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.
DVCon: A moment in time
February 4th, 2016 by Peggy Aycinena
DVCon is the granddaddy of all design and verification conferences. It’s been housed annually in Silicon Valley since before the beginning of time, this year from February 29 to March 3 at the DoubleTree Hotel. As inevitable a part of the yearly conference cycle as DVCon may be, however, always remember that nothing is forever.
Learning and networking opportunities like DVCon only exist because a group of over-achieving volunteers continue to infuse the event with their special brand of energy and credibility. The conference goes on and on, because of the selfless dedication of the folks who carve time out of their busy professional lives to lead it — to solicit, vet and assemble the technical program, and to solicit, vet and assemble the exhibition hall (a unique ‘science fair’ sort of a deal that opens every afternoon after the technical sessions have wrapped up for the day).
But these kinds of volunteers do not always step forward and even when they do contribute at this level, their efforts often go unnoticed. Hence, when you think of DVCon, remember to be grateful to the team that brings it to you. Nothing lasts forever, even if DVCon seems likes it could. End of sermon.
Per Ambar Sarkar, the 2016 edition of DVCon will be better than ever. I asked him what will be particularly unique this year.
He said, “We will have an entire session dedicated to DFT, sort of a narrow topic but an indication that design is really getting hard at smaller geometries.”
“And what geometry triggered this sudden interest?” I asked.
Sarkar responded, “Although today 10 nanometers is cutting edge, the problems really started at 60 nanometers. Yes, 60 nanometers was a long time ago, but now with the majority of designers moving [to the very small geometries], DFT [design for test] has become a wider issue and of enough general interest for a whole session.”
“What will be the best of session this year?” I dared to ask.
Yatin Trivedi laughed and said, “You’ll have to be there to find out. But of course, it depends on the content, the presenter, and the interaction with the audience.
“Best is defined as different things for different people. Two different attendees will give you two different answers, even for the steering committee, which is why the organizers of DVCon are always looking for balance in the program. We want to offer something to everybody, not everything to somebody.”
“It’s also about what clicks for you,” Sarkar added. “It’s the hallmark of DVCon that we let the conference be self-selecting. Users are the drivers of the conference, so we try to pick the papers where there is the most interest. DFT is this year’s example.
“Time and again, we want design and verification to stand up together. There’s a lot of interest this year in emulation, also low power, and mixed-signal design – actually, all topics that have been of importance for some years.”
“What’s been the impact of DVCon Europe and DVCon India, launched several years ago, on DVCon U.S.?” I asked.
“We were concerned,” Sarkar said, “that the global conferences would [create] issues with our conference here in Silicon Valley, and at first we did see somewhat of a hit.
“But this year the numbers of papers submitted for the conference here is pretty close to what we had before the international conferences were launched. We see a lot of appetite out there for the content we offer at DVCon, we are definitely meeting the demand.”
“DVCon Europe had approximately 330 total attendees last year,” Yatin noted, “and DVCon India had 600-plus.
“One reason for such a large number of attendees in India is that DVCon India grew out of the SystemC User Group there, which already had 300-plus attendees. Out of that, we grew an entirely new conference.
“Now that we have two years of real data from both Europe and India, we can see the technical paper submissions to both conferences have more than doubled. Yet, we have not seen any degradation of quality in DVCon U.S. There is pent-up demand everywhere.
“However, we also know that some members of our user communities only submit papers to a particular regional conference if they can actually get to that conference. It’s best for them when there are no visa or expense issues [associated with attending].”
“Are the two of you still involved mentoring those international conferences?” I asked.
“The first year,” Yatin said, “U.S. DVCon helped a lot – people like Dennis Brophy [Mentor Graphics], Shishpal Rawat [Intel], and Lynn Bannister-Garibaldi [Accellera]. But now we are stepping back and letting the local communities lead their own conferences. Of course, we let them know we are here to help if they need us.”
“Also, the technical pie has grown,” Ambar added. “The problems are getting worse, and we are addressing them at each of the DVCon conferences, meeting the demand [across the various regions].”
“Just a few more questions about DVCon 2016,” I said. “Who’s giving the keynote, and who’s moderating the main panel?”
“Wally Rhines is giving the keynote,” Ambar. “Of course, we expect it to be data driven!”
Yatin said, “Jim Hogan will be moderating the panel on emulation, and Brian Bailey will be doing the formal verification panel.”
“Both are important topics for scaling up design and verification for today’s chips,” Ambar added.
Our conversation continued for a time, and then it was time to wrap up with one last important question: “When are guys going to retire for all of the responsibilities associated with leading DVCon? Doesn’t all of this effort wear you out after a while?”
Yatin chuckled and said, “Well, Dennis Brophy will be General Chair next year and I’ll only be Past Chair. Ambar, on the other hand, will continue in his role on the steering committee.”
Ambar also laughed.
“This is what we live and breathe for,” he said. “The opportunity to get together with others who enjoy the technology, people who enjoy working together. This is what makes it all worth while!”