What Would Joe Do?
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.
Chattejee: Engineering reality trumps drama
March 21st, 2012 by Peggy Aycinena
Because Pallab Chattejee went to upwards of 78 technical conferences last year, he probably knows a thing or two about the status of the industry today. It also helps that he’s a long-time IC design adviser, CTO of SiliconMap, a consultancy, and is ramping up a new online publishing presence, Media & Entertainment Technologies, with long-time tech guru Tets Maniwa.
Among his many involvements, including the IEEE Nanotech Council and U.C. Berkeley’s Engineering Alumni Society, Pallab has been associated with the International Symposium on Quality Electronic Design for all of its 13 years.
He’s headed up most of the committees at one point or another, and this year is serving for a second time as General Chair, so it’s not a complete surprise that Pallab has been named an ISQED 2012 Fellow.
What is a surprise, is Pallab’s candid assessment of the messages that are often the stuff of conference keynote speeches – even those given at ISQED – particularly when those speeches are offered up by EDA vendors or foundries.
I spoke briefly with Chattejee after the opening session at ISQED, on March 20th at the Techmart in Santa Clara. He was articulate and completely on-the-record in debunking the idea that IC design, particularly analog design, is some kind of magic art, frequently dramatized these days in keynotes as teetering on the brink of unsolvable.
“Chip design is totally solvable,” Pallab said adamantly, “and it’s really not that tool dependent. Yeah, it’s hard work – it’s always been hard work – but it’s also totally doable.”
But what about all of those design rule checks, the 6500 DRCs threatening to sink the world of 20-nanometer design, per many keynoters?
Pallab said that DRC thing is just a scare tactic: “Yeah, there are 6500 DRCs at 20 nanometers, but most of them are things that any qualified engineer would know to avoid. Of the 6500, there are only actually about 400, or less, that are really important.
“It’s just engineering,” Pallab reiterated. “It’s what happens when engineers show up for work. If it wasn’t possible, how is it that Intel’s currently shipping chips with over 2 billion transistors, or Samsung’s shipping 64-Gigabyte memories at 20 nanometers?
“And,” he added, “designs still take 18 months. That’s how long it used to take, and that’s how long it takes today. Plus, analog design is done the same way today it was done back in the 1980s, one or two transistors at a time.
“Again, the qualified engineers who show up for work every day solve these things. It’s just what they do – they build things, and more or less on schedule.”
I asked Pallab if his comments were off-the-record. “Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m not concerned about offending anyone. It’s just the truth.
“Besides,” he added, “Media & Entertainment Technologies is centered at the heart of much bigger industries than chip design. Between gaming, display technology, and broadcasting, these three industry sectors employ over 560,000 design and development professionals. That’s a far greater population than either EDA or hardware design.
“And, now we’re official sponsors of the three biggest shows in these industry – NAB, E3, and the SID Symposium.”
I’m guessing this means Pallab and Tets may not make it to the Design Automation Conference. Check out the info below, and you’ll see that two out of the three conferences that Pallab mentioned conflict directly with the DAC 2012, which takes place this year from June 3rd to 7th, in San Francisco.
If you’re in EDA, however, I will see you at DAC and we can continue this discussion about the why, what, and which of DRCs.
Just in case you’re not familiar …
NAB – National Association of Broadcasters
E3 – Electronic Entertainment Expo
SID – Society for Information Display International Symposium
Tags: 20 nanometers, 20nm, DAC, Design Automation Conference, Design rule checks, DRC, E3, ELectronic Entertainment Expo, ISQED, ISQED Fellow, Media & Entertainment Technologies, NAB, National Association of Broadcasters, Pallab Chattejee, SID, SiliconMap, Society for Information Display, Symposium on SID, Tets Maniwa