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.
EDAC’s Perfect Storm: Cataclysmic Changes, Music to Wine
May 14th, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena
There’s a perfect storm currently underway at the EDA Consortium based in Silicon Valley. First of all, after twenty years of distinguished service to the organization, the last ten as Executive Director, Robert Gardner is retiring. His leadership and talents will be sorely missed, as an industry expert and organizational wizard, and as as accomplished musician providing endless hours of sophisticated entertainment at countless EDAC events. Uniquify’s Bob Smith, himself an accomplished, well-known player in the EDA industry, has been tapped to take over for Gardner. [See our conversation below …]
Second of all, for the first time the consortium has two individuals serving simultaneously as chairman: Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan and PDF Solutions President & CEO John Kibarian. Although previously active on the board, neither of these gentlemen has served as EDAC co-Chair; all signs suggest that their joint efforts, and fortuitous synergy of design and manufacturing, are promoting fresh sensibilities and renewed commitments to collegiality across the EDAC membership.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, IP is the new black in EDA. When the consortium was initiated in the last millennium, the membership really was all about electronic design automation. Today, many ‘generations’ later, the name of the game in semiconductor design is reuse and third-party IP. And it’s in that spirit that both Sonics President & CEO Grant Pierce and ARM CEO Simon Segars are currently serving on the consortium’s Board of Directors, along with EDA stalwarts Mentor’s Wally Rhines, Synopsys’ Aart de Geus, IC Manage’s Dean Drako, and Atrenta’s Ajoy Bose.
And so the world turns: The EDA Consortium is undergoing profound changes, and in so doing reflects the evolutionary cataclysm overtaking the entire semiconductor design and manufacturing supply chain.
WWJD: It’s wonderful news for EDAC that you have agreed to take up of the reigns as Executive Director.
Bob Smith: I’m very excited, particularity because this opportunity literally came out of the blue. It was not on my radar. After I took some time to think about it, I decided I could do some good here. Certainly, I have the background in the industry and know a lot of players. The more I thought about it, the more I got excited about this new and different kind of challenge.
WWJD: How would you differentiate your upcoming role at EDAC from your previous industry experience?
Bob Smith: In all of my past experience in the electronics industry, I’ve worked for companies pushing their products or their initiatives, doing marketing, business development, establishing strategic alliances. The key in all of it has been about representing the interests of a company.
Now with EDAC, all of that is quite different. I’m being brought into a role here where I will try to take an organization and grow it, perhaps change it a bit, and represent the interests of a whole bunch of companies in the space. I’ll be working to find the common interests that overlap [among the member companies].
Look at the Big Three in EDA, Mentor, Synopsys and Cadence. Are they fierce competitors? Absolutely, day in and day out. But they also have some things they feel very passionately and similarly about, things of high value to them. Some the committee work of EDAC [fairly summarizes several of these issues].
For example, export control. The average lay person doesn’t stand around and talk about EDA because it’s mysterious, and the same is true for some government bureaucrats. It’s hard [for these individuals] to fully understand what is mission critical to the U.S., and what is not, things like verification software for instance. EDAC has done good work in this area [helping to clarify the technology].
Piracy is another issue that’s huge for EDAC. There’s a lot of interest here for the industry, because software theft is a real and true issue for everyone in EDA.
And then there’s interoperability. EDAC’s work has been really useful here, because the industry’s gotten together and said: We’ll all agree that these are the platforms and the variances in the operating systems that we’re going to support and encourage. If you’re supporting a customer base that needs 50 different versions [of your software], the costs run through the roof. But thanks to a well-run EDAC group [tracking operating systems and platforms], the industry has listened to the customers and the companies that support them and maintained a roadmap [that benefits everyone].
In all of these things — export control, piracy, interoperability — EDAC’s work shows that it behooves the companies in the consortium to cooperate on these issues.
Meanwhile, above all of this there is a bigger challenge. I think for EDAC, the world has changed. It’s important for us to ask: How can we become more important to your, our members, and more relevant again.
EDAC started back when I was at Synopsys. In those days, it was just between the EDA software folks. In the [ensuring years], the question’s been asked: Is EDA important? Of course, the answer is absolutely! The semiconductor industry would come to a grinding halt, would be brought to its knees, if EDA software was turned off.
Conversely, you have to look at chips today and see that EDA is not the be-all and end-all. IP is also critical, and embedded software, and packaging. They’re all critical, so now what’s really interesting is that this environment/ecosystem we are playing in is quite broad.
One good sign that EDAC understands that, a huge step in the right directions, is having Simon Segars on the Board of Directors. All these crazy chips being designed today? It’s not uncommon for IP to represent 70-to-80 percent of the chip.
At the next level is the amount of the software that has to be written, tested, and validated at all different levels. From microcode to embedded and application layers, all of this consumes far more resources than just the basic hardware design of the chip.
At the same time that I’m sensing all of this, everyone in EDAC seems to be saying something similar: Yes, we need to keep what we have [as an organization], but we also need to look at the bigger picture.
In the end, it’s about getting the chip to market with the EDA industry saying: Yes, we’re competitors and sometimes it’s pretty brutal, but we’re also owners of this big worldwide market, and we want to make sure that collectively there’s not another enemy out there that might limit our market.
WWJD: With all of this in mind, where do you focus your initial efforts at EDAC?
Bob Smith: Clearly there are a whole bunch of different angles of attack, and at this point I have way more questions than answers.
But I do know this is a healthy industry being driven by engineering. There has been marketing done in the past, and maybe even some today, to drive more [young] engineers to go into this industry. It seems to me that with everything from wireless technology to IoT, all of the glamor seems to be going to those industries.
Is that a problem for EDA? Perhaps. I don’t know the answer yet, but it is my suspicion that this in an area that EDAC needs to look at closely — creating enthusiasm for being in EDA or IP companies, creating the embedded stuff that’s under the hood.
WWJD: Are you working closely with Bob Gardner in taking over the reigns?
Bob Smith: Bob and I are working together on the transition. Not surprisingly, it’s like drinking from a fire hose and I need help. But Bob is more than willing to help and for that I’m grateful. Realistically, I don’t expect many big changes in the beginning months, and I certainly didn’t want to come in and upset the apple cart just prior to DAC. That would be wrong and not well advised.
WWJD: EDAC is one of the sponsors of DAC. Do you see yourself advocating for changes there?
Bob Smith: DAC is a complex event with several sponsors, including IEEE, ACM and EDAC. Among these groups there are all kinds of opinions and viewpoints, but certainly I think that everybody involves realizes that with change comes an opportunity to re-energize.
WWJD: It sounds like you’re looking at the big picture.
Bob Smith: Eventually, EDAC is all about how to include more people [in the discussion] who are participating in what creates a chip. Of course, IP is becoming part of it, but there are other important pieces that also need to be embraced as well.
The industry and the consortium need to grow the pie, to bring in all kinds of people, including the foundries. Today there’s an incredible amount of cooperation between EDA, IP vendors, and the foundries. I cannot develop a good piece of IP without the design rules [provided by the foundries]. Meanwhile, if you are a foundry, you’re highly dependent on what kind of IP is available, verified, etc.
WWJD: Given all of this evolution, is EDA Consortium too restrictive a name for the organization?
Bob Smith: The consortium today represents a big environment that’s growing even bigger, so maybe in the future the name will change. In the meanwhile, my focus is on building consensus among the groups in the environment and on making the consortium an even more visible [player] in the industry.
WWJD: Bob Gardner has raised the cultural zeitgeist in the consortium with his commitment to great music. Are you by any chance a musician as well?
Bob Smith: [laughing] I’m going to have to shift the emphasis in EDAC from music to wine.
WWJD: So given that you’re an award-winning vintner, the focus will now be on nothing less than great wine?
Bob Smith: [laughing] I think that might be a realistic expectation!