“Innovation is our primary focus”

Santhanakrishnan Raman, MD, LSI India Research and Development, talked to Prashant L Rao about LSI’s focus on innovation, its R&D set-up in India and trends in the data center space

How does LSI’s focus on innovation differ from that of other companies?
We have a strong focus on innovation at LSI. What we do differently is that we celebrate employees who are inventors—those who make invention disclosures that help enhance the competitive position of the company. While we are engaged in product development, we take the time to file invention disclosures that go through a process of getting the application filed with the US Patent Office that eventually gets converted into a patent. There are three things that are unique at LSI. Firstly, the process of making an invention disclosure through a portal is seamless and simple. Secondly, there’s a significant financial reward. Thirdly, we have an annual inventor recognition event where senior executives visit every location worldwide and spend the day with inventors recognizing them and making them feel special.
We also make an effort to communicate to the engineers what they contributed to our success in the market. When a product feature is released, we tell them that you contributed to these things that enabled us to do that.

Can you give an example of a piece of innovation that originated in India?
We recently announced a product that hit an industry benchmark of a million IOPS. There were quite a few pieces of innovation that happened towards that with contributions from the Indian team. The other aspect is the notion around ensuring data security and the redundancy checks that happen. In the server connectivity space, we provide a semiconductor solution as well as a software stack. There are innovations that happen at both the silicon and at the firmware algorithmic level.

In what way is ownership of products or modules in terms of development assigned at LSI?
LSI is one of the few companies where India is no different from the rest of the world. If a product is owned here, it’s not worked on anywhere else in the world. The levels of ownership vary. In some areas, we have end-to-end ownership while in others we have joint development with engineers in the rest of the world. Server connectivity is an area where we have full ownership. When it comes to networking and our approach to accelerating data centers and mobile networks, the teams in India own core pieces of technology.

How many patents has LSI India received?
It takes two to six years from filing a patent to it being awarded. In 2011, we filed 190 invention disclosures from India and many of them have been filed as patent applications. The process of reviewing an invention disclosure is quite rigorous. We want to ensure that the applications that are filed are targeted to the areas that we are focusing on.

Tell us more about your R&D activities in the country.
LSI India is the largest R&D center for LSI worldwide. It’s our responsibility to drive the road map for the company. We have about 1,100 engineers in India. Last September, we announced a couple of major investments in Bangalore and Pune with a new facility and our stated objective was to double the head count over time. More than that, our goal is to look at the level of engineering infrastructure. If you look at the lab infrastructure etc. a significant amount of investment went into build the infrastructure.

We are the only communications processor provider whose processing capability scales linearly with the number of cores. In fact, we have a moniker called multi-core done right.
Network virtualization is driven by major data center OEMs and their view of what the networks are. That’s where we are partnering with them to look at the architectural constraints in areas such as multi-core, interface requirements, network rearchitecture etc.

We are seeing an active trend towards FCoE. We are strong in FC as well. People are starting to think about 100 GbE in the data center. 40 GbE deployments are already happening. The focus is on how we enable 100 GbE and related solutions.

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