ADI's RF/microwave capability is the combination of three companies’ technologies and products: ADI, Hittite and Linear Technology. Describe the capabilities resulting from these mergers.
Hittite and Linear Technology brought very complementary capabilities and product portfolios to ADI. Historically, Analog Devices has been, and continues to be, an industry leader in analog-to-digital (A/D) and digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion, transceivers and linear products. ADI also has very strong DSP and MEMS portfolios.
ADI did have a growing RF portfolio, but the Hittite acquisition really expanded the overall RF portfolio, as well as added an extensive microwave capability at the MMIC and module levels.
Linear Tech has added two very important capabilities: the first that will come immediately to the mind is their leadership in power products, but they also brought a very strong RF and microwave capability. While the portfolio is small, it is very high performance and complements the combined ADI+HMC product lines nicely.
The combined impact for our customers is a wide range of RF, microwave and, of course, power products.
Please tell us about your aerospace and defense (A&D) organization. What differentiates your business in the market?
The ADI Aerospace & Defense business has contributed very strong growth over the last five years, and this growth has led to a greater focus. The ADI Aerospace & Defense group now has the capability to better serve our customers with new RF and microwave design capabilities, and these capabilities will be used to complement ADI’s high speed converter and transceiver technologies.
For classic A&D applications such as radar, electronic warfare and communications, we will be developing power amps, up/down converters, synthesizers, digitizers and clocking solutions that will make the use and design of ADI’s high speed converters and transceivers easier.
Size, weight and power (SWaP) challenges will also be addressed by using our extensive system-in-package (SiP) and module development capabilities to integrate these signal chains, leading to the smallest possible sizes.
High levels of integration will also continue for ADI’s MMICs that are specifically targeted at A&D applications. An example is the ADAR1000 multi-channel beamformer targeted at the phased array market.
What trends and opportunities are you seeing in the A&D markets, such as radar, EW and space?
There are three very significant trends driving all applications in the A&D market space: transition to multichannel systems, the need for reductions in SWaP and the move to open architectures.
The transition from single to multichannel systems is appearing in radar, communications and EW. For radar, it is the move from mechanically steered to phased array radar. For communications, it is the adoption of MIMO and diversity platforms. For EW, it is the emergence of beamforming and direction-finding systems.
Phased array radar systems can be supported with analog, hybrid or all-digital beamforming. All three architectures are viable today and provide significant benefits. Today, ADI’s high speed converters and transceivers can support digital beamforming for L, S and C-Band phased array radars. For X-Band radar, ADI’s ADAR1000 can be used in an all-analog beamformer system or can be used as part of a hybrid system, in conjunction with ADI’s converters and transceivers.
Analog Devices is working on innovative advancements in converter architectures and taking advantage of the latest semiconductor process technology so that in the future, all-digital beamforming for X-Band radars will be possible. The transition to phased array and digital beamformers will bring many benefits and is an excellent example of how semiconductor advancements are enabling significant system-level improvements.
Similarly, for airborne, satellite and terrestrial communications systems, we see a move to phased array communications to enable better throughput, higher reliability and better LPI/LPD (i.e., low probability of interception and detection).
Second, decreasing SWaP is critical for all platforms. As channel counts rise, platform power is remaining constant. Conversely, new platforms are being deployed that are smaller form factors than previous generations.
UAVs are a great example. The last decade has seen a broad deployment of UAVs, but payload power and weight are limited. The smaller and more capable our semiconductors, the more mission options the soldier will have.
GaN amplifiers directly replacing TWT amplifiers is another example of how ADI is addressing the SWaP challenge. In conjunction with analog, hybrid and digital beamforming solutions, GaN amplifiers also enable AESA-based radar, communications and EW platforms.
Open architectures is the third major trend. This is changing how ADI and other companies need to approach software and digital architectures, as well as mechanical form factors. Open architectures have many benefits for A&D customers, primarily the potential to reduce development time and cost, as well as to create a more modular end platform.
For ADI to support and enable this trend, it means standardizing on digital interfaces that can work across many development platforms, providing easy to use software for configuring and controlling our hardware, as well as looking to provide the complementary components to the signal chain, such as power supplies, so that the entire radio unit can be powered from a standardized backplane voltage.
In summary, ADI is uniquely positioned to enable customers through these upcoming trends and challenges. The acquisitions of Hittite and Linear Technology give ADI the largest and broadest technology portfolio to create solutions, as we are the only company that has components and expertise from millimeter wave antenna elements down to baseband digitizing and digital signal processing.
These ongoing improvements in digital signal processing and A/D and D/A converters are dramatic. How are you using these advances to change the block diagrams of systems, and what is the impact on system performance?
This is an exciting time for digital radio design. The current and next-generation converters and transceivers will enable integration in two directions: pulling DSP functionality from the FPGA into the converter, also moving the converter boundary towards the antenna.
In terms of DSP integration, the latest state-of-the-art CMOS processes allow ADI designers to greatly increase the digital content on a converter or transceiver. Similarly, as sample rates have increased, the customers have a need for digital filtering, decimation and up/down conversion on the raw sampled data.
By moving these features into high speed converters, ADI brings several value points to the end system. First, the DSP implementation in the converter is developed in optimized digital design methodology that leads to much more efficient implementation compared to an FPGA. This leads to efficiency improvements on the order of 10x or better.
This efficiency cascades to system-level benefits, including slower digital interface rates between converters and FPGAs, DSP slices in the FPGA that are freed up for additional processing and a system thermal load that is more balanced and easier to manage.
Integration towards the antenna brings other benefits. Modern converters have analog bandwidths up to 9 GHz, allowing for direct access through C-Band. Next-generation converters are eyeing even higher analog bandwidths. These high analog bandwidths allow for removing one or more RF mixing stages, along with their amplification and filtering components. Combining this trend with improving performance from tunable filters will truly enable wideband, highly configurable software defined radio.
Before being acquired by ADI, Hittite had developed a multi-function assembly or subsystems business supporting A&D programs. Where does this capability fit in your A&D strategy?
The subsystem strategy and capability fit nicely into ADI’s A&D strategy, as well as ADI’s overall company-level strategy.
Customers are asking for higher levels of integration, both in RF and converter ICs, as well as with packaging approaches.
In terms of packaging, ADI is now a leader in both SiP and module-level subsystem integration. With this capability, ADI’s Aerospace and Defense engineers can select from a very wide range of components from across the portfolio, while also driving new specs and features for next-generation semiconductor devices to enable very efficient SiPs and module subsystems.
Military systems are known for being highly customized, requiring unique subsystem and component designs. How does this influence your product roadmap, particularly the development of catalog products?
While there is always a place in the military for “bespoke” hardware, we are seeing a shift towards more common hardware platforms that can be used across a range of applications, customers and end markets.
A key enabler for this democratization of hardware is the increased level of integration that can be achieved on small process nodes, especially integration of algorithms and DSP.
The ADI RF transceivers are a good example of this shift. The ADRV9009 was developed to be used in the communications market in applications like 4G/5G macro stations and massive MIMO. But the device is so flexible and programmable that it can also be used in signal intelligence, military communications and phased array radar.
That last application is a key point — the drive for A&D phased array radar is aligning with the communications drive for 5G, and the silicon solutions needed for the two are very similar. In the same way that 3G and 4G communications helped drive RF amplifier processes, A&D is looking to leverage the beamforming and phased array technology needed for 5G.
It is important to recall that the A&D market has always pushed the limits of performance. ADI continues to invest in core franchises such as RF, MEMS, A/D and D/A and power to support the most demanding applications. Advanced multi-die and module packaging offer the flexibility of combining these technologies and others to address SWaP, without compromising performance, and minimizing time to market.
You mentioned the ADAR1000, a recently introduced SoC for phased array radar. It covers 8 to 16 GHz and integrates four channels on a single IC, each channel including phase and amplitude control and a T/R switch. How capable is this device in meeting the requirements of “real world” phased array radars?
Phased array antennas need to reach a smaller “tile” profile and lower power dissipation for airborne, space and even ground-based systems. Electrically steered antenna design has traditionally struggled with significant routing challenges, calibration and thermal management across the array.
The ADAR1000 is designed to ease these demands and offers significant advantages over existing solutions, which tend to be single function or single channel GaAs ICs. ADI uses silicon-based technologies that combine digital control circuitry and RF signal paths to achieve unprecedented functionality, precision and channel-channel matching into a single monolithic IC. The result is a four-channel beamforming IC that consolidates legacy designs with 12 distinct components into a single 7 x 7 mm surface-mount package, greatly reducing the front-end size, weight and power.
An additional benefit is the ability to control the T/R module from the ADAR1000, further simplifying the antenna design with fewer external components and control/power supply lines.
The wide bandwidth offers our customers a platform approach to their antenna architectures, where they can reuse the same design across multiple frequency bands and applications, reducing design effort and improving time to market.
Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive regarding the benefits and features this product provides in a variety of radar, satellite and communication applications.
The ADAR1000 is just one example of what ADI can offer. We believe that the “real word” phased arrays will require close partnerships between supplier and customers in order to capture and optimize all the requirements and tradeoffs. We are excited about continuing our engagement in such partnerships.
You’ve mentioned GaN. Discuss the role GaN plays in your market and product strategies. Do you envision needing an internal GaN process or can you meet your business objectives using external sources?
GaN technology is finding many potential applications in optical, power management and RF systems. In A&D specifically, GaN amplifiers will play a critical role in replacing TWTs and enabling phased arrays to replace mechanically steered antennas. These will find homes in radar, EW and Satcom.
In general, ADI’s product strategy is to solve our customers’ toughest challenges using the most advanced process nodes to deliver the highest level of performance in the industry. GaN technology continues that philosophy by taking advantage of the efficiency, power density and size benefits over comparable GaAs-based solutions.
ADI has used external foundry partners in GaAs and GaN technology for many years, where a close relationship enables mutually beneficial and early alignment of process roadmaps. While the viable foundry offerings for GaN are not as mature as those for GaAs, these technologies are progressing rapidly. We believe that foundry partners can reach the needed performance while offering scalable production capacity for competitive pricing and customer support. With foundry relationships, the costs of development can be shared and capacity can be managed according to needs.
Tell us about your respective career paths.
Bryan Goldstein: I entered the microwave industry in 1990, starting my career at Raytheon’s Missile Systems Division. In my career, I have held positions in module design, program management, product line management, manufacturing and test, ultimately leading to my current role in business management.
Much of my career has been spent in the aerospace and defense industry, with stints at Raytheon and BAE, but I have also had exposure to the commercial microwave industry, holding design and management positions at Arcom Wireless, Hittite Microwave and now at Analog Devices, through their acquisition of Hittite.
The combination of my A&D and commercial backgrounds has really influenced the makeup of our current business, which I feel is really unique in bringing together the best of ADI’s commercial portfolios and their in-depth understanding of the special needs of our A&D customers.
John Cowles: My association with RF and microwave dates back to my PhD days at the University of Michigan, in 1989, where I was investigating InP HBT device technology for high frequency and optoelectronic applications. I went on to continue this thread at TRW in Space Park, developing GaAs and InP technologies for internal programs. I was exposed to the early era of MMIC design, when tools were still primitive.
I joined ADI in 1998, where I worked for Barrie Gilbert and learned the art of precision and high speed analog/RF design based on silicon technologies. ADI offered many opportunities for professional growth as a design manager, technologist and eventually as general manager in the RF and microwave product business following the acquisition of Hittite. This marked a full circle back to my graduate days but with wider exposure to the business and operational aspects needed to grow a business.
It is very exciting to have the breadth of technologies, depth of expertise and scale of manufacturing at ADI to address the leading-edge requirements of A&D and our other strategic markets.
I was very lucky to have wonderful role models from Professor Haddad at the University of Michigan, Aaron Oki at TRW and Barrie Gilbert at ADI.
Recount a highlight from your respective careers, such as a program or development that you found fulfilling.
Bryan Goldstein: When I came to Hittite Microwave in 2003, the company was really starting to ramp its growth in the semiconductor market. The company had aspirations to enter the integrated modules business but was really just getting started.
I am proud to have been able to get involved in building the business with the Hittite team from the very early stages. We put together a strategy, developed some differentiating custom MMICs and then won a few significant government systems contracts, which allowed us to build a world-class design team and to facilitize and staff a state-of-the-art microwave module manufacturing facility.
This capability, combined with Hittite’s, Linear Technology’s and Analog Devices’ semiconductor portfolios, has built the basis for our current Aerospace and Defense organization.
John Cowles: In 1998, when I joined ADI’s early efforts in developing an RF franchise, products were classified as either amplifiers or data converters. Within five years, our small team in Beaverton, Oregon, (Northwest Labs) and Wilmington, Massachusetts, was able to develop a portfolio of high performance building blocks for infrastructure using ADI’s SiGe SOI technologies and turn ADI into one of the first broad suppliers of RF standard products.
RF became its own product classification, sitting side-by-side with amplifiers and data converters. This was the catalyst for the next level of integration in SiGe BiCMOS SOI and expansion to microwave frequencies.
The Hittite acquisition completed the aspiration of becoming the most complete supplier of RF and microwave solutions in the market. I am very proud to have been part of this incredible “rags to riches” story, with many great chapters.
For more information about ADI's A&D capabilities, visit their website.