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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.

DAC 2013: Top 10 on Day 3 in Austin

June 5th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

The last day of the Exhibit Hall portion of DAC always arrives with a certain sensibility. Over the course of the 3 days, the place has become something between Our Town and a small college campus, and now with graduation it’s not clear when everyone will be together again. Yet the next phase of life beckons with all of its possibilities and trepidations, and people have to move on.

Happily this afternoon, as the 50th instantiation of DAC drew to a close in Austin, many residents of Our Town EDA could look forward to continuing the camaraderie at a first-ever DAC Banquet this evening at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel. Many of us were en route home by that time by plane, train or automobile and could not be there, but I hear tell it was a great evening. So my Top 10 on Day 3 in Austin starts with this late night report regarding the banquet thanks to ARM’s Tiffany Sparks, who was in attendance at the event.

Awards Banquet at DAC. Per Tiffany Sparks, “The banquet was a success. Dinner started at 7:30 pm, awards started at 8:55 pm and wrapped up at 10:30. People really liked it. There was a full house, with 300 people.” Hopefully, they”ll do it again next year in San Francisco, because if we know nothing else about folks in EDA, we know they really like to party!

 The Governor a no show. It’s very understandable that Texas Governor Rick Perry chose to go to a funeral this morning for the firefighters that died last week in Houston rather than make an appearance prior to the mid-day keynotes at DAC. Perhaps he could have come earlier in the week, because his persona is certainly reaching beyond Texas these days, even into Silicon Valley.

The Governor was in California in February pitching Austin as the new Silicon Valley, a place that offers better business conditions than the old Silicon Valley. A number of Austin locals told me this week that their metropolitan area is ‘enjoying’ an astronomical growth spurt due in part to this attitude, and certainly the face of Austin seems to be changing. Last time I was in the city, some 30 years ago, the place wasn’t sporting the Fort Lauderdale-style condo towers that now leer over miles and miles of Texas. Yeehaw to progress.

Lunch at the Iron Works BBQ. Just half a block from the Austin Convention Center, you can step back into a simpler, more authentic time. The restaurant resides in an old iron works, has no AC, no tablecloths, and no sheet rock, just open beams and a lot of memories. What Iron Works BBQ does have is paper plates, plastic cutlery, a menu of comfort food including ribs, sausage, pork loin, smoked turkey, baked beans and potato salad – and today, a line of sweltering DAC attendees that extended out the door and into the parking lot. Best meal I had all week.

Kathryn Kranen’s Teen Talk Pavilion Panel. Once again Jasper CEO Kathryn Kranen has delivered some of the best content at DAC. Why? Because the high school kids that she interviews in this now-annual event are the future of consumer electronics. In fact, they’re the present as well.

Kathryn’s guests this afternoon included Westlake High School’s Landon Hegedus and Garrison Hefter, and Westwood High School’s Niteka Raina. It was fascinating to hear their responses to Kathryn’s well-crafted questions. Results? They prefer to text rather than talk, choose Facebook over Twitter, are split in their loyalties to an iPhone versus an Android-based handset, aren’t wedded to round-the-clock gaming, and have parents who don’t always want to pay for Netflix, but who do want full access to the Facebook pages their kids are posting.

And for the two Westwood kids who have been assigned iPads by their school in lieu of textbooks, they can always tell who among their peers are really committed to their academics. The kids who don’t care are gaming during class on their iPads when the teacher ain’t looking. Nothing new under the sun there!

No.6, No. 5, No. 4)
A Celebration of the First 50 Years of DAC. If you could get to Room12AB by 9 am this morning, despite partying last night, you were in for a treat. Over the course of three 30-minute talks, SRC’s Bill Joyner, Univ. of Illinois’ Rob Rutenbar, and IBM’s Leon Stok together met and exceeded their assignment from the DAC EC: Showcase the impact of this game-changing conference.

Bill’s talk centered on the early years, 1964 to the late 1980’s, Rob continued from there through to the present day, and Leon was stuck with the toughest assignment: Predict the next 25 years of progress in this esoteric technology that sits at the heart of the semiconductor juggernaut. The talks were taped, so you’ll want to see them when they’re available, but what will not be captured on film was the vitality in the room during the three presentations.

The place was absolutely jam-packed, with people lining the walls, and not just with distinguished veterans of the industry, although they were there in droves. Just as many in the crowd were the newer members of the EDA community, the up-and-comers who are interested in the arc of history of design automation and DAC over the last 50 years, because they’re the ones who will drive that arc over the next 50.

By the way, Pat Pistilli, the Godfather of DAC, was himself in the room and recalled that in 1964, it was all they could do to get 17 papers pulled together to create the debut conference content – and all of those papers were from industry. Contrast that with Rutenbar’s statistic that over the last 50 years, 3865 papers have been presented, while Leon Stok noted that of the 700+ paper submissions for DAC 2013, only 20 percent were accepted. And among those, two-thirds were from academia.

Also, it was interesting that the questions from the floor that closed out the session addressed two thorny issues that continue to plague the EDA establishment – access to data that’s held hostage by universities and proprietary-minded companies, and the future of open-source tool flows. Like I said, it was a session of intense interest – and entertainment!

Just never enough time in the Exhibit Hall. If only DAC could be sequential, rather than a parallel construct, because those people sitting in those booths out on the show floor are the ultimate optimists.

They believe they can actually take the ideas that are floating around upstairs in those technical confabs, and commercialize them. Extract real ROI out of the ideas, weatherize them, standardize them, document them, package them, distribute them, and support them – in other words, get the tools that arise from the algorithms into the hands of the people who are actually designing the chips that live in the devices that the kids in Westlake and Westwood High Schools think they need to make life worth living.

Today, over the course of a drive-by visit to the Exhibit Hall, I spoke with folks from Flexras and DOCEA, two French companies specializing, respectively, in partitioning designs onto FPGAs for rapid prototyping, and finding an integrated solution to thermal and power issues that haunt massively integrated devices.  The thing about DAC is that when these companies exhibit, you get to talk to people like Flexras CEO Hayder Mrabet and DOCEA Sr. Application Manager Gene Matter in a way that’s impossible normally.

The buzz of the show floor and the casual nature of the thousands of conversations going on simultaneously nearby make it possible for candid Q&A during one-on-one conversations in the booths. It’s just a great environment for an interview, and I wish there was more time for same.

I also spoke today with [French] Analog System Design Senior RF/Analog Design Engineer Carlo Tinella, [German] ProDesign CEO Gunnar Scholl, and [Portuguese] SiliconGate CTO Marcelino Santos, conversations that reminded me that small companies continue to be the bedrock of EDA, full of energy and innovative ways of thinking and not just about the technology, but how to interface with the customer. Add to those, my conversation with CAST CEO Hal Barbour. His enthusiasm is simply contagious and makes it clear that even for small companies that can no longer be called startups, the thrill of working in this industry is unending.

Forte’s Brett Cline and the bagpipe(s). When I stopped by for a brief chat with Brett this afternoon, his booth neighbors to the north were blaring away with some sort of presentation/raffle that was drawing’em in like flies. I asked Brett if that had been going on for a while, and he said pretty much non-stop from the get-go. Well, I said, you guys will get the last laugh. After all, who can out shout the Forte Bagpipes?

Brett laughed. He told me that this year Forte only had one bagpiper coming for the company’s traditional gift to DAC, a stirring [albeit wheezy] closing out of the show. I assured Brett that one bagpipe is all that it would take to drown out the din from next door, that Forte was destined once again to have the last word at the end of the show.

Brett also told me he’s now on DAC’s Industry Liaison Committee. That’s great, because the folks from industry who interface with the conference will have an excellent advocate in Forte’s VP of Marketing and Sales. Plus he knows where the bagpipers live, in case anybody has problems with unruly neighbors going forward.

A chance encounter with Tensilica’s Cadence’s Chris Rowen. What luck, late this afternoon, to be on the same Metro Transit bus headed out to Austin/Bergstrom International Airport as Tensilica CTO Chris Rowen, now a part of the Cadence organization as his company was purchased in March for a cool $380 million. Nonetheless, like the rest of us on the bus, Chris only paid a buck for the trip. Also like ordinary mortals, he was presenting yesterday morning as one of the speakers in a session about IP, his talk titled, “Goldilocks and the Three bears of Programmabilitiy.”

By all rights, it’s not fair to quote from my 30-minute conversation with Chris on the bus to the airport – it was spontaneous and unofficial – but I do think it’s okay to report on his general demeanor. Ebullient unbridled professorial enthusiasm. As much as Forte’s bagpipes are a gift to the industry, my conversation with Dr. Rowen was a final gift to me because it reminded me, yet again, why EDA is the singular most fantastic industry in the world.

I asked Chris why he wasn’t staying over an additional day to attend tonight’s banquet. He said he didn’t have time, he had to be in the office tomorrow morning because the whole team from Tensilica is still learning the ropes as Cadence employees and that takes time. He said everything’s happening so fast and the opportunities are coming in so rapidly to expand Tensilica’s reach. I asked how he found time yesterday to present a paper at a technical session at DAC, just on the heels of Tensilica’s huge corporate triumph. He said he loves this stuff and talking about it is as good as it gets.

Ohmygosh, exactly! Isn’t that precisely what DAC’s all about? Enjoying the people who’ve created this industry, and their ideas, the people who continue to build this industry, and those whose enthusiasm for the intellectual grandeur and commercial odyssey of it all burns ever brighter, making every single day of the year, not just those defined by DAC, an unforgettable and total affirmation of life.


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