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2013: to Infinity & Beyond …

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

 

This has been a complex year. Some stories were ferocious: the unspeakable double punch of earthquake and typhoon in the Philippines; the ongoing civil war in Syria; the Snowden/NSA revelations; the military coup in Egypt; the Boston Marathon bombings; the shopping mall attack in Nairobi; the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard; the discovery of kidnapping victims in Cleveland. Some stories were about historic change: a new pope; the death of Nelson Mandela; a choppy roll-out for the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Some stories were about trends: a decrease in unemployment; an increase in the financial markets; a marked uptick in housing values; the majority now carrying smart phones. Some stories were about SIP: Synopsys let loose a slew of IP-related press releases; Cadence acquired Tensilica and did the same; TSMC continued to portray itself as a foundry that just happens to have 3000+ IP cores in its arsenal; ARM remained the 800-pound gorilla.

Some stories were about EDA: Mentor talked non-stop about customers in the transportation sector and out-performed the Nasdaq, Dow, S&P500, CDNS and SNPS. FinFETs were all the rage, players big and small declared their readiness to embrace the technology, and Berkeley Prof. Chenming Hu accepted the Phil Kaufman Award. DAC celebrated 50 years and moved to Austin. EDAC had a party, celebrated EDA’s golden anniversary, and helped prepare a place of honor for design automation in the Computer History Museum. The industry sent a collective shout-out to Gary Smith.

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Woz: the Attribution Stump Speech

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

 

When somebody runs for public office, they usually have several stump speeches that can be trouped out in front of the appropriate audience: “I’m very pro-labor” when the candidate’s standing in front of a manufacturing facility. “I believe government should be pro-business” when they’re standing in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

In recent years, I’ve heard Steve Wozniak speak numerous times and to me it seems he has at least 2 different stump speeches: “Technology is wonderful and is changing the world for the better” when talking at the Computer History Museum. “Steve Jobs made a lot of money off of things I invented” when talking in front of engineers at DAC, or a bunch of well-heeled suburbanites as he did this week at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night.

The Steve Jobs bit probably plays well in front of engineers who often feel under-appreciated, or sense that Sales & Marketing makes more than their share of the winnings from intellectual property developed and refined by Design & Engineering. The Steve Jobs bit may not play so well, however, in front of mid-Peninsula suburbanites who drive late-model BMWs, Mercedes and the odd Tesla here and there, never chew with their mouths open, and passionately want their children to behave, excel on their SATs, and go to Ivy League schools. These people believe in Steve Jobs – they all carry iPhones and, more importantly, all believe in the money they’ve earned by investing in Apple here in the new millennium.

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Shopping for IP: Making a list, checking it twice

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

 

If you were designing a new bathroom, you’d have to become a minor subject expert across a fairly wide range of critical products: plumbing, fixtures, drains, toilets, sinks, tubs, mirrors, cabinets, fans, windows, doors, lighting, tile and paint. And that’s on top of mastering local building codes, which are often complex and difficult to interpret.

But that’s the exercise I’m been involved in lately, and now that the design is complete and construction about to begin, the list of vendors from whom bits and pieces of the project have been procured is quite astonishing: Delta, Moen, Hansgrohe, Grohe, Infinity, Toto, Geberit, Kohler, American Standard, Afina, Panasonic, Pella, Baldwin, Progress, Ashbury and Kelly Moore.

All of these suppliers have been chosen after lengthy evaluation of their individual offerings, price points, quality – often determined through reading endless online user reviews – availability and serviceability, not to mention feedback from the general contractor who’s got strong opinions of his own based on years of experience.

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Dassault’s Pinpoint: Qualcomm’s New Sheriff in Town

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

 

Dassault Systemes hosted a 2-day customer confab in Las Vegas this week, with Qualcomm featured in the High Tech breakout session on November 13th.

Dwight Galbi, Principle/Manager in Qualcomm’s Physical Design unit, described his group’s success in using Dassault’s Pinpoint decision support system [acquired from Tuscany Design Automation in late 2012] to coordinate their recent DSP design efforts. Galbi’s endorsement was so enthusiastic, it’s clear that when it comes to design, Pinpoint is Qualcomm’s new sheriff in town.

Noting that it’s tough to put together a DSP when the team includes both power and signal integrity experts, logic designers and architects – and the design includes a bunch of “disjointed pieces” of IP all mixed together – Galbi said Qualcomm had been using its own internally developed solution to coordinate all of this, but the Pinpoint dashboard outperformed the in-house tool in at least three key areas.

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Startups: VC’s lay out simple rules of the game

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

 

This week, the roving seminar/networking organization Angel Launch hosted yet another session aimed at connecting fund-rich VCs with idea-rich startups. The afternoon event on October 30th was hosted by Draper University in San Mateo, and included a panel of VCs speaking to a range of issues, followed by a 90-minute pitch fest where small startups could buy a couple of minutes to showcase their companies in front of the panel and get feedback, and maybe even funding.

After 3 hours of listening in, it was a simple trick to assemble a short list of Do’s and Don’ts for anybody who has it in mind to start, grow, and succeed in creating a small business. The whole process sure seemed straightforward. It’s a credit to the VCs on the panel that they made it sound that way.
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Standards: the Elephant jumped over the Moon

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

 

Let’s just be bold and identify the elephant in the room: If IP providers and/or EDA tool vendors really wanted standards that were ubiquitous, complete, and effective, they would have implemented them years ago. But they don’t. Similarly, if IP users and/or EDA tool users really wanted standards that were universal, robust and truly useful, they would have demanded them years ago. But they don’t.

The truth is that IP providers are happiest when they’re insisting that their proprietary interface is the best, and ergo should be the de-facto industry standard. And it goes without saying that whatever they’re providing inside of their black box is, of course, best-in-class. Certainly no standards are ever going to be inserted in there, and for good reason! Full stop.

Meanwhile, IP users clearly consider the problem of integrating IP into their projects as an accepted, even advantageous cost of doing business here in the 21st century. The way they integrate third-party IP into their systems is tantamount to a secret sauce – one that’s cooked up in NDA arrangements between the user and the provider – and not something any IP user wants to make public by way of standards, or any other device, for fear their hard work learning/mastering the integration of IP, if revealed, might give a leg-up to the competition.

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IP Sampler: Self-evident truths

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

 

A brief sampler of recent announcements on the IP front reveal distinct themes in the marketplace. IP development and integration require a viable ecosystem of suppliers and tool vendors; automotive, audio and mobile apps continue to be important targets for IP developers whose customers seek better safety, longer battery life, and truer sound (particularly for sporting events and concerts of aging rockers); IP interfaces remain crucial; and platform-based design totally depends on further enhancements in IP technologies.

Additionally, acquisitions definitely pan out for the companies smart enough to snap up the good ones: Synopsys/ARC, Cadence/Tensilica, and Imagination/MIPS.

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OneSpin’s Cloud vision: Knock, knock, knocking at heaven’s door

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

 

If heaven is in the Cloud, OneSpin is knocking at the door, because last week the company announced its Cloud Computing System moved from beta to full-on availability on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace. There it “provides secure and fully automated solutions for advanced formal verification, offering the functionality provided by OneSpin 360 DV-Inspect and 360 DV-Verify.”

This news is interesting if you think it’s a rarity for an EDA company to brag on their Cloud capability, the received wisdom being that neither EDA vendors nor EDA customers want to conduct their technical business outside of their own firewall. Given the less-than-remarkable traction that Cloud-based anything has had in the EDA/IP ecosystem, it was great to have a chance to speak to OneSpin’s Dave Kelf this week regarding his company’s news.

I asked Kelf why the Cloud’s been slow to catch on in the industry. He said, “Basically, the Cloud has been tried by a whole bunch of EDA companies with varying degrees of success. Even when I was at Cadence, we played with the Cloud but didn’t get anywhere at all. The reason is that most companies are concerned about their IP and don’t want to let it out of their office. They’re nervous about putting it out on the Cloud.

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EDAC Seminar: EDA & Export Compliance

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

 

EDAC hosted an evening seminar last week that could have taught you everything your company needs to know to meet your Export Compliance requirements – an unbelievably labyrinthine set of rules, created and nurtured by various agencies of the U.S. Government, that are designed in part to prevent sensitive technical IP from falling into the hands of less-than-totally-friendly nation states.

If you weren’t there on September 18th, you were not alone. A surprisingly small number of people showed up for the seminar, although the speaker, Cadence Group Director for Export Compliance and Government Relations Larry Disenhof, is clearly a walking encyclopedia on this stuff, and although EDAC did a great job publicizing the event.

If you didn’t attend EDA & Export Compliance, it was probably for one of two reasons:  Your team already knows everything they need to know in order to meet their export obligations, or your team is oblivious to the fact that these requirements are not optional; they’re obligatory and failure to comply can precipitate fines of $250,000 and up, loss of export privileges, cancellation of pending M&A’s, and even jail time.

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Tezzaron: You’ve got our attention now

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

 

Tezzaron Founder and CTO Bob Patti delivered a rousing keynote at the Silicon Valley Magma User Group meeting back in 2010, talking about his company’s 3D memory technology and how it offered a solution to the increased demands for on-chip capacity. I spoke to Patti following that speech, with details of the conversation posted here.

In the past 3 years, things have only gotten worse with respect to memory demands, so one might think Tezzaron’s solution is in even greater demand today. The problem, of course, is that Tezzaron Semiconductor is not the only company offering something that looks like ‘3D memory.’

In fact, 3 weeks ago at MemCon 2013 in Silicon Valley, I attended a keynote given by Micron Technology’s Mike Black singing the praises of his company’s Hybrid Memory Cube. Sitting in the audience, I tried to compare and contrast the Micron technology with what I believed to be the Tezzaron solution.

Happily, Tezzaron had a booth at MemCon, so it was possible to talk to somebody from the company about how they viewed Micron’s competing technology. Unfortunately, Tezzaron VP David Chapman was surrounded by a mob of interested people when I got to the booth, so I took his card and arranged to talk to him later about my many questions.

My number one question: Given the size of Micron and the ecosystem of partners they’ve assembled, the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium, is Tezzaron winning the battle of technology superiority, but losing the war for market share?

Tezzaron’s Chapman was not offended by my question. Instead, he started by framing his answer with a description of current market needs and continued from there. The following is a transcript of his comments.

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