Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
April 10th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
Several weeks ago, I had a chance to speak by phone with the folks of S3, a multinational IP vendor and engineering company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. Darren Hobbs, Director of Product Strategy for the Silicon Business Unit, was on the call, as was Dermot Barry, Vice President of the Silicon Business Unit.
Our conversation centered on two topics: a new ADC just released by S3, and my hypothetical design project, the Dick Tracy keychain. It was morning in California when we spoke, but closing in on dinner time in Ireland. Hobbs and Barry were patient with my questions, nonetheless.
Per Hobbs, “We want to talk today about our latest product, a high-speed ADC and one of the most efficient [in the marketplace]. This announcement has produced a lot of headlines, but we want to drill into what it all really means. The specs we are using here is performance per milliwatt. We harp on that, because it’s really critical today. Typically, what’s said with a launch like this is that it [processes so many bits at a particular speed], but that doesn’t really indicate the performance of an ADC.
“What we’re doing here is putting our necks on the line by saying instead what our efficiency is – a very, very small ADC when manufactured at 40 nanometers, just .09 square millimeters, and only consuming 6 milliwatts of power. It’s efficient in the order of 31 femtojoules [10-15 joules], which means for handsets that use 802.11ac, you get very high energy efficiency.”
March 20th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
Thanks to a lot of hard work and perseverance on the part of various thought leaders in the IP industry – folks like Mike McNamara, Warren Savage, McKenzie Mortensen, Clark Chen, Devin Persaud, Tiffany Sparks, Yervant Zorian, and Farzad Zarrinfar – at last, IP has become an anchor tenant at DAC.
A situation that’s been far too long in coming, given that these days there are approximately 30 companies in the EDA industry, but upwards of 500 in IP. The fact is, if DAC didn’t make itself available to showcase an industry with 10x more possible exhibitors than EDA, where’s the future of the conference anyway?
I had a chance to speak with ‘Mac’ McNamara on Tuesday of this week about the IP Initiative he’s heading up for DAC 2014. [The others on the list above are on the committee.] Mac’s a legend in the EDA community based on his expertise and leadership roles at Chronologic, SureFire, Verisity and Cadence, where he headed up the company’s C-to-Silicon Compiler and Virtual Systems Platform. Mac left Cadence in 2012, and has served since then as CEO of Adapt IP, an IP startup that boasts both John Sanguinetti and Lucio Lanza on its board.
During our conversation, Mac said that anyone planning on attending the Design Automation Conference this June in San Francisco will want to be there on Monday, June 2nd. That is, anyone who’s interested in the IP industry.
February 27th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
It makes it worthwhile to show up for work on days when you get to have a conversation with people like the folks of Sonics, a System IP vendor based in Silicon Valley. Articulate and knowledgeable, they have a nuanced understanding of how the IP business works, its challenges and opportunities.
When I spoke to them last week about my ongoing project to assemble IP for the chip in my Dick Tracy keychain, President & CEO Grant Pierce and VP of Operations Raymond Brinks were both on the call. We started by talking about how IP is priced.
Per Pierce: “The conditions under which various customers buy and use IP can be quite different. We have some customers who are fairly sophisticated. We sell [such customers] licensed IP, offer some initial training, and then off they go. After that, apart from an occasional email, we have little contact with them. There are customers, however, who are opposite in the extreme.
February 13th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
At last month’s DesignCon in Santa Clara, I went looking for some IP advice to help in assembling the bits and pieces for my Dick Tracy key chain/wristband design project. I got no farther than the CAST booth, because those guys had answers to all of my questions.
After an hour-long conversation with CEO Hal Barbour, COO Nikos Zervas, and PR & Media Rep Paul Lindemann, I’m quite sure no IP company, small and large, could be better at partnering with a product team looking for IP selection guidance.
We first discussed the processor core; CAST sells an 8-bit family and a 32-bit. After listening to the features required in my product – keyless entry and ignition for the car, remote control of the garage door, monitoring the amounts of milk in the fridge, and telling the time – the CAST guys said an 8-bit core would provide sufficient horsepower for the sensing, calculation and control features I described, even in the face of the mixed-signal, ADC demands of the product.
They also noted that the 8051 is by far CAST’s most popular core and useful to people working on Internet-of-Things ideas, particularly if WiFi features are not needed. With WiFi, a 32-bit processor probably makes better sense.
I asked about a price point for the core I would use. From research I’ve been doing in anticipation of my Dick Tracy design, I know that prices for IP cores are usually as closely guarded as Edward Snowden’s forwarding address. Hal Barbour said that CAST has always been pretty open about that: “Depending on the configuration, our 8-bit core will cost you somewhere between $30, 000 and $50,000.”
January 15th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
It’s clear that these are heady days in EDA and IP. The numbers have been up and to the right for a number of quarters now and everybody’s feeling good about things, including Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines. He was doing the rounds last week talking up EDAC’s Market Statistics Service report on the industry for Q3_2013; the report was published this week on Tuesday.
On my phone call with Rhines I found him exuberant, so I started with a comment to which Rhines was not allowed to respond; he was speaking for EDAC in that conversation and not for his own organization. “Wow,” I said. “Mentor is really doing stupendously if your stock valuations are any indication, up over 40 percent in the last year.”
Rhines said nothing, but did chuckle, so I continued: “Wow again, then, for the overall EDA and IP industries. Having said that, I’ve noticed – perhaps not for the first time – that Synopsys does not officially submit numbers for these quarterly MSS updates. What’s up with that?”
January 9th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
Since the ginormous Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week is widely touted as the biggest event since the invention of humankind, it’s hard to admit two things: a) I wasn’t there, and yet b) I’ve been asked to compose a blog about it. Somewhat of a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.
To attend to the task at hand, I slogged through the blogosphere to see what people who were there this week had to say about it all, after knocking in and around the largest conference on the planet.
Turns out their take-aways are pretty consistent: Among the 3000+ exhibitors, there were more toys on display than you could play with in a month of Sundays, drones are everywhere and somewhat creepy, TVs are getting bigger, electric cars are getting more so, everything’s wearable, and the only things left that are truly private and un-recordable in the mania of this digital age are your thoughts, and those are probably under assault in an evil lab somewhere. [Note to self: don’t sell them for a penny.]
Another way to approach CES, if you blog about EDA and IP, is to go to the roster of EDAC and see who on that list was exhibiting this week in Las Vegas. The results are rather surprising – only ARM and Cadence.
January 1st, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena
As proposed last month in this space, I’m designing an SOC-based product that involves utilizing off-the-shelf IP. My whimsical design target is a wrist-based device that provides keyless entry and ignition for the car, control of the garage door opener, the ability to turn up/down the heat in the house remotely, and notification if we’re running low on milk. Oh yeah, and it will tell me the time.
To develop this product I need various reliable types of IP, including several processor cores, some memory, wireless connectivity design blocks, an oscillator and PLL for keeping time, a USB port for recharging, ADCs and DACs, and a bus of some kind to tie it all together. That’s just for starters, but it’s enough to prompt an online shopping trip comparable to the one described in my earlier blog about the hunt for ‘blocks of IP’ for the new bathroom installation currently underway at my house.
First and rather prosaically, I typed “what’s in an SOC” into Google. That query led me to Wikipedia, which led me to choose the list of IP described above. Naturally, your work is so much more sophisticated a process than this, but nonetheless the query allowed me to decide which pieces of semiconductor IP to go looking for. After all, the point of this exercise isn’t to design a ‘real’ chip, but to shop online for SIP and see what’s what.
December 19th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena
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.
December 5th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena
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.
November 21st, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena
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.