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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Life is Short: Carpe Eruditio at DAC 2016

May 26th, 2016 by Peggy Aycinena

There are clearly a lot of collateral distractions at the Design Automation Conference
: Networking. Social Hours. Parties. Chotzkies. But the real fun at DAC comes from carving time out to attend technical sessions. This is year in Austin, the offerings are particularly rich.

On Sunday, June 5th, my two favorites are: The Workshop on Design Automation for Cyber-Physical Systems, and The Workshop on Computing in Heterogeneous, Autonomous ‘N’ Goal-Oriented Environments. Both of these all-day events feature experts from academia and industry, most speaking for at least 30 minutes. The topics will be very technical and the schedules allow for detailed presentations. Of course, this doesn’t mean the other workshops on Sunday don’t have great merit, but the two I have identified look to be particularly rich opportunities for learning.

Sunday evening, for the first time, there will also be a 2-hour panel focused on Career Perspectives in EDA, a discussion sponsored by CEDA. Although many will be obliged to attend networking dinners on Sunday evening, or will still be busy setting up booths for Monday morning’s Exhibit Hall opening, attending this Career Panel seems an opportunity not to be missed, particularly as it will be moderated by the supremely knowledgeable Bill Joyner from SRC. Admittedly, this is not a technical session, but the implications for the industry are profound. [File under the heading: ‘Concern for an Aging Industry’]

On Monday, following the opening session, awards ceremony, and first keynote [NXP’s Lars Reger talking about ADS security], the Linux Porting session [Tutorial 2] look highly informative, as does the Timing Optimization & Signoff session [Design Track]. For my money, the most learning will be had by attending one of these two sessions, or trying to move back and forth between the two between 10:30 am and noon.

In the afternoon, 3D IC Physical Layout [Tutorial 10] or Power Management in Advanced IC Design [Design Track] are the best bets for the 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm slot. Part 2 of Advances in Post Silicon Diagnosis Technologies in the Nano-Scale Era [Tutorial 6] sounds great, even if you didn’t attend Part 1 in the first half of the afternoon, and Energy-Efficient Protocols for the IoT [Tutorial 9], again even if you didn’t attend Part 1.

As always, the problem at DAC is there’s just so much excellent content running simultaneously, it’s really hard to decide. But it is what is it, as the modern saws insist on saying.

Which brings up another suggestion: Avoid all panels and all fire-side chats, ala the DAC Pavilion. The learning in those settings is so nuanced, as to be negligible in my opinion. If you’re spending all of your time and energy, not to mention the boss’ money, to get to Austin – at least come away with more than just feel-good pearls of wisdom from people who are being showcased for their C-level position [in which case you just get happy talk], or their position as satisfied customer [more happy talk] of the vendor-company who’s sponsoring the panel.

Life is short. Carpe eruditio. Look for sessions outside your comfort zone, not exercises in personal or corporate vanity, particularly those advertised as being free of marketing-BS. These last are by far the emptiest calories on the DAC menu.

Tuesday morning, it’s worth your time to attend the Accellera Breakfast titled, UVM: The Next 5 Years. Accellera’s contributions to design are beyond measure, and you will be guaranteed a learning opportunity if you’re up early enough to hear the pragmatists of Accellera lay out their roadmap through 2021.

Editor’s hint here: Skip the sausage, eggs, and anything swimming in syrup. You really don’t need those calories. Stick to a little fruit, a glass of juice, and a simple piece of toast. Coffee, only if it’s truly hot.

From 10:30 am to Noon on Tuesday, there are back-to-back presentations by Stanford’s Mark Horowitz, UCLA’s Jason Cong, and Columbia’s Luca Carloni [Session 16]. These guys are academic super-stars and well worth 90 minutes of your time. Heterogeneous Architectures, their topic, is the thing.

The lunch hour should be dedicated to this year’s CEDA-sponsored lecture memorializing Prof. Edward McCluskey. The value of the technical content at this noon-time event is yet to be proven, but the assembled wisdom in the room and the history these folks represent will be profound. Attend, but skip the dinner rolls, salad dressing, meat entree, and dessert. Less is more when it comes to catered conference cuisine. Ask your cardiologist.

Tuesday after lunch, where you ate the food even though you were advised not to, it’s best to walk the Exhibit Hall floor. There you’ll find companies well worth meeting. Do your homework and figure out how to spend 15 minutes at 5 booths between 1:30 pm and 2:45 pm.

Of course, at least one member of the EDA Press Corps is incentivized each year to create a Must See list of companies at DAC that’s supposed to guide your visit to the booths. But that list is nonsense and only a reflection of effective MarCom/PR. Think for yourself. Make your own list. Go out and meet the people who drive the industry. The little guys who can just afford the booth, but not the extra doubloons required to make it onto the Must See list. Really.

Now for the second half of Tuesday afternoon, throw out all of my previous suggestions and Go Corporate. Unless you’ve been living in a cave and off the grid, it’s been hard to miss the debate [often played out in the courts] about emulation over the last few years. John Sanguinetti is moderating a panel about Simulation versus Emulation, and this one should be attended. Of course, in a nod to knuckleheads everywhere, Synopsys is not on the panel, but AMD, IBM, OneSpin, Cadence and Mentor are. There will be real conversation during this panel, because the likes of John Sanguinetti would not permit otherwise.

Okay, that’s enough for now. In my blog next week, I will make some suggestions for Wednesday and Thursday in Austin.

And yes, I skipped recommending the second of the two morning keynotes on Tuesday in Austin. Somebody from Nvidia is going to tell us how GPUs will deliver “ever-increasing capabilities over the next decade.” [See Paragraph 8 above regarding Vanity Press.]

The first keynote at 9 am on Tuesday will be worthwhile, however: Learning from Life: Biologically Inspired Electronic Design. You’ll have to skip the networking after the Accellera Breakfast if you plan to attend.


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