Thursday, May 14th, 2015
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.
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Board design is evolving quickly: The vendors who sell CAD tools to the people who design boards are working hard these days to keep up with the changing needs of their customers. That’s the unqualified conclusion I came away with after a number of phone calls over the last several weeks with the four of the biggest companies in the PCB design-tool industry: Zuken, Mentor Graphics, Cadence, and Altium.
These conversations were not only interesting, they were inspiring as well. The folks I talked to have been in the industry for a long time, and have a seasoned and intelligent understanding of the evolution of board designers and the tools that support their efforts. Here are the people I spoke with for this lengthy article:
Zuken: Bob Potock, VP Marketing; Humair Mandavia, Executive Director, SOZO Center
Mentor Graphics: Dave Wiens, PCB division business development
Cadence: Hemant Shah, Product Management Group Director
Altium: Dave Reed, Director of Product Marketing
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
If there’s something missing in your personal or professional knowledge of Moore’s Law, you should have spent 5 hours at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View on April 17, 2015, although even then you might not have learned anything new. For people in technology, seriously, what more is there to know?
The ‘law’, penned by Gordon Moore and published in an Electronics article on April 19, 1965, was based on his many years’ experience in the nascent-to-ferocious semiconductor industry, and has since been interpreted, re-interpreted, mis-interpreted, and zealously lionized – both the law and the man – over the last 50 years. Which brings us back to April 17th and the 3-part program at the CHM.
Monday, April 13th, 2015
Quarterly, as many of you know, the Market Statistics Service of the EDA Consortium reports out on the health of the industry. Quarterly, as well, Mentor CEO Dr. Walden Rhines makes himself available to the Press, to comment and elaborate on the EDAC results.
And so it was last Friday that I had a chance, yet again, to speak by phone with Rhines, always a conversation to look forward to. If you want to know how the EDA industry did in Q4_2014, you can scroll to the bottom of this blog. If you want to read a paraphrased snapshot of a wide-ranging discussion with Wally Rhines, however, it follows here.
WWJD – This debriefing thing must be quite tedious. How’s it going, and how’s EDA doing?
Rhines – This is only my second Press meeting, so not bad. The EDA industry [booked] record revenues for the fourth quarter of 2014, and the entire year, and showed a substantially higher rate of return than the semiconductor industry. The industry’s doing very well, with hiring up 6 percent on the year, and strong reporting from companies in IP and physical design and verification. There is some weakness in the numbers out of Japan, but they were offset by strong results in the PacRim and the Americas.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
Frank Schirrmeister, Group Director of Product Marketing for the System and Software Realization Group at Cadence, had just returned from DATE in Grenoble when we spoke several weeks ago about the philosophy and technology behind Cadence’s emulation business unit. First, however, we spoke about Grenoble.
I asked Frank if DATE had been a success this year and he said, “Absolutely, yes. It was very interesting as it has transformed from a generic show into more of a technical conference. So the focus now is on the sessions.
“Particularly interesting for me, I was chair for a session about tools for the IoT. Jan Rabaay from U.C. Berkeley, always a good speaker, gave a great presentation on wearable trends. NXP also participated, talking about the connected car, and ARM spoke about their embed OS for the edge nodes. Also among those topics, we talked about debug. It was all very good.”
Having enjoyed DATE many times myself, I asked Frank what he thought distinguished the conference from DAC. He said, “First of all, DATE was in Grenoble, which is always a great destination. Then, of course, at DATE you see the European point for view.
“For instance, I had a presentation for my session regarding automotive issues, and included material of interest to our customers in Japan and Europe. The share of semiconductors in cars from those markets focuses more on the mission-critical pieces in the design. The focus is different for automotive customers in North America, where it centers more on mobile connectivity within the vehicle.”
All of this being very interesting, I turned the conversation to the real reason for our phone call: To allow Frank to clarify emulation at Cadence.
Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Last October, I had a lively conversation with Tanner EDA President Greg Lebsack. He was enthused about the company’s tools, technology innovations, and future. For that reason, it seemed surprising to hear that Tanner was acquired by Mentor Graphics. A close reading of the March 3, 2015, press announcement suggests Mentor intends to continue to support Tanner’s products despite a possible overlap between some of the tools of the two companies, fully acknowledged in the press release.
Mentor Graphics today announced it has acquired the business assets of Tanner EDA, a leading tool provider for the design, layout and verification of analog/mixed-signal and MEMS integrated circuits. With this acquisition, more designers will now have access to Tanner’s AMS products based on the strength and reach of the Mentor Graphics global sales organization. All Tanner EDA products as well as existing AMS products from Mentor will continue to be available and supported.
A quote from Greg Lebsack was included: “Tanner EDA has built an outstanding reputation as the price performance leader for the design, layout and verification of AMS ICs, MEMS and IoT devices. We are excited to join Mentor Graphics where we can leverage their extensive technology leadership and global footprint. We view this transaction as very positive for Tanner EDA’s customers, employees and the industry as a whole.”
I have no doubt that President Lebsack backed the sentiments attributed to him, but it’s hard to understand how melding the tools from Tanner into the Mentor armamentum is good for Tanner’s customers, or the industry as a whole.
Monday, March 23rd, 2015
The last time I spoke at length with OneSpin’s Dave Kelf, the conversation was all about the Cloud. This week we picked up where we left off, talking about the Cloud, but then moved on to the Wild West. Dave is quite taken with the idea that the current situation in EDA is on par with the Wild West, that mythical place where a lack of structure and entrenched establishment allows true innovators to run
wild free. First however, we caught up with OneSpin and the Cloud.
Dave said, “These days, engineers cannot afford to stick their necks out. Neither their managers nor their corporate leadership want to take risks, and the engineers know it. Although engineers realize moving design to the Cloud makes sense, when they try to explain that to their bosses or corporate lawyers it often leads to legal discussions around the problems of having [propriety] IP leave the company’s server.
“At OneSpin, however, we are able to eliminate these issues by generating abstract verification proof problems that go to the Cloud for computation without the transfer of IP or even [identifiable markers], assuring our customers that the process is very secure. Moving to the Cloud means design teams will have access to infinite computing, with huge verification jobs running simultaneously.”
Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Given how much press is being heaped onto the whole wearable/IoT fad, it was refreshing to hear somebody speak in no-nonsense terms about one way to make it all work. Tuesday morning at Wearables TechCon in Santa Clara, an incredibly poised Rutgers undergrad named Victor Kaiser-Pendergrast gave a one-hour talk exhibiting a specific use case involving both Google Glass and Android Wear [your not-Apple watch].
The motivation for his demo was to highlight the fact that although some apps are perfectly suited to Google Glass [e.g., navigation] and others are perfectly suited to Android Wear [e.g., list selection], there are a host of apps which are best implemented using both technologies.
Shooting a clay target, for example: The target is displayed on Glass and you aim by moving your head. “But I don’t want to smash Glass on my face to fire,” Kaiser-Pendergrast said, “because that dislodges Glass just enough to cause a miss.” For shooting clay pigeons, therefore, it’s better to tap or swipe Wear on your wrist to guarantee an accurate hit on the target.
From that demo, Kaiser-Pendergrast moved to the problem at the core of his talk: Using Google Glass, Android Wear, and as it turns out, an Android Handset to order a cheese sandwich from a local deli.
Monday, March 9th, 2015
Dr. Martin Vlach will be hosting a Celebration of Life to honor the life of his late father, Dr. Jiri Vlach, on Saturday, March 14th. Both father and son are uniquely renowned for their contributions to various technologies at the center of semiconductor design.
Interestingly, when fathers are accomplished, the sons often suffer, fearing their own accomplishments may not match the track records laid down by their father before them. When exceptions occur they are well worth noting, and certainly that is the case with Martin Vlach, Mentor Graphic’s Chief Technologist for Analog-Mixed Signal, and his father, Jiri Vlach, until his passing last month, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Thursday, March 5th, 2015
What if I were to tell you that I attended a conference where people were really excited to be there, where the exhibit hall was filled with a crush of people making their way from booth to booth, talking with exhibitors and exchanging business cards madly. A conference where the South of the exhibit hall was dominated by Synopsys, the East by Cadence, and the West by Mentor, and where at the happiest hour, libations and snacks flowed freely in a sub-set of the booths and the whole exhibit hall became even more animated.
What if I told you the technical portion of the conference included a variety of content — touching at times on autos, wearables, the IoT, IP, standards, and verification — excellent panel discussions, well-attended poster sessions, detailed tutorials, and a keynote from the CEO of the largest company in the industry delivered to a packed, SRO ballroom full of designers, engineers, and engineering managers.
Finally, what if I told you the highly capable staff of MP Associates was running the whole thing with their usual aplomb, attending to details as diverse as registration, sound systems, lunch tickets, speaker logistics, and awards presentations.