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Sage Microelectronics buys Initio Corporations controller division to strengthen its position over Taiwan and Chinese based IC rivals

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Sage Microelectronics has been recently active as well and has acquired Taiwan based IC vendor Initio Corporation.

In the past year, mergers and acquisitions among companies in the integrated circuits space have been a top priority for US and China-based companies like Tsinghua Unigroup. Technology mergers and acquisitions lead the way reaching an all-time high in 2015 with $313 billion. Foreign acquirers outpaced U.S. tech companies, investing 70 percent more capital in the U.S. than U.S. companies invested overseas. The record volume of deals in 2015 showed that the need to consolidate is now seen as essential. The semiconductor sub-sector the most active sector with $38 billion in deals and Intel's acquisition of Altera was a standout at $16 billion.

Initio Corporation, a globally renowned bridge IC vendor, is somehow regarded as an US company because it was founded in US and its core design center was located in the Silicon Valley. It has more than 20 years' experience in design of storage interface ICs, an IP portfolio. Through this acquisition, Sage Micro will be able to obtain a wealth of knowledge in terms of global operations and market experience, further strengthening its R&D capabilities, and expanding its presence in the global market.

A History of Innovation

Sage Micro is an international company that designs and builds IC's. Founded by a group of Silicon Valley veterans each having more than 10 years experience in the space. Sage Micro's team members come from all over the world, with its core group having more than 20 years experience in the China IC industry. The company primarily focuses on two core technologies - digital storage and information security. Sage Micro is involved in all aspects the design, development, production and marketing products related to storage chips, systems, and solutions. Sage Micro's R&D center, located in Silicon Valley, focuses on research and development of its new technologies and as its global sales office while its Hangzhou office in China is the manufacturing and IC design center for the company. Sage Micro also has sales; marketing and technical support centers located in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Taipei.

Sage Micro's facility located in Hangzhouis where many of China's tech originals have come from. The first mobile phone was introduced by Hangzhou's Eastcom, Hikvision came to be China's largest surveillance company, and then Alibaba successfully established a nation-wide e-commerce platform. It is not surprising that Sage Micro started out and flourished in the city Hangzhou, which has deep cultural roots as well as a large capital market consisting of a wide range of companies in Zhejiang.

In 2012 Sage Micro introduced its first solid-state hard drive controller based on its own proprietary architecture. Guangnan Ni, the founder of Lenovo Group was an early adaptor of Sage Micro technology. Currently, only US-based Intel and Marvell, as well as Taiwan-based SMI and JMicron produce similar IC products. Shortly afterward, Sage Micro introduced its first eMMC controller IC based on its own proprietary technology, with the device being used in tablets, smart phones, and embedded encryption systems.

A global leader in massively dense SSD

In terms of solid-state hard drive technologies, Sage Micro is the global leader in ultra-high capacity and density technologies. Chris Tsu, Sage Micro's CTO, announced Sage's 5TB SATA IISSD (Figure 2) at the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California in 2014. At the China Data Summit held in Beijing on November 5, 2015, Sage Micro vice president Robin Chou displayed the world's first 10TB 2.5-inch SSD - the BlackDisk TM series.

In December 2015, Sage Micro introduced its first PCIe+SATA dual interface solid-state hard drive controller IC (The S881 series, which supports NVMe). Sage Micro and Marvell are the only companies currently offering multi-interface IC technologies. This sets Sage Micro apart from other competitors that claim to have PCIe hard drive technologies but which are actually still in the FPGA stage. In addition, Sage Micro's S881 chips are being manufactured by SMIC in Shanghai, as well as being packaged and tested in China, making the solution the first solid-state hard drive controller IC completely produced in China.

Unique technology

Sage Micro's solid-state hard drive controller ICs are based on the company's unique technology architecture. Jerome Luo (Sage Micro CEO) and Chris Tsu (Sage Micro CTO) have been working together for more than a decade. Beginning from SD/MMC memory cards, they gradually developed a unique multi-core parallel controller architecture. In multi-core multi-channel flash products, each channel is viewed as a separate hard drive, with the overall multi-channel system functioning similar to a RAID system. Such architectures are referred to as iRAID (intrinsic RAID) architectures. Sage Micro's chips are capable of driving multi-channel flash memories. In addition, Sage Micro was also first in the industry to develop drivers for multi-channel eMMC flash modules, making it a pioneer in this space, with such architectures referred to by the academic community as eRAID]embedded RAID^.

Data Security in Storage Systems

Data security solutions are another key technology for Sage Micro. Since 2014, a series of data leaks have occurred throughout the world. People have begun to realize data security measures established by most nations are completely ineffective, with the root cause being that encryption technologies are not implemented at the hardware IC level. If information security were a house, ICs can be seen as the bricks used to build it. The world's core ICs are mostly produced by a small number of vendors. CPUs, network router ICs, GPS chips, smart phone ICs, as well as video recorder/camera ICs are all monopolized by a small number of vendors. This can be thought of as a data warehouse that contains a safe, but whose bottom layer is already unsafe. Therefore, no matter how many layers of passwords you wrap over it, it will remain unsafe, because a small number of IC designers control how many electronic bombs or backdoors exist in these IC products.

Sage Microelectronics possesses security solutions based on technology at the integrated circuit level, as well as utilizing technology from Sage Micro's storage controllers. Sage Micro is one of the few vendors in the world capable of providing a complete line of controller ICs for hard drives, solid-state drives, USB drives and SD/MMC cards. The company further embeds various encryption/decryption technologies in its ICs, allowing users to truly be able to control their data security. Sage Micro's products comply with encryption requirements of various geographic markets.

Look into the Future

In less than five years' time, Sage Microelectronics Corp has emerged as a star in China's IC design and digital storage industries. However, Sage Micro CEO Jerome Luo says that this is only the beginning for the company. Sage Micro's true strength will become apparent in the next three years. In addition to having solidified its status as a global producer of solid-state hard drive controller ICs, Sage Micro is also planning for the future- including a complete line of solid-state hard drive controller ICs (supporting common interface specifications such as USB, SATA, PCIe, and SAS); a complete line of bridge ICs for converting between different storage interfaces; as well as big data disk array ICs.

Recently, China's government has implemented a series of policies and measures to drive growth of the nation's IC industry. Sage Micro CEO Jerome Luo believes that this is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With the Big Fund operating in full swing, other sources of capital are also aggressively entering the IC industry. Tsinghua Unigroup is a well-known example of a Chinese company expanding into the IC industry. However, Luo has calmly stated that semiconductor companies are different from traditional companies, especially IC design companies, which are focused on the development of intellectual property, resulting in the valuation of such companies becoming particularly subjective. Only venture capitalists that are extremely experienced and possess very mature investment strategies are suitable for investing in IC companies. In any case, however, being supported by the national government as well as investors is definitely good for the industry.

Governor of China��s Zhejiang Province visits Sage Micro(governor Qiang Li is center-left and Dr. Jerome Luo, CEO of Sage Micro is center-right)

Governor of China's Zhejiang Province visits Sage Micro(governor Qiang Li is center-left and Dr. Jerome Luo, CEO of Sage Micro is center-right)

Dr. Chris Tsu, Sage Micro CTO, Speaking at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit in Silicon Valley

Dr. Chris Tsu, Sage Micro CTO, Speaking at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit in Silicon Valley


Sage Micro's unique technology

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