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Oyster Lab

The Designs of BITS Pilani

India is seen emerging as a centre for designing, developing and fabricating high-class semiconductor chips and BITS Pilani is getting ready for that day.

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BITS has set up a broadband gigabit network called Neuron as part of BITSConnect, a global movement of BITS Pilani alumni, faculty and students. In a fine example of industry-institute cooperation, BITSConnect has commissioned a $50 million VLSI Lab initiative – The Oyster Lab(OLAB); the project aims to conduct semiconductor research and development. This makes BITS Pilani at par with institutes in US and Europe.

VLSI project

OLAB is a distributed VLSI lab that will connect all BITS campuses (Pilani, Goa, Dubai and Hyderabad) with an industrial centre at Bangalore. Around 2,000 sq ft of space has been allocated for the lab at the Pilani campus. The Bangalore Extension Centre is intended to facilitate industry collaboration.

The lab, which is a collaborative effort between stakeholders like BITS, BITS Alumni Association and industry, will boast of some of the best-in-class Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools. These tools will support Full Design Flow, RTL to GDSII, embedded design and board design. It will also house a powerful and scalable compute farm that will be accessible over the Neuron network. A large scalable NAS storage will be accessible over the network. With such advanced computing infrastructure and EDA software to provide very large scale integration and embedded design, the lab will rank among the best in the country.

OLAB objectives

  • Enable pioneering semiconductor/EDA R&D in India.
  • Create intellectual property in the area of VLSI and embedded system design.
  • Promote and build strong ties with Semiconductor and associated corporate majors in this field.
  • Design and build complex chips for Indian applications in fields of telecom, mobile communication and digital products.
  • Bolster existing research areas of BITS such as Networking, intelligent transport systems, biochemistry and MEMS

Industry Collaboration

Apart from the high commercial value of the project, the high point of the initiative is the strong industry collaboration it has received. This will give a push to promoting India as an R&D destination. Some of the industry participants in the project include OpenSilicon, Broadcom, LogicVision, Magma, Mentor Graphics and Sun Microsystems.

The lab will work closely with industry to draw experts. With this, industry will be able to conduct sponsored research at Pilani. It has also been projected as an extension of BITS Pilani Virtual University that will promote active industry collaboration with a special focus on flexible education for working industry professionals. Initiatives and collaborations on such a large scale are very common among universities abroad but are very rare in India.

The Backbone

The OLAB initiative comes close on the heels of the setting up of a broadband network. The first project undertaken as part of the BITSConnect movement, Neuron provides the essential infrastructure not for only running the lab but also providing high-end connectivity across the institute’s different campuses. Neuron is a gigabit backbone providing broadband access, IP telephony, streaming media and video conferencing facilities in student rooms, hostels, staff quarters and guest houses; it also provides 802.11b wireless access in the campus. The network connects all BITS campuses across Pilani, Goa and Dubai, making it one of the most technologically-advanced networked campuses globally. As part of the project, Cisco has deployed over 240 IP phones. The 3-tier network architecture consists of core, distribution and access layers. Long Range Ethernet and wireless access is available at select areas like the VFAST hostel, cafeteria and library. This whole project has been implemented by Wipro. To read more about the network and BITSConnect efforts, click here.

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