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Fabulous Fabless: Nenni & McLellan offer cure for common clutter

Monday, July 28th, 2014

 

There are three kinds of written word in the world today: books, newspapers/magazines, and all of the rest of it which now lives on the shifting sands of an ever-evolving electronic substrate. Even today, however, even as those ‘effervescent electrons’ garner more and more readers, it’s books-on-paper that continue to hold the most caché, the most gravitas-laden sense of permanence, and the most awe-inspring-for-the-ages kind of wow factor: Really? You wrote a book? Wow!

Hence, when a 220-page book-on-paper called Fabless: The Transformation of the Semiconductor Industry was made available to the EDA community at the 51st annual Design Automation Conference this past month in San Francisco, it was worth noting for several reasons: For the gravitas of the offering; For the permanence of the tome; And for the price, which thanks to eSilicon Corp. was free to all for the taking.

Written by SemiWiki.com gurus Daniel Nenni and Paul McLellan, this Fabulous Fabless book-on-paper was handed out during a buzzy networking event on the spacious East Side of Moscone Center early one evening during the week of DAC in June. At that noisy, ebullient reception, the libations were flowing liberally and so was the printed word.

Anyone milling about in the crowd quickly became the proud owner of Nenni/McLellan’s cheery, well-written history of the world  that special world consisting of everything termed “technology” since 1947  and could even get signed copies, if they were able to elbow their way across the room to where the authors were perched side-by-side at a table with the express purpose of applying ink-to-paper on the front piece of their book.

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Respect the customer: Uniquify’s Bob Smith offers rational advice

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

 

The rumors are flying fast this week about Apple’s next product announcement. Many believe it will be a wearable, possibly a watch-like device. Happily, I’m one step ahead of that Silicon Valley-based behemoth with months of research into my own wearable, which will undoubtedly swamp the market and outsell Apple’s wearable by orders of magnitude.

I had a chance to discuss my project with Uniquify SVP Bob Smith in a recent phone call and started by asking how he felt about the IoT, the Internet of Things. Is it simply a trendy phrase emanating from tech sector marketeers?

Bob said no, and recounted the delight of a friend of his who owns an IoT-enabled crock pot. “The thing has WiFi connectivity,” Bob said, “which allows the guy to turn on the crock pot remotely, and at the appropriate hour, so dinner’s ready on time, but not overcooked.”

“Sounds like you’re okay with the whole IoT thing,” I responded, “so how about some feedback on my Dick Tracy keychain. It’s going to allow me to have keyless entry and ignition for my car, to open and close the garage door, to know if there’s sufficient milk in the fridge, and to also tell the time. In other words, it’s got a limited feature set, but importantly nobody will ever get locked out of their car again because the keychain will be strapped to their wrist.”

Bob commended the designated feature set, noted its simplicity and usefulness, and then agreed with one of my conclusions: After many months of conversation with IP companies about developing my product, the Product versus Services & Products is a legitimate topic when discussing the IP business model with vendors.

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eSilicon: Jack Harding unplugged

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

 

Among the least likely events to take place at a conference as big and noisy as the Design Automation Conference is an intense, unplugged conversation with an industry leader, especially in the midst of the Exhibit Hall. Nonetheless, I had a chance to sit and talk with eSilicon co-founder and CEO Jack Harding for almost an hour in his company booth on Monday morning, June 2nd, at DAC in San Francisco.

In the background, outside the flimsy walls of the suite in which we were talking, one could hear the roar of the opening-hour crowd in the exhibit hall, mixed with the unmistakable sounds of Gary Smith revving up nearby for his annual Pavilion Panel in that blues band style he favors.

Prior to June 2nd, I hadn’t seen Jack Harding for 7 years. At that time, thanks to Brian Fuller’s eavesdropping on a private conversation, my disagreement with Jack about how tech leaders get their kids to study technology ended up in Brian’s blog for all the world to read. If Jack knew, he probably didn’t care – he’s always lived by his own rules – whereas I followed rules written by others, so I did care and hence approached this month’s appointment at DAC with marked trepidation. How unnecessary.

Harding never mentioned our disagreement in 2007. Instead I found him a great conversationalist, honest, self-effacing in a particular way, and interested in a wide range of issues. Naturally, I don’t regret Brian Fuller wasn’t hovering nearby to report out on the conversation, but I do regret Jack and I didn’t have an additional hour to chat in San Francisco. He began by reminding me that success in the tech sector can depend on a host of “exogenous variables.”

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SIP Entrepreneurs: Hal Barbour says opportunities abound

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

 

Monday at DAC 2014 in San Francisco was IP Day. Part of the day’s program included a panel featuring entrepreneurs pursuing the business of third-party IP: CAST’s Hal Barbour, Truechip Solutions’ Shishir Gupta, IPextreme’s Warren Savage, Methods2Business’ Marleen Boonen, and Recore Systems’ Dirk Logie.

After the panel, I had a chance to speak with Hal Barbour, CEO at CAST. I asked him if the received wisdom is correct – most innovation in silicon IP comes from small companies.

Hal said, “Traditionally, almost all innovation in the SIP business has come from small entrepreneurial companies. Large companies have gained their position through aggressive acquisitions, and not through internal development. Unless things change in unforeseen ways, it’s going to be difficult for the large companies to dramatically change this model.”

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IP360: SNPS takes page from CDNS playbook

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

 

This week, in the early hours just prior to the opening of DAC, Synopsys announced a new initiative to reshape the world of IP. It’s called the IP Accelerated initiative, but it might as well as be called IP360. Just as Cadence’s EDA360 initiative was meant to reshape the design tool flow in the image of Cadence, Synopsys’ IP360 is meant to reshape the IP use and integration flow in the image of Synopsys.

And where EDA360 had three parts: System, SoC, and Silicon Realization, so IP360 has three parts: IP Prototyping, Architecting, and Integration. More specifically, the IP Accelerated initiative includes new IP prototyping kits with reference designs for IP preloaded into a HAPS-DX prototyping system, software development kits with processor subsystem reference designs and configurable models of DesignWare IP, and customized IP subsystems to augment Synopsys’ IP portfolio.

In other words, it’s all about “one-stop shopping,” per my September 30th conversation with Synopsys’ John Koeter, VP of Marketing for IP & Prototyping. “Synopsys has a broad portfolio of high-quality IP,” he said, and that combined with “our development kits for prototyping and software developmental” means that if you know how to reach Synopsys, you’re set and ready to go.

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Arrow Devices: VIP meet & greet

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

 

Take a moment to meet Arrow Devices. Although they will be exhibiting at DAC next week in San Francisco, Arrow is based in Bangalore so the following interview was conducted via email. I’m speaking here with Aditya Mittal. Before establishing the company, Mittal was a Senior Design Engineer at Nvidia.

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IP @ DAC: Parties, Stuff & Bother

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

 

It’s just amazing that DAC has become so thoroughly a show about IP that there are two major parties happening in San Francisco in June that have IP in their name: HOT IP Party and Stars of IP Party.

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HLS Vision: Sanjiv Kaul’s betting his career on it

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

 

Calypto Design Systems is having quite a year. First the company announced that 2013 was its highest revenue period ever; then they announced that new offices have been opened in Korea; and most recently, Calypto named long-time EDA exec Mark Milligan as Vice President of Marketing. Previously, Milligan served as VP of Marketing at CoWare and VirtualLogix, VP of Marketing for Functional Verification at Synopsys, and VP of Corporate Marketing at SpringSoft before it was acquired by Synopsys.

Given this level of activity, it was interesting to sit down recently and talk in person with Calypto CEO Sanjiv Kaul, an articulate and energetic spokesman for the company. We started with Cadence’s recent purchase of Forte Design Systems.

Kaul said, “Cadence bought Forte because high-level synthesis is going mainstream, and we think we are well positioned to take advantage of that. Integration between Catapult C [Calypto’s HLS synthesis tool, acquired from Mentor Graphics in 2011] and our Formal tool is what the market needs today.”

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MyDesign: Final answers from IPextreme’s Warren Savage

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

 

Two things happened as a result of falling and breaking my right arm early on the morning of April 19th in Monterey: I instantly became a ‘Lefty’ for the first time in my life, and I missed Warren Savage’s presentation at EDPS later that day.

Warren is CEO and President of IPextreme, and I kid you not when I say that what he doesn’t know about the IP industry isn’t worth knowing. That’s why I wanted to hear Warren’s talk, and why I was very happy to talk to him this week about my Dick Tracy keychain project.

How do I learn to be a knowledgeable customer of the IP industry, I asked Warren, particularly when my hypothetical wearable is something I could really use right now: An SoC-based gadget, built with oodles of IP, to wear on my left wrist that’s got one small button to remotely unlock my car, one that will start my car, one that will open or close the garage door, one that will tell me if I’ve got enough milk in the fridge, one that will turn the heat up and down at home even if I’m not there, and prosaically, one that will show me the time.

Of course, now that I can’t use my right hand to push the buttons on the device strapped to my left wrist, I no longer want buttons. I want the thing to respond to voice commands – “Unlock.” “Ignition.” “Garage.” “Got milk?” “Set temp.” “Time?” – simple instructions that should only produce results when it’s my voice and nobody else’s.

Warren was extremely informative during our phone call. He understood I wasn’t looking for specific help with my design, but how to shop for the IP to go into my design. I started by telling him that my research into IP has so far included conversations with:

CASTHal Barbour, Nikos Zervas, and Paul Lindemann
SonicsGrant Pierce, Raymond Brinks
Adapt IPMac McNamara
S3Dermot Barry, Darren Hobbs

To further clarify the information gleaned from these people, my questions for Warren were very succinct, as were his answers.

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Jasper OpEd: Atrenta, Cadence, Elmer et al

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

 

This week, Cadence announced its intention to acquire Jasper Design Automation. The news precipitated a tsunami of commentary, some of which is included in this blog: Atrenta’s Piyush Sancheti deems the move to be a good one; Cadence’s Craig Cochran and Michal Siwinski second the motion; and Elmer, whose clairvoyance regarding a Jasper acquisition was criticized by Oz Levia last fall, asks if the Cadence move is more a matter of window dressing. Finally, I offer a brief prediction regarding one possible long-term effect of this M&A.

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