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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Art Critic Robert Hughes produced a difficult documentary in 1980 that assaulted the mind and eye with images and ideas associated with modern art, the visual arts of the 20th century. Now 35 years later and well into the 21st century, Hughes’ concept of things that are both new and shocking is more compelling than ever. This little essay is peppered with a few things which I think encapsulate The Shock of the New circa 2015.
Let’s start with the upcoming Trip to Mars. Last month it was announced that 100 people had been chosen from a field of 200,000 candidates worldwide to start to prepare for a one-way trip to Mars, slated to launch in 2024. Come’on, really? A one-way trip to Mars? It may sound like a way-cool nod to someone’s pluck and courage to be chosen for the trip, not to mention the technological tour de force needed to get the vehicle and passengers there — but do we honestly want to admire anybody whose death wish includes a long freaky trip to a planet that cannot support any of the life forms we’re aware of, including us? Really?
DVCon is coming to San Jose from March 2nd to 5th. If you have any doubts about going, you should spend 12 minutes watching my interview [YouTube link below] with DVCon General Chair Yatin Trivedi of Synopsys and Technical Program Committee Chair Ambar Sarkar of Paradigm Works. The sheer joy these two gentlemen and their team are bringing to the work of organizing the upcoming event is totally evident there. And as they explain so well, these days that joy is not just limited to DVCon San Jose.
Now Yatin and Ambar, and many like-minded volunteers, are spreading the good works of the conference around the globe with DVCon Europe and DVCon India, newly launched companion events that debuted in 2014. Both were sell-out successes, according to Ambar and Yatin, and will now provide two additional opportunities each year for design and verification engineers to network, learn, and contribute. An impressive outcome of the efforts of so many, as noted enthusiastically in the interview.