San Jose in a hybrid format. The membership of the OCP ecosystem has grown within a year by 37% to more than 280 members in December 2021. That pace took me a bit by surprise at first, given that OCP has been around for 10 years, but looking closer, OCP covers aspects well beyond computing in the data center and extends to the edges and networks. Its mission “to design, use and enable mainstream delivery of the most efficient designs for scalable computing” is certainly not limited to the data center.

We are amid several other transformations that I only alluded to but did not explicitly mention at this time last year. While we are still rolling out and adopting 5G technologies, 2021 saw several discussions on 6G already. 2022 will see much more of that as we are fast approaching the research and development phase, enabling a rollout of 6G probably before 2030, with some estimates even putting it into 2028.

In conjunction with 6G discussions, building on 5G, “Open RAN” was a hot topic in 2021 in the wireless cellular industry, involving the idea of interoperability of open hardware, software, and interfaces for cellular wireless networks. It will be fascinating to watch how this will play out in 2022 and beyond. I have my popcorn ready!

We already see billions of endpoints and devices like fitness trackers and home automation sensors, and in 2021, we saw the introduction of always-on wearable and socially acceptable consumer products like glasses. On top of this, our cars generate terabytes of data daily, and industrial devices have created a connected “industrial internet of things (IIoT).” Increasingly, AR/VR technology allows us to bounce between our real classic world, augmented reality, and entirely virtual environments like the Metaverse. These will soon create exabytes of data for transmission, requiring computing on devices’ far, middle, and near edges on the path to the data center. And the balance of latency, storage, and throughput requirements, determined by the various industries, drives which compute platform is most appropriate for various types of datasets.

“Hyperconnectivity” is the theme that brings a lot of these aspects together. Much money will continue to be involved here in the years to come. Market analyst firm Dell’Oro Group expects hyperscale data center CAPEX spending alone to climb 30% in 2022. And that only accounts for the data centers. This number does not include network infrastructure, investment in computing at the edges and all the devices you and I will purchase. And the Consumer Report “Hyperconnectivity & You, A Roadmap for the Consumer Experience” gave interesting insights into consumer preferences.

Source: “Hyperconnectivity & You” – Cadence/Northstar

So, what are the critical trends for 2022 that will impact EDA?

The industry will have to solve new questions about consumer products’ security, safety, and privacy. Solving these challenges is critical for consumer acceptance of “always-on wearable and socially acceptable consumer products” like glasses and goggles, as well as cars that operate more and more autonomously and devices that help us optimize our health. Reliability also plays a role here. It is naturally critical in the data center where a flipped bit can cause problems for a workload that requires 1000s of computing elements to work together. But its criticality extends well into the domains of edge computing and the devices and endpoints that produce a lot of the data. At the scale we can now foresee, a hyperconnected world cannot afford unreliable nodes as part of the network.

In 2021, we have already seen an increased focus on sustainability. According to a Science article, from 2010 to 2018, data center workloads increased more than sixfold, internet traffic increased tenfold, storage capacity rose by 25X, and global data center energy consumption “only” grew a surprising 6%. As an industry, we must continue to be relentless in optimizing semiconductor devices and systems’ power and energy consumption. We owe that to future generations. And I am optimistic! The brightest minds across hardware, software, IP, EDA, semiconductors, and system companies work closely to tackle this challenge.

This brings me to the last trend I think will be critical in 2022—ecosystems.

No company can do it all alone. A great example is the OCP ecosystem, as mentioned above. On its 10th anniversary last month, it brought together 5,000 engineers from 280+ companies in 29 working groups. Together, we understand the requirements stemming from the desire of consumers and translate them into our respective areas of expertise from IP through EDA, computational software, semiconductor technology, system design, hardware, and software. And together we enable the changes across industry verticals and technology solutions for 5G/6G, AI/ML, digital twinning, low-power/thermal, 3D-IC/Chiplets, safety, security/privacy and reliability.

Happy Holidays and here’s to a great 2022.

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