Monday, June 30, 2008

Thanks for hitting me!

Somewhere along the line last week this little blog crossed 100,000 hits to date. I know that ain't much in these days of Web 2.0 mass market mania where everybody is angling for millions per week or day, but to this old-school print trade journalist who is still learning how to be a Webbie, it is amazing to think something done in my spare (!!) time has been viewed 100,000 times.

This milestone is especially gratifying given the fact I haven't been able to post daily for some time because I have been extra busy with other work stuff—and life stuff. So thanks, keep coming back and don't hesitate to provide feedback in a comment here or an email to

Monday, June 23, 2008

Is WiMax wobbly?

A new Frost & Sullivan report suggesting WiMax is in trouble is getting some attention today, latching on to a broader debate my colleague Jack Shandle explored with his recent story on the outlook for harmonizing WiMax and LTE.

There’s been a fair bit of tit-for-tat between WiMax and LTE lately. A group of LTE assembled to drive interoperability testing today. Recently both LTE and WiMax backers created separate efforts to come to grips with patent issues.

One of the big proponents of WiMax has been Intel which has dangled the possibility of rolling a combo WiFi/WiMax chip set into future Centrino notebooks to kick start this market as it did 802.11. It will be well worth watching for any developments on this front at the big Intel event in August. Meanwhile, the debates rage on.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making sense of sensor nets

A brief trip to IEEE Secon raised more questions than answers for me about the status and outlook for wireless sensor networks.

A workshop on WiFi meshes suggested a few small companies are seeing some market traction with the technology despite the fact the 802.11s standard has gotten bogged down and there appears to be a lot of fundamental research still being worked out. Eric Brewer made it clear the technology has both huge potential and tremendous challenges in what is its potentially biggest market—getting the developing world on the Net.

A fire hose of a keynote from David Culler (pictured) raised other questions about work in the lower power, lower bandwidth 802.15.4 world. Here too it seems there are still unresolved standards and software issues for the industry, particularly around how meshes and routing are being defined. Culler’s efforts hold promise of a way forward, despite questions about what are the driving apps for sensor nets.

I suspect the apps are diverse ranging from the factory floor to health care at home, as Intel has shown. BTW, whatever happened to that national sensor net programs folks around the U.S. Homeland Security Department were talking about a few years ago?

Super story for GbE

Vendors cranked the volume on Infiniband at the International Supercomputing conference in Dresden this week with news on products from QLogic, Voltaire and a new roadmap for the IBTA. Likewise IB proponents were quick to jump on the bandwagon--along with AMD--for their part in the success of IBM’s Roadrunner cracking the petaflops barrier.

But an editor of the Top 500 list was quick to point out Gbit Ethernet still dominates the world’s biggest systems, appearing in 285 of the supers compared to just 120 for IB. The IB installations tended to be high-end academic machines while GbE was more often used in commercial systems, he added.

And as for AMD, despite its high profile appearance in Roadrunner, its presence has diminished in the latest Top 500, a casualty of its missteps and Intel’s success with quad-core chips.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On sensor nets and more

I am headed to IEEE Secon next week, a technical ground zero for work on wireless sensor networks. I see participation in the event from a wide range of universities as well as top tier tech companies including Alca-Lu, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and Nokia.

From anyone engaged in the event or the sector, I’d love to hear what are you consider the key technology and market struggles as I get myself oriented to cover this event. Drop a comment here or at

At an Intel Research event yesterday I heard a lot about wireless sensor nets for use in elder care, an emerging market Intel is trying to enable with its Shimmer sensors that currently use 802.15.4 and Bluetooth.

I also found out Intel is about to hand off to OEMs technology to create WiFi backhaul systems that can deliver 6 Mbits/s over 30 kilometers without using fancy high gain antennas or pushing the limits on regulatory power regimes. If they use better antennas and push power limits, they can send 4 Mbits across 100 km, said David Taylor (above right) who helped refine the software. The Intel technology involves software for a modified WiFi MAC protocol that uses slotted TDMA, enabling products that could be of use bringing the Web to the developing world.

Taylor was quick to point out the so-called Rural Connectivity Platform is a point-to-point link only and won’t compete with WiMax, Intel’s current wireless hobby horse. My view: between what WiFi and LTE will do, Intel would be better served to ease up on its whole WiMax religion—but that’s fodder for another story.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Here comes IOV

I look forward to popping into the annual PCI SIG meeting in San Jose tomorrow and am already hearing significant news about the release of the IOV specs. It ain’t the full PCI Express for the embedded world that ASI hoped to be, but there is nevertheless real momentum to use the standard to further drive PCI Express into comms and embedded gear, so look out RapidIO.

If there are any other importat wrinkles in the Express world I need to know about—issues with Express 3.0 or whatever—now’s the time to chime in as I get ready to dive into this pool.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On difficult partnerships

Thanks to Patrick Mannion of TechOnline for tipping me off this morning to the conflict over 60 GHz. I had no idea the 802.15.3c folks and the 802.11 VHT crowd were about to have a big powwow to figure out how to parse out separate standards in this spectrum peacefully.

Craig Mathias says there is plenty of room for multiple standards and product approaches in this promising area, so bring on the competition. I’d like to hear other opinions about multi-Gbit wireless nets so please chime in here or at

What role do you think WiFi could play at 60 GHz, especially given the market lead SiBeam has with its .3c-like approach? Is there a real opportunity for the VHTL6 concept of an aggregate Gbit WiFi net at less than 6 MHz? And what does all this hubbub mean for Wireless USB and other ultrawideband wannabees?

And while you’re at it, what do you think of an Obama-Clinton ticket in 2008?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Will LSI buy Chelsio?

It’s a reasonable speculation from where I sit in the blogosphere. In a recent interview with CEO Ahbi Talwalkar (left) I found out the company lacks standard Ethernet chips to support its nascent drive into networking, but it does has an investment in the startup that was early to the long-coming 10G party.

It’s clear a good 10G capability would be key for the company that wants to live sat the space where storage and networking meet. However, there are plenty of available startups out there, LSI has some custom capabilities that could spawn products and there is always the question of when the timing is right for the 10G ramp to really start.

I’m thinking pretty darn soon. But I’d love to hear any good insights you may have in a comment or at

PAN-ing for gold

Startup Ozmo debuts today with a novel idea for scaling back Wi-Fi chips for personal-area net connections in mice, keyboards, headsets and more. Intel will enable these and other kinds of WiFi PANs under its Cliffside project as I noted below.

I talked with Todd Antes, vice president of marketing for Atheros recently about a low cost- .11n router design from the company. He said Atheros demonstrated a Cliffside like capability at CES last January, though he would not comment on whether the company has any chip in the works similar to those from Ozmo.

“Philosophically we believe in [WiFi PANs],” he said. “Notebooks are getting smaller, so it makes a lot of sense to let one radio accomplish more tasks,” he added.