Advantest Cloud Solutions: Taking ATE to the Edge and Beyond. Q&A Interview with Keith Schaub and Michael Chang
By GO SEMI & BEYOND staff
Advantest Cloud Solutions (ACS) is growing quickly, comprising a robust group of offerings, as well as the ACS Solution Store. In this issue, we talk with Michael Chang, ACS VP and general manager, and Keith Schaub, Vice President of Strategy and Technology, Advantest America, to catch up on ACS and the group’s latest developments. Their comments are aggregated below.
Q. When we last conducted a Q&A around cloud solutions, ACS was newly established. As it gains momentum, can you reiterate its mission and share how ACS has evolved?
A. As we’ve discussed previously, customers have traditionally used the data generated throughout the semiconductor value chain – from design/evaluation through production to product/system-level test processes – for individual statistical details and yield improvements, but none of it’s been tied together cohesively. Our vision with ACS is to create an ecosystem that enables our customers to reap the benefits of data-driven workflows, leveraging our proven success in semiconductor test hardware to expand into software solutions. Since its inception, we have steadily expanded our offerings, as a glimpse at the ACS page on the Advantest website illustrates.
Q. How is the ACS group helping customers manage the fast-growing volumes of test data?
A. Everything is built on our real-time data infrastructure. We now know how to turn all the data that’s driving the digital superhighway into near-instant insights. With AI and machine learning (ML), we can take reams of data that formerly added little value and transform it all into continually improving insights and solutions. Traditionally, if you test a device and find that it fails, you have to take that test data offline, sending it to another team in another location to provide analysis and, hopefully, a solution. This approach takes time – usually weeks – creating a delay that chip companies and their customers can’t afford.
This infrastructure helps fulfill our vision for ACS, extending across the entire ecosystem to integrate data sources across the entire IC manufacturing supply chain. This is a revolutionary concept in semiconductor test, one that allows us to truly test the chip from start to finish and reap the benefits of the advanced insights garnered from this data like never before. Our solutions apply analytics models that enable real-time actions during production. Nothing is taken off the test floor; all analysis and action is taken in real-time during the actual test.
This streaming approach means that analytics can be completed in milliseconds, in a secure, zero-trust environment, so that fast, corrective action can be taken. Our model can be integrated into any test program, and because we offer compatibility across all Advantest hardware and software platforms, the solutions are seamless.
Q. Are there some markets for which these solutions are particularly needed?
A. The industry is moving toward zero defects in key sectors, such as the automotive industry. If one of the 1,400 or so chips typically found in our cars today were to fail, the worst that would probably happen would be that we might have to be inconvenienced by having the car towed. In an autonomous vehicle, this becomes a life-and-death proposition, so zero defects shifts from being a mere goal to becoming mission-critical. Similarly, for many medical applications, zero defects is not an option. If, for example, a surgeon is performing a remote operation for which complex chips are feeding him or her vital data, those chips cannot fail because someone’s life is, quite literally, on the line.
Q. What are the key elements that make up the real-time data infrastructure?
A. There are four main components. ACS Edge™ uses high-performance AI technology to improve semiconductor testing speed, accuracy and efficiency. It can quickly analyze large amounts of data and make decisions in real time, enabling faster and more accurate testing. ACS Nexus™ provides real-time, bi-directional control of data from distributed test floors across the semiconductor supply chain, and it works across different Advantest platforms. The multi-purpose ACS Unified Server supports compute, storage, application and container services while also providing zero-trust security for the test floor. Finally, the ACS Container Hub uses container technology to package, distribute, and run AI/ML and statistical workloads.
Q. Can you elaborate on what is meant by zero trust?
A. Zero trust is a security concept and framework that requires organizations to eliminate the assumption of trust from within their networks and systems. It prevents any user, device or application to be trusted by default, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the organization’s network. In a zero-trust model, access to resources is granted on a need-to-know basis, with strict identity verification and contextual information, such as the user’s role, device and network location. This approach helps organizations mitigate risks associated with advanced, persistent threats, insider attacks and data breaches by reducing the attack surface and preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Q. How are you working with partners?
A. We developed ACS as an open solutions ecosystem where customers and ecosystem partners can develop their analytics applications on top of the real-time data infrastructure. With that said, we aren’t trying to be all things to all people – that’s not an efficient business model, nor would our customers trust it. For this program, we have engaged with key partners that have already developed a number of analytics applications and advanced test programs. These applications are fully compatible with both the data infrastructure and Advantest testers and can help analyze the essential data that our customers need, providing real-time solutions to potentially costly issues.
Customers know that time-to-volume is everything and that you can’t achieve TTV without effectively troubleshooting new and ever-more-complex chips. We’re looking forward to making some key announcements with additional partners who are major players that will bring even more value to Advantest Cloud Solutions. Joint solutions with ecosystem partners to drive smarter decisions at sort, final and system testing to improve quality, yield and efficiency are available today for demo, with production release set for fall of this year. All of these solutions will be available in the ACS Solution Store.
Q. How does the ACS Solution Store work, and how can customers utilize it?
A. The online ACS Solution Store is a convenient, trusted place for customers using Advantest ATE systems to discover, purchase and deploy production-proven, Advantest-certified apps developed by ecosystem partners. The store is an industry-first portal that drives and fosters innovation and enables the development of solutions that ultimately improve yield, quality, overall equipment effectiveness and time-to-market for the semiconductor manufacturing process. In addition, automated software can be distributed via the ACS Container Hub for containerized apps, which ensures easy, secure deployment of the apps in the test fleet. Libraries are bundled in a docker container image that executes reliably regardless of the surrounding hardware and software environment configuration.
In summary, we’re pushing the limits of what’s possible and taking test performance to new heights by elevating our edge and cloud infrastructure services. Through our ACS offerings, customers can transform their data into real-time production control, achieving excellent results and improved ROI. We look forward to updating readers on the latest developments in future issues of GO SEMI & BEYOND.