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 What Would Joe Do?

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Costello & Carlson: Buckle your seat belt …

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014


Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away the EDA Empire began and quickly coalesced into several big players and a band of plucky startups constantly attempting to compete and stay viable.

Back in that halcyon era, Rick Carlson and Dave Millman decided to get those startups to pull as one, to try to keep the industry open and progressing, to protect the EDA industry as a place where new ideas could see the light of day and offerings from small companies could compete on a level playing field against those from the big players.

To do that, Rick and Dave came up with the idea for a consortium of Independent Design Automation Companies, IDAC, and put out the word to like-minded colleagues that this new group would benefit everybody. Creating IDAC proved more difficult than they had hoped, so letting pragmatism rule the day they approached Joe Costello for help, then CEO of Cadence, even though that meant working with one of the ‘big guys’ and hence, EDAC came to fruition.

To hear the rest of the story per Rick, recounted in a phone call in December, click here.

To hear the story recounted by Joe Costello, read below. I spoke with both Joe and Rick together on a conference call in mid-January.


Revolution from within …

Joe began: “Rick told me he’s concerned that in his recent conversation with you about the history of EDAC, he may have sounded too harsh. I said that’s not possible, because the truth about the industry is quite harsh. Just thinking about it makes my blood boil.


IDAC: What EDAC might have been

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014


Before there was EDAC, there was IDAC. But before there was IDAC, there was just DA – Design Automation without Community or Consortium. The EDA industry consisted of a small number of large companies controlling the conversation, and a larger number of smaller companies who thought that if they linked hands they could do it better. It was Rick Carlson and Dave Millman who decided in 1986 to bring that group of small companies together to create IDAC, which stood for Independent Design Automation Companies.

According to Carlson, speaking on a recent phone call, “We wanted to get the small independent companies to work together in a cooperative way to deliver a solution, a flow, that was equal to or better than the big companies. And because even then, the leading-edge algorithms always came out of these small startups, we thought we had good solutions that the customers would appreciate.

“But there was a deeper, more fundamental issue that we hoped to solve by creating IDAC and that was how to grow the industry and foster innovation, whether in through a startup or an established player.”

Things didn’t work out exactly like Carlson and Millman had hoped for.


Smart Grid: DATE, DAC, IoT

Thursday, January 16th, 2014


With this week’s news of Google’s $3+ billion purchase of NEST, the connected home, the Internet of Things [IoT], and the Smart Grid are moving to an even higher level of public awareness. The European design automation community has showcased that awareness for some time at DATE, with multiple sessions each year addressing issues related to the optimization of power distribution and usage at all levels of abstraction within the digital ecosystem. This year is no different. Sessions in Dresden in late March at DATE 2014 include:

* Green Computing Systems: Design experiences in industrial or academic projects with high industrial relevance or high environmental impact, chaired by Boston University’s Ayse Coskun and University of Bologna’s Martino Ruggiero.

* Automotive Systems and Smart Energy Systems: Design experiences for automotive systems, smart energy systems, energy scavenging and harvesting for embedded systems, chaired by University of Trento’s Davide Brunelli and NXP’s Bart Vermeulen.

* Cyber-Physical Systems: Modeling, design, architecture, optimization and analysis of CPS — chaired by Braunschweig Technical University’s Rolf Ernst and MIT’s Anuradha Annaswamy


2014: Conference Calendar Update

Thursday, January 9th, 2014


The New Year has arrived and with it a chance to reset the calendar for 2014. Following are only some of the conferences on the horizon. It’s interesting to look closely at the list to see which conferences are in direct scheduling conflict with each other.

* ASP-DAC 2014

Asia & South Pacific Design Automation Conference
Singapore – January 20-23

* DesignCon 2014

“Where the Chip Meets the Board”
Santa Clara – January 28-31


DAC: Look what the [cool] cats dragged in …

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013


Kid you not, it’s only five months and a week until DAC comes around again. How can that be? Weren’t we just in Austin yesterday? Well, there you go. That darned sun keeps rising and setting, rising and setting, and now we’re slipping into the New Year and racing from there straight on to DAC. In San Francisco.

Wow, San Francisco? You mean that place where a single helping of French Toast served up at your customer breakfast will cost you $43, before tax and gratuity? That place where if you need just one small additional spot to light up your booth, it’s going to cost you a cool five grand to get it installed? You mean that place where hip young techies spend their nights and weekends, but spend their work weeks 40 miles south where they grind away pushing the envelope, so your mobile device can be cooler and cheaper and more beautiful? You mean San Francisco which, more than a place on the map, is a state of mind? One that has nothing to do with the state of mind that shows up for DAC.

Here’s an idea. Let’s change that. Let’s fix that state of mind. Why can’t DAC be so cool that those young techies will call in sick and stay in town on the days when DAC’s at Moscone next year? Why can’t design automation be so compelling that the generation that’s usually riding their big private commuter buses an hour south to work will show up instead at Moscone on June 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th and beg to be let in, beg to be allowed to see what the future of hardware really is.


Mentor acquires Oasys: Hitting a Home Run with Synthesis

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013


Who says the last week before the holidays needs to be dull: Mentor Graphics has just announced it’s acquiring Oasys Design Systems.

* The Money: “Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.”

There’s a surprise.

* The Technology: “Oasys RealTime is a next-generation RTL physical synthesis technology [that] enables faster turnaround times and the capacity to synthesize the entire top level of the largest designs, all while being physically aware for better correlation with physical design. Its ‘placement first’ synthesis methodology and integrated RTL floorplanning capability enable physical backend issues to be analyzed and addressed at RTL stages before hand-off to the back-end groups for physical design implementation.”

Turns out the conversation [read “innovation”] in EDA around synthesis, P&R and whack-a-mole is still underway.

* Mentor’s Interest in Synthesis: “This acquisition aligns with Mentor’s goal to deliver a best-in-class digital implementation platform to address the performance, power and area challenges at advanced nodes.”



Jasper DA: What the Future Holds

Thursday, December 12th, 2013


At a recent tech conference in Silicon Valley, I had a chat with a long-time EDA player; let’s call him Elmer. The conversation came around to Jasper Design Automation and conjectures as to what’s ahead for the company. I recounted a small compare and contrast.

At the 2008 February EDAC CEO Forecast Panel, Jasper CEO Kathryn Kranen was on stage along with Synopsys CEO Aart de Geus, Mentor CEO Wally Rhines, and then-Cadence CEO Mike Fister. During the panel discussion, Kranen criticized the Big EDA companies on the panel for their ‘all you can eat’ business strategies – the big companies providing less-than-best-in-class point tools for free to customers who purchased their anchor products, which Kranen said made it nearly impossible for the smaller companies to compete.


Career Girls: Does anyone really know what time it is?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013


Last week, I had a chance to interview the founder of Career Girls, a YouTube channel chock-a-block with 220+ video interviews of successful women talking about how they got started in their careers, what educational background they needed for those careers, and what features and/or people in their lives helped to bring them to where they are today.

All good stuff, but then this week Mary Barra was named CEO of GM – yeah, yeah, you’ve already heard – the first woman CEO of a major American automobile manufacturer. Outgoing CEO Dan Akerson is quoted as saying, “Mary was not picked because of her gender or political correctness, [but because] Mary’s one of the most gifted executives I’ve met in my career.”

So, it’s a meritocracy after all? If that’s the case here in 2013, do we actually still need something like to encourage our daughters to be all they can be? Well, despite Detroit’s Mary Barra, and the likes of Meg Whitman, Marissa Meyer, and Sheryl Sandberg here in Silicon Valley, there are still, according to some studies, very few women anywhere near to the top in big business. And we need look no farther than EDA to prove it … again.


CINO: solves Big R&D Talk, but Little ROI Walk

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013


When it comes to high-tech, it’s not just those who hang out in Silicon Valley whose sacrifices at the Alter of Innovation must be generously funded and then widely touted. Captains of high-tech industries everywhere must spend oodles on R&D and then brag about it, year in and year out, regularly releasing their R&D budget numbers so people (particularity stockholders) can sense the true scale of the organization’s commitment to the Great Cult of Innovation.

It turns out, however, it’s easy to talk the talk, but much tougher to walk the walk.

It turns out – even though of late, companies like IBM have put up annual growth numbers in the range of 40% and Apple’s have been almost double that – over the last 40 years, actual growth rates in high-tech have been measurably less than growth rates across non-high-tech industries. And this, despite the fact that R&D budgets in high-tech have persistently been 75% bigger, as a percentage of revenue, than R&D budgets for their non-high-tech sector counterparts.

Are you following this? In other words, the ROI on R&D in high-tech – the amount of growth that has resulted from all of that R&D investment – has been shockingly low, and it’s not just because various markets for high-tech goods are saturated.


Hybrid ATPG/LBIST: Mentor says 1 + 1 = 1.3

Thursday, November 21st, 2013


Mentor Graphics has just posted a very interesting white paper on their website that discusses the advantages of combining ATPG and logic BIST to produce improved test coverage: Improve Logic Test with a Hybrid ATPG/BIST Solution, by Ron Press and Vidya Neerkundar.

The paper’s a good read for several reasons. There’s a brief, but accessible explanation of both ATPG and logic BIST, and then an equally accessible explanation of the benefits of combining the two to create a hybrid test approach.

This week, I spoke with Mentor’s Steve Pateras and Gene Forte about the paper and asked why, at this late date in the development of ATPG [automatic test pattern generation] and BIST [built-in self test], the paper starts with basic explanations of these two seemingly well-established test strategies.


S2C: FPGA Base prototyping- Download white paper

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