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IP @ DAC: Sound & Fury or Smoke & Mirrors

Thursday, April 14th, 2016


IP now dominates design automation
, evidenced in no small measure by ARM’s seat at the head of the table for the ESD Alliance, ESDA being an important sponsor of the Design Automation Conference. Everyone seems to agree that IP reuse is the only way complex mega-systems of the 21st century can be designed, so not surprisingly the DAC program now reflects that reality. There are sessions every day categorized as being IP-related, but are those designations accurate?

I would argue that a lot of the content that’s sitting in the IP Track at DAC is really just about design, and not specifically about IP-based design. To prove that point, below is a complete listing of the sessions in the IP Track that’s set to air between June 6th and 9th at DAC in Austin. Those that are legitimately about IP are bolded, sessions that actually talk about using IP. Those not bolded are ‘just’ about design, or are merely high-level nattering about superficial issues associated with IP reuse.

Conclusion: the number of IP-related sessions are far fewer than one would hope. If IP is this important, why aren’t there more sessions that are really about IP? Is there a conspiracy here?

Fortunately, this next week I’m talking at length with Warren Savage. As CEO of IPextreme, his knowledge about the technology and business of IP is pretty encyclopedic. I will run my conspiracy theory past him: DAC wants you to believe they believe in IP, but in fact the conference is still more about design automation, not about using silicon IP to enhance the process. EDA vendors still rule the roost at DAC.


SNPS’ Custom Compiler: closing the FinFET productivity gap

Thursday, April 7th, 2016


Synopsys Marketing Director and long-time EDA contributor Dave Reed
 talked recently about the company’s new, highly anticipated product release, Custom Compiler.

“This tool is definitely needed by designers,” Dave said, “and is motivated by the increasing use of FinFET devices. Here at Synopsys we have 1300 engineers in our IP team, with lots of these people turning to FinFETs in their design.”

Not an easy transition, he noted: “A single transistor exists in a planer mode, but it becomes a much more complex device in a FinFET. The layout becomes more complex, and so does the approach to design.”

There have been some developments with respect to custom design, Dave acknowledged: “Most recently, you could actually automate your layout with constraints. However, typing in those constraints is so time-consuming.

“With Custom Compiler, we have moved instead to a visually constrained layout, which allows you to re-apply what you’ve already done – both to your current work and to your future work as well.


EDAC’s Quarterly Report: Going forward, make Segars sell it

Thursday, March 24th, 2016


Luckily, there wasn’t time this week to speak by phone
with Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines. After all, who wants to hear bad news in person: EDA has turned south.

Here’s the quote from Rhines included in EDAC’s press release discussing their Market Statistics Service report for Q4_2015:

“After 23 consecutive quarters of growth, the EDA Industry revenues declined slightly in the fourth quarter, compared to a particularly strong Q4 2014. However, industry revenue increased 5 percent for calendar 2015 compared to 2014, and the semiconductor IP and services categories increased in Q4. Geographically, the Asia Pacific region continues to grow, while other regions saw modest declines this quarter.”


EDAC: What’s in a name?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016


EDAC has decided to change its name. At last.
What the new name will be, most do not know, but you can find out over some food and a glass of wine or beer on Wednesday evening, March 30th, at the Consortium’s headquarters on Zanker Road in San Jose.

Lots of people have been pointing out for a long time that membership in the EDA Consortium includes some of the biggest names in IP, not to mention embedded software, so not reflecting that reality in the organization’s name is pretty nonsensical. In fact, two recent blogs here on EDACafe specifically address the issue.

The first one is titled: “Answer’s nope: Should EDA Consortium become IP Consortium?” [September 30, 2015].

In this blog, I asked Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines: “Aren’t the IP companies on the verge of overshadowing the size and impact of the EDA companies in the EDA Consortium. So much so, it seems like it’s time to change the name to the IP Consortium.”

Rhines responded, “It will never be the case that it’s all EDA or all IP. In fact, IP revenue is only one-third the size of the market tracked by MSS today. The other two-thirds is traditional EDA.

“Even ARM — although their market cap is $20 billion — their revenue is just about the same as Mentor’s. The EDA industry is a long way from being dominated by the IP industry, plus we’re in a very prosperous period in EDA. We’ve got 22 nanometers, 14, 10, 7 all working at the same time, so we’re meeting customer demands at all of these nodes.”

Last September, Dr. Rhines appeared distinctly underwhelmed by the argument that it’s time to change the Consortium’s name.


Emulation Apps: Mentor Graphics enhances Veloce

Thursday, February 25th, 2016


Mentor Graphics announced new applications this week
for the company’s Veloce emulation platform. These new apps, per the company, are added to Mentor’s “arsenal of software innovations” for Veloce. The three new apps include:

* Veloce Deterministic ICE: Designed to overcome unpredictability in ICE environments by adding 100-percent visibility and repeatability for debug; provides access to other ‘virtual-based’ use models.

* Veloce DFT: Designed to accelerate DFT verification prior to tape-out to minimize the risk of catastrophic failure; significantly reduces run times when verifying designs after DFT insertion.

* Veloce FastPath: Designed to optimize emulation performance when verifying large multi-clock SoC designs by enabling faster model execution speed.


Emulation: DVCon invites Rizzatti to Expound

Thursday, February 18th, 2016


The folks at DVCon have done a brilliant thing.
They’ve invited Lauro Rizzatti to present at their upcoming conference on a topic that Rizzatti knows better than anybody, emulation. Last year alone, he wrote 40 articles on the subject.

More importantly, of course, Rizzatti helped guide EVE, the high-flying European EDA company that led the field in emulation from their base in France before being acquired by Synopsys in 2012. I spoke with Rizzatti this week about emulation, his talk at DVCon, and his recent endeavors writing about a technology that’s taking the world of verification by storm.

He started by establishing the importance of emulation today: “This technology is here to stay. It’s been around for 30 years, and [historically] was something only the big companies could afford to buy and use. They needed an army of engineers. Today it’s no longer a niche technology, however; it’s mainstream.”


ARM: The Musical, at last

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016


The book that Sir Robin Saxby has been waiting for
has finally been written: “Mobile Unleashed: The Origin and Evolution of ARM Processors in Our Devices”.

Authored by SemiWiki’s Dan Nenni and Don Dingee, the book “delivers an informative look at events and technology that powered the mobile device industry to worldwide adoption.”

When I spoke with Dingee by phone this week, he said the book represents an enormous amount of work: “Sixteen months of intense research, 270 pages and over 800 footnotes.”

Other books have been written about ARM, he acknowledged, but this one is different: “People ask if this is a technology book or the story of ARM and I say, in truth it’s a little bit of both.”


Mentor CEO: a Shout-out to Marketing

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


If you ask Wally Rhines, CEO at Mentor Graphics
, about concerns that there has been too little disruptive change and, therefore, too little high-profile investment in the EDA industry over the last several years, he says: “It true that startups always like to see a spike up in growth.

“However, the biggest companies would like to see something closer to steady growth. Volatility is not as good for the bigger companies as it is for the smaller companies.”

If you ask: “But how viable is a high-tech industry when there’s no increase expected in VC funding for the foreseeable future?”

Rhines replies: “Yes, it’s true. VC funding in EDA has declined over the last 10 years, with the money often going instead into social networking. There is still ongoing investment today in EDA, however, but it’s angel funding, not VC funding.”


Auld Lang Syne: 2016 Awaits

Thursday, December 17th, 2015


The calendar year draws to a close, but not the momentum of technology as evidenced by the roadmap of conferences set to unfold over the next several months. There are so many opportunities to network, learn, and develop sales leads.


* CES2016: Consumer Electronics ShowJanuary 4-9 – Las Vegas

No one need tell you what CES encompasses: Simply everything. The 2016 edition includes keynotes from the CEOs of Intel, VW, CTA, Netflix, GM, IBM, and execs from Samsung, NBCUniversal, and YouTube. The future is always showcased at CES.


SmartFlow Compliance Solutions: Taking the offensive on Software Piracy

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015


This week Synopsys announced “unauthorized third-party access to Synopsys EDA, IP and optical products
and product license files through its customer-facing license and product delivery system. The unauthorized access, which began in July 2015, was discovered by Synopsys in October 2015.”

The fact that the company needs to make this announcement is indicative of a new attitude towards an old problem: Software companies who lose their products to theft and piracy no longer want to just buck up and get past it, particularly in EDA. Instead, they want tools and strategies to go after their adversaries. The newly launched startup SmartFlow Compliance Solutions, just announced last week, is planning to offer such tools.

Launched by Ted Miracco – one of the founders of EDA vendor AWR Corp. – SmartFlow is based on his experience dealing with pirated AWR product software, including tracking down and forcing restitution from companies who were proven culpable. In a phone call last week discussing his new company, Miracco said pirated software is more than just an occasional nuisance, it’s resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue to the companies whose products are being used without licenses.

More profound than lost profits, however, is the ’tilting’ of the playing field. When companies who use pirated software to design chips or systems are able to undercut their competition by underpaying for the tools they need, or by not paying at all, the competition is hobbled.

In response, SmartFlow has engineered a complex set of tools and protocols that will allow companies to unearth pirated instantiations of their software across a variety of customer profiles. To begin their effort to build those tools, Miracco and his team looked closely at software non-compliance around the globe, parsed the different types of pirates and examined their principal strategies.


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