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 What Would Joe Do?

Archive for 2014

Silicon Cloud: Architecting the Future of Design

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014


Despite its ethereal-sounding name, Silicon Cloud International is a company grounded in the reality of chip design, particularly for an important international demographic, professors and students. Mojy Chian is CEO of the Singapore-based SCI. We spoke recently by phone.

Chian started by defining the cloud. “The concept of the cloud is straightforward. It means remote computing, so if you are not using your local machine, you are using the cloud. There are a lot of applications in the cloud, including eCommerce, Facebook, cloud storage, and remote collaboration based in the cloud.

“Certainly, usage of the cloud has taken off in recent years, but remember there are several different types of clouds. In contrast to private cloud computing, public cloud computing means accessing machines [owned by other companies such as Amazon], where you can actually go and use their machines.”

Our conversation being specific to chip design, I asked Chian to comment on widespread industry concerns regarding security when working in the public cloud. Companies are oft-times reluctant to compute and/or store their designs in the public cloud for fear of losing their precious data to hackers and pirates.


DAC 2014: Advanced nodes and going back in time for a solution

Thursday, June 12th, 2014


In response to my blog this week about the June 5th panel at DAC, “Advanced Node Re-spins: Be Very afraid (maybe)“, Bill Martin, President/VP of Engineering at E-System Design, sent the following comments.


For 15 years, I was on the same process-node-jumping bandwagon. Always looking for that next node to help solve cost, performance, area and speed that might help with the overall schedule. Even in these older (larger) processes, each new process required 2x the resources (people, time, machines, etc.) to achieve tape out.

Fortunately, I was happily ‘stuck’ using VLSI Technology’s foundries, processing and wafers. Although we were not perfect, we did learn quickly to hone processes, models, design flows, etc., to minimize rework. But that world I knew was prior to the ASIC dis-aggregation that has taken place over the past 2 decades, and because there are pros and cons to that dis-aggregation, your summary of Thursday afternoon’s DAC panel brought back some pleasant memories, as well as nightmares. Clearly we need a new mindset!


Advanced node Re-spins: Be very afraid (maybe)

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


UMass Amherst’s Sandip Kundu moderated a Thursday afternoon panel at DAC entitled, ‘Designing on Advanced Process Nodes: How many re-spins should you plan for?’

In concert with his four panelists, Broadcom’s Ajat Hukkoo, Intel’s Ashu Bakhle, Samsung’s Hong Hao, and GlobalFoundries’ Luigi Capodieci, Kundu laid out qualitative motivations and quantitative guidelines for predicting how many re-spins can be expected when a design targets next-generation geometries.

Prof. Kundu began with an homage to the costs and challenges: “Chips are expensive to develop, the Spice models are expensive to develop, and the first-pass and second-pass models often are not working.”

It’s within this environment of uncertainty, Kundu said, that designers and their managers are having difficulty predicting how many re-spins will be needed to get things right, and thus budgets and schedules are equally unpredictable.

Ajat Hukkoo agreed: “At Broadcom, every time we migrated from one node to another, the partitioning [of the design] had to be re-evaluated for electrical considerations and costs.


DAC 2014: Algorithms, Adjacencies, Animosities, World Peace

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


The June breezes were intense in San Francisco this week. The fog was swirling out at the Great Highway, and making itself known across town amidst the flags flying sharply over Moscone Center. The Electronic Design Automation and IP communities were out in force in and around South Hall, while thousands of edgy app developers were playing out their own dramas across the street and down the block in and around West Hall where Apple was holding court at the same time. Fourth and Howard was awash all week in hordes and gaggles of the people who are shaping the future of the world.

Algorithms – Perhaps as never before, algorithms were the number one topic at DAC this year, and in so many different shapes and sizes. Algorithms for high-level synthesis, algorithms for creating models, algorithms for translating physical data into guidelines for design, algorithms for translating assertions into verification metrics for more orderly validations, algorithms for encrypting and decoding, algorithms for compression and decompression, algorithms for converting approximate computational output into exactitude, algorithms for hearing, seeing, and even believing. In San Francisco this week at DAC, it was algorithms all the way down, everywhere you looked.

Adjacencies – The Design Automation Conference is all about ideas, and this year the principle idea was change. The Executive Committee re-shuffled the long-standing deck of cards that’s represented the most important topics at DAC over the last 50 years and came up instead with a whole new set of talking points.


Phoenix Rising: Gary Smith at DAC

Thursday, May 29th, 2014


Like a phoenix rising from too-early reports of a reduced participation in life, the legendary Gary Smith has created a schedule of appearances at the 51st Design Automation Conference in San Francisco that would fell a man half his age. Every time you turn around at Moscone Center next week, or the Intercontinental Hotel before that, you’ll be face-to-face with events featuring the Guru Extraordinaire of EDA.

Sunday evening from 5:00 pm to 5:30 pm, Gary will yet again ring the opening bell at DAC, this year in Ballroom A of the Intercontinental Hotel across the street from Moscone. I’m putting good money on a bet that Gary will be on stage there in his best Tropical Whites, accompanied by slides, predictions, and previews of the Next Epoch in EDA and his Pavilion Panel the next day.


Marie Pistilli: A conversation with DAC Co-founder

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


Thanks to Nanette Collins, long-time EDA PR consul, we have a chance this week to catch up with Marie Pistilli. Marie co-founded DAC with her husband Pat in 1964.

Although Marie and Pat Pistilli have been fixtures at the conference they founded 51 years ago, they will not be in San Francisco this year. Pat’s recovering from surgery and the doctors have ordered him to stay home.

I can’t imagine not having the Pistilli’s at DAC, so I was very happy that Nanette was able to speak with Marie. They spoke by phone on May 19th.


OneSpin: A must see at DAC

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


There are three reasons you should visit OneSpin at DAC in San Francisco. First, they’re a German company, albeit with a group in California, so it’s great to chat with the German contingent while they’re in town; second, it’s been 10 years since they were spun out of Infineon, so they have that much experience selling verification tools into some of the largest semis in the world; and third, Dave Kelf heads up marketing for the company and any conversation with Dave’s going to leave you better informed and happy to be working in the industry. He’s the ultimate optimist.

I spoke by phone recently with Dave. It was morning in Silicon Valley and late afternoon in the U.K. as he described a new tool recently released by OneSpin that’s useful for evaluating verification coverage.

Dave said, “OneSpin’s been working on this for a while with customers. It was actually a customer who said to us: Look, you’ve got this great coverage engine. Why don’t you release it as a separate tool, because it could be very beneficial.

“So we looked at our coverage engine, added some features, made it useful to a number of different companies, and released it as Quantify. The response has been great. It’s really started to transform the environment for our customers, a group of very high-end companies.”


Power & Beauty: Defining DAC in the 21st Century

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014


In the same week that glamorous images from the Met Gala in New York City and the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C., remind us that power and beauty are closely linked, how appropriate to hear that CMU’s Dr. Diana Marculescu has been named the 2014 recipient of the Marie R. Pistilli Award by the DAC committee for Women in Electronic Design.

With a PhD in Computer Engineering, and over a decade of commendations from the NSF, ACM, IEEE, ASPDAC, ICCD, ISQED, and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Dr. Marculescu is both powerful and beautiful. She is a marvelous role model for both young women and men who want to lead lives of great intellectual vigor that are also rich with aesthetics and joy.

Prof. Marculescu is a bright, engaging technology leader and educator, has served or is serving as graduate adviser to over 20 masters and doctoral students at CMU pursuing research into CAD tools for energy, variability and reliability-aware computing, and CAD for non-silicon systems, has published over 100 papers, garnering 3 Best Paper Awards along the way, is an expert in networks and adaptive distributed systems, and is as delightful an individual as you could ever hope to meet, the embodiment of grace and charm.


May Day: EDA in Moscow

Thursday, May 1st, 2014


A friend likes to spend hours on Sundays reading the New York Times cover to cover. Pointing to an article from last weekend’s edition, he exclaimed, “This Putin guy is a real piece of work! He’s a total dictator and worse, thinks he can win the world war he’s about to unleash!”

“Stay calm and carry on,” I said soothingly. “It’s a global economy these days and he will succumb to the pressures of maintaining a steady environment for international trade.”

“Yeah?” the friend scoffed. “And you call yourself a student of history? You don’t think there was a global economy in 1939?”

“Look,” I said. “Seriously. The EDA industry is in Moscow. Do you think they’d be playing in an environment that’s spiraling out of control?”

“Yeah?” he retorted. “The world, starting with Putin, doesn’t care about your precious EDA. And besides, who says EDA’s in Moscow?”


ProPlus’ CTO: Intelligence in Design Personified

Thursday, April 24th, 2014


Talking to ProPlus Design Solutions requires a long view of history over at least the last 20 years in EDA. In 1993, BTA, an EDA company focused on device model extraction and SPICE simulation, was founded with U.C. Berkeley’s Dr. Chenming Hu as Chairman of the Board. In 1999, BTA merged with Ultima, and became Celestry in 2001.

Finally, in 2003, the combined companies were acquired by Cadence Design Systems. Then in 2007, a new company called ProPlus was spun out of Cadence to support the original BSIMProPlus device modeling platform with roots going back to BTA/Celestry.

Current ProPlus CTO Bruce McGaughy earned his PhD at Cal with Chenming Hu as his advisor, served at both BTA and Celestry, and worked at Cadence, before joining ProPlus 6 years ago. I had a chance to talk with Dr. McGaughy in person last month in Silicon Valley. Our conversation covered a range of topics.


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