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#52DAC Day Zero: Ten Astonishing Bits

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

 

Omygosh, DAC’s here again! Has it already been a year? Apparently yes, and apparently once again the Design Automation Conference is going to be great. And how does one know? Because once again the DAC Executive Committee is great, lead in 2015 by the more-than-capable Anne Cirkel (Mentor’s own). Everything from academia to industry, from networking to hard-core learning (read, ‘Nerd Alert!)’, from food and libation to product announcements: DAC is always special.

So today is Sunday, which in the world of DAC is a lovely day full of workshops for those interested in the newest, and social opportunities for those interested in the noshing and nattering. Sunday is also lovely, because it’s a moment for astonishing realizations, and this year’s 52nd DAC Sunday is no different. Here are my 10 favs:

10 – Per Stanford’s Philip Wong speaking in Workshop 2, carbon nanotubes are smooth which helps with mobility-restricting surface roughness and band-gap issues. Also CNTs are no longer “a bowl of spaghetti” when manufactured. Now they’re 99% orderly and courteously aligned. (read, ‘Is asking about the other 1% a legitimate question?’)

9 – EDA’s own Karen Bartleson of SNPS fame, has not only just completed 2 years of distinguished service as President of IEEE’s worldwide Standards Organization, she’s now been nominated to serve as President of the Whole Enchilada; Bartleson’s running for President of the IEEE itself. In a word, Wow!

8 – Design Automation Summer School, for those who have not been keeping up (read, ‘me’), is no longer a week-long confab in July. These days Summer School is a one-day event on DAC Sunday. Still highly attended and full of pithy content for The Young & The Restless in EDA.

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Tortuga Logic: Expect the Unexpected

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

 

If you’re a Spanish speaker, the first image that comes to mind when someone says tortuga is a slow-moving animal in a shell. Alternatively, if you’re a kid at heart and love pirates, the first image that comes to mind when someone says Tortuga is Johnny Depp sashaying around the Caribbean channeling Keith Richards.

If you work in EDA and/or use EDA tools, however, now a new image should come to mind when someone says tortuga: The image of a secure, buttoned-down design that’s impervious to harm, malicious intent, or even too much eye-liner (for the Depp/Richards fans out there).

Because a new company has just come up over the horizon: Tortuga Logic.

Built on IP developed by like-minded thinkers at U.C. San Diego and Santa Barbara, Tortuga hopes to change the way the world deals with security issues — which, by the way, is an even bigger problem today than it was back when Captain Jack Sparrow was wreaking havoc on the Spanish Main.

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EDAC’s Perfect Storm: Cataclysmic Changes, Music to Wine

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.

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PCB Tools, Part 1: Zuken, Mentor, Cadence, Altium

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

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Moore’s Law @ 50: Will it never end?

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.

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Dr. Rhines: EDA’s charm & intelligence reflected in Q4_2014

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.

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Cadence Emulation: Schirrmeister articulates Both Sides of the Equation

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.

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M&A: Mentor triumphs, Tanner customers not so much?

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.

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Wild West: OneSpin’s Dave Kelf rides shotgun on SystemC

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.”

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Glass, Handset, Wear: The $2000 Cheese Sandwich at Wearables TechCon

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.

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