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 What Would Joe Do?

Archive for 2012

Mixed-signal Design: a new how-to guide from CDNS

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

 

This week, Cadence announced availability of the 400-page Mixed-Signal Methodology Guide written by Jess Chen, Michael Henrie, Monte Mar, Mladen Nizic, et al, edited by EDA DesignLine’s Brian Baily.

Cadence says the book is targeted at both chip designers and CAD engineers, and “focuses on current and future advanced mixed-signal design challenges and solutions.” The company also says the book is “critically acclaimed and much anticipated,” which is a little confusing; if the book is much anticipated, how could it already be critically acclaimed?

Nonetheless, the availability of the book on Lulu.com – an on-demand self-publishing website – makes the text easy to purchase and reasonably priced: $69.00, marked down from $115 if you buy it by August 31st. The question is not one of price, however, but of usefulness: Where else are you going to get information on mixed-signal design if you want to get it out of a book?

If you go to Amazon, for instance, what can you find? Below is a small sampling of what’s currently available. Sorry for the tedious assignment, but if you scan through the contents of each book you’ll see there’s quite a bit of overlap, and there’s also quite a bit of differentiation. Looking at the first 4 selections on the list, and then comparing them to the 2012 Cadence publication, you may actually conclude that this new book by Chen et al is indeed bringing something very useful to the discussion of mixed-signal design, albeit with a focus on Cadence tools.

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Ali Iranmanesh: pursuing quality on a global scale

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

 

Ali Iranmanesh is a busy man. He continues to head up the Silicon Valley Institute of Technology, the school he founded in 1997, and continues to lead ISQED, the conference he founded in 1999. Now he is also leading ASQED, the Asia-based spin-off of ISQED Iranmanesh founded in Malaysia.

I caught up with Ali in early August by phone. He was in Silicon Valley and had just returned from ASQED 2012 in Penang, Malaysia.

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WWJD: What prompted you to start ASQED?

Ali Iranmanesh: It was a natural extension of ISQED, which I started 14 years ago. I decided to keep ISQED in Silicon Valley, and to create other conferences for different regions.

WWJD: Remind me how many ASQED’s have taken place.

Ali Iranmanesh: This is our fourth year, with the conference alternating between Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia. Our next event is scheduled for August 26th to 28th in Penang.

WWJD: Malaysia seems an unusual destination for a conference on design.

Ali Iranmanesh: Historically, there has been a lot of manufacturing in Malaysia, but not so much design. I’ve been working with the several government entities there, helping them to move up the value chain through training, and was able to implement the conference as part of that process. Now for the past few years, there has been design going on in Malaysia – the conference has done a great job helping with that.

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Medals: Why we love them

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

 

Everybody loves to get medals because everybody loves to be best at something: Swimming, Diving, Rowing, Running, Jumping, Hurdling, Riding, Kicking, Dunking, Punching, Throwing, Serving, Digging, Batting, Vaulting, Balancing, Leaping, Cycling, Dancing, Singing, Strumming, Humming, or Whistling.

In the same way, everybody loves to get awards because it also means they’re be best at doing something: Starting, Founding, Investing, Inventing, Creating, Building, Programming, Designing, Testing, Manufacturing, Assembling, Integrating, Packaging, Selling, Leading, Teaching, or Winning.

Yes, it’s true: Everybody wants to be best at something, everybody wants to get a medal or an award, and yet it’s also true that not everybody can. Not everybody can be best, because the equation simply doesn’t allow for it.

And for those who cannot win awards or medals, they have two choices:

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Wow factor: SNPS to acquire SpringSoft

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

 

When it comes to wow factor, nothing outpaces the August 3rd announcement that Synopsys is going to acquire Taiwan-based SpringSoft. The announcement is astonishing for three reason:

1) Synopsys just announced the acquisition of Ciranova last week. True, the details of that deal were not released and Ciranova is not a ‘large’ company – still, two acquisitions by Synopsys in as many weeks is noteworthy.

2) SpringSoft is a publicly-traded company and therefore the details of the acquisition must be announced: Synopsys will be paying about $300 million for SpringSoft (net of cash acquired), which is a helluva lot of money …

3) … given that Synopsys has already executed another high-profile, high-priced acquisition of a publicly traded company earlier this year, buying Magma Design Automation for about $523 million (net of cash acquired).

Wow!

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Vision fulfilled: SNPS acquires Ciranova

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

 

When Eric Filseth took over as CEO at Ciranova in September 2007, he was already a seasoned EDA veteran having clocked in an accumulated 17 years at Cadence at that point. Now here in 2012, Ciranova has just been acquired by Synopsys and it would seem Filseth’s organization has fulfilled the vision he articulated 5 long years ago.

Per Filseth in 2007: “The problems in analog are very hard. In the digital world, everything is very, very automated, but in the analog world it just isn’t that way. It’s still mostly done by hand and the concept of IP as you consider it in digital – take the RTL and port it to this design or that process – is not there. In analog, it’s still a manual thing for PLLs, and amplifiers, and so on.

“There’s been so much focus on digital SoCs, and things like place and route, there’s been a lot less time spent on analog. Now digital design works fantastically well. You can get a junior engineer with only a couple years’ experience designing thousands of gates a day.

“Just think about it. Over the last 20 years, we’ve had 4 or 5 generations of digital architectures developed but in analog, people are still doing things the way they did it 15 or 20 years ago. Clearly there‘s an opportunity here, and Ciranova is well positioned to take advantage of that opportunity.”

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Jim Hogan: Surf & Turf in Santa Cruz

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

 

There are three things to remember about Jim Hogan: He’s an affable guy, he’s usually sporting a Hawaiian shirt, and he’s extremely accessible; when you interview him, he’s able to talk to you without a PR person sitting at his elbow. I spoke with Jim by phone in late July.

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WWJD: How are you doing, and what’s up with this upcoming surfing-themed fundraiser you’re hosting?

Jim Hogan: I’d doing great, and yeah – that’s an annual fund raiser we host. I live in Santa Cruz, where life is pretty easy and my kids surf.

Also I work a lot with Jill Jacobs [Mod Marketing], who’s got relatives here in Santa Cruz. Jill was my coordinator for roadshows at Cadence and still does logistics for some of my startups. Her relatives are just a great family and are neighbors with Jack O’Neal [surfing entrepreneur and credited by many for inventing the wetsuit] who’s always donating to charities here.

Santa Cruz isn’t too far from the Valley, and I always have a lot of fun when we put these two crowds together, the surfers and the technology folks. For me, it’s kind of like the parties we had at my frat in college. You pick the day, buy the beer, and invite a bunch of people. [laughing] Maybe we’ve scaled up a little bit since then. Now my frat parties have a somewhat corporate feel.

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CDNS: What a difference a year [or 2] makes

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

 

We’re coming up on almost four years, full on, since the momentous events of 15 October 2008 when the entire top executive team at Cadence exited stage left.

At the time, of course, the world was paying a shade less attention to EDA, and a shade more attention to a global crisis unfolding minute-by-minute featuring household concepts such as bankruptcy, subprime mortgages, and derivatives, and household names such as Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual, JPMorgan, Wachovia, CitiGroup, and the FDIC, to name a few.

Meanwhile, the folks who held CDNS in mid-October 2008 were holding shares that had lost almost 80% of their value over the previous 12 months, plummeting from $20+/share to around $4/share in that time frame.

The world may have been consumed by news of the larger global meltdown in October 2008, but various CDNS shareholders were sufficiently focused on the disaster at Cadence to precipitate upwards of a dozen class-action suits against the company in protest.

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EV update: LiPo battery, Tesla testimonial, Volt production, China mandate, Landlord veto

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

 

As a follow-on to my June 21st blog regarding Electric Vehicles [EVs: an Electric Car in Every Garage], here are some additional notes of interest:

1 – An RC plane and car expert explained to me recently that if you want to follow the latest updates in battery technology, look to the RC marketplace. That market being full of avid hobbyists, it’s willing to embrace nascent technologies as early adopters.

The current technology that’s “hot” in RCs is the lithium polymer, or LiPo, battery. It’s still expensive, suffers from reduced shelf-life, and is reportedly more flammable than the lithium-ion battery technology currently installed in EVs, but the LiPo battery appears to offer “lighter weight and higher discharge rates” to power-hungry RC devices.

Per RCHelicopterFun.com: “In short, LiPo’s provide high energy storage to weight ratios in an endless variety of shapes and sizes.”

Thanks to the global RC user base, LiPo battery technology is enjoying intense research and deployment – not necessarily in that order – and may one day be widely utilized in the more “conventional” EV market. If the bugs can be worked out, the LiPo chemistry [possibly] stands to replace the “traditional” lithium-ion EV technology in years to come.

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Accellera Systems Initiative: team effort & SystemC Library 2.3

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

 

This week, Accellera Systems Initiative is announcing a new version of its SystemC library, Version 2.3 to be exact. There hasn’t been a new version since way back in 2005 with Version 2.1 (albeit 2.2, a bug-fix release, was published in 2006), so this is the culmination of a lot of hard work.

I spoke by phone with Accellera Systems Initiative Language Working Group Chair David Black, Senior Member of Technical Staff at Doulos, on July 17th.

Black explained, “The purpose of Version 2.3 is to reflect the latest version of IEEE Standard 1666 – to fundamentally demonstrate new features introduced into the SystemC standard, which includes TLM 2.0, previously an OSCI-only standard and now part of the IEEE standard. Interested parties can download the SystemC 2.3 library from the Accellera Systems Initiative website. This download includes several bug fixes, the latest TLM 2.0 and new SystemC features”

I asked Black who has participated in this work, and how often they meet. He said, “The Language Working Group of Accellera Systems Initiative includes all of the major EDA vendors – Cadence, Mentor, Synopsys, and Forte – and service providers such as Doulos and Circuit Sutra – and various members of the industry such as Intel, TI and STMicro, with everyone contributing a perspective.

“I am the Co-Chair of the SystemC Language Working Group along with Andy Goodrich [Forte Design Systems] and took over my position from Mike Meredith [also with Forte]. Key contributors also include Tor Jeremiassen [TI], John Aynsley and Alan Fitch [Doulos], Bishnupriya Bhattacharya [Cadence],  Jerome Cornet [STMicroelectronics],  Dr. Torsten Maehne [UPMC], Pat Sheridan and Bart Vanthournout [Synopsys], and Philipp Hartmann [OFFIS], along with many others.

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MathWorks: the elephant in the room

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

 

To get to MathWorks’ corporate headquarters outside Boston, take the Red Line to the Orange Line to Back Bay Station. Take the Commuter Rail to Natick, cross the bridge over the tracks, walk north along leafy Walnut Street for a mile and a quarter, turn left onto Route 9, and cross the grass to Apple Hill Drive. Turn left into the parking lot of the company’s campus, pick your way through the construction going on there, and look for the main reception building across from the big parking structure.

If you do all of this, and it’s 90+ degrees with 60% humidity, you’ll be totally drenched by the time you walk into the cool of the MathWorks headquarters. But no worries; the very nice person at the reception desk will send you down the hall to the closest break room where you can get a tall drink from the beverage dispenser and bring it back to the reception area to rest, recuperate, and prepare for your meeting with Ken Karnofsky.

Okay, two points of interest here: a) MathWorks is different. It’s headquartered in a residential neighborhood, not a commercial park; and b) the welcome is relaxed and not the high-pressure stuff of Silicon Valley.

Two additional points of interest: c) MathWorks is expanding. They’ve got 2400 employees currently, with an additional 200 job openings! Their Natick campus may offer a calm retreat from a humid Massachusetts afternoon, but it’s not a calm retreat from the world because when you’re there, MathWorks feels to be at the center of the world.

And d) MathWorks is definitely an EDA company, even though they don’t belong to EDAC and they don’t exhibit at DAC (although they have exhibited in the past). If you design chips, MathWorks’ MATLAB and Simulink is the gateway into your design. When it comes to EDA, MathWorks is most definitely the elephant in the room.

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