September 24, 2007
Lessons Galore from Four on the Floor
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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The volume of news is up and to the right in these early weeks of the Fall Conference Season. It’s your call as to what’s important, but I’m picking Eric Filseth’s leap from Cadence to CiraNova, the Ponte/Blaze DFM contributions to the newly-announced Si2 DFM Coalition, Synopsys’ DesignWare System-Level Libraries, and Solido Designs’ newly announced STAT design suite, to Win, Place, Show, and Whatever Comes After Show for the news of note over these last several weeks. Of course, if you count yourself among the sibyls and seers, you might also choose the Microsoft-Cadence patent cross-licensing algorithm as the one that may morph the EDA industry
into something else. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, like many of you I’ve been hanging out at conferences over these last several weeks. After visiting CDNLive!, the FSA Suppliers Expo, and the EDA Tech Forum – all in Silicon Valley – I made my way to the East Coast to spend a day at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston. You’ll find a brief sketch of my impressions from those four conferences below, along with some personal conclusions abut what makes tech conferences succeed. Again, only my opinion. Only time will tell if these four conferences, or an others for that matter, continue to grow and/or thrive in the coming years.

Chapter 1: Four on the Floor - CDNLive, FSA Suppliers Expo, EDA Tech Forum & ESC

Chapter 2: Coming soon to a theater near you

Chapter 3: Filseth Takes over at CiraNova

Chapter 4: News of note


Chapter 1: Lessons Galore from Four on the Floor …

If you’re a tech-conference junky, these last several weeks offered up multiple opportunities to feed that addiction. Cadence’s User Conference – CDNLive!, – lit up the East End of the San Jose Convention Center from September 10th to 12th and included keynotes, sessions, 9 technical tracks, a lively exhibition hall showcasing 50+ companies, lotsa food, and a fabulous conference bag. The company said 700+ friends and followers from 180+ companies and 16 countries were on hand to participate in the celebration.

The stated thesis of the show was simple: Collaboration.

The unstated thesis was far more complex: Is the Vendor Specific User Conference (VSUC) the future face of confabs in EDA?

Monday morning’s opening at CDNLive! showcased Cadence President & CEO Mike Fister, as well as Cadence Technical Guru Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli. Proceeded by some downright floor-shaking house beat, Fister’s was a pump-it-up presentation that laid out the width and breadth of the Cadence offerings, culminating with an intro to the company’s new DFM uber-initiative. Although decked out in trendy all-black-sans-tie, Fister claimed to be long in the tooth and able to remember the Good Old Days, Holy Gosh, when WYSIWYG. Nowadays, he said, Cadence is co-opting the idea to offer DFM-aware WYDIWYG. He closed his lengthy keynote presentation by
proclaiming that Cadence is moving electronic design from the realm of art to that of science, and earned a solid round of applause from an almost-SRO crowd fresh off of their free breakfast in the ballroom next door. By the way, although Fister shared the stage last year with the San Jose Convention Center Fire Alarm, happily this year his was a strictly solo act.

Fister was followed on September 10th by Sangiovanni-Vincentelli. Reaching out to the right brain of his distinctly left-brain audience, Dr. S-V modestly announced, “My talk is different from Mike’s,” and proceeded to invoke Caravaggio, Picasso, SPICE, Italian racing cars, bifurcations in the market, expensive jewelry, teen-tech fashion, academia, money-making machines, physics, economics, parallel architecture, John Hennessey, ICs, IC content in cars, the millions of lines of code in embedded systems, software designers, hardware designers, concurrency, heterogeneity, ubiquitous electronic connectivity, privacy and the law, evolution, Jan Rabaey and synthetic biology.
He ended his comprehensive philosophical treatise by noting that optimists see electronic design moving from craft to science, but realists know “we’re still in the craft age.” Sangiovanni-Vincentelli challenged his audience to examine the first-principle implications of all that they do, to be bolder, smarter, more inspired, more innovative, and to look to higher levels of abstraction. His message: You have the power to reinvent your world. Seize that power. Carpe Diem.

Hard act to follow? You betcha, but time knows no master, so moving along …

By Wednesday, September 12th, not only was CDNLive! still going on under the Big Top in San Jose, but the Santa Clara Convention Center was simultaneously hosting the one-day FSA Suppliers Expo and the equally-one-day Mentor Graphics-driven EDA Tech Forum. Estimates of 2000 in attendance at the Expo down in the West End of the Santa Clara venue, and 1200 in attendance at the Forum up in the East End, were hard to confirm. But there were definitely lots of folks milling around in the hallways, with a fair number of them clearly attempting to be in two places at once.

When you initially walked into the Santa Clara Convention Center, the first question was what brain surgeon decided to have both of these events on the same day and in the exact same building? Was it cooperation or lack of communication between the folks driving the Suppliers Expo and the folks driving the EDA Tech Forum? That conundrum was compounded by the congenial announcement that came down from some building-wide PA system acknowledging that, yes indeed, there were two conferences going on and everyone was invited to check out the FSA Expo for starters, and then return to the Tech Forum venue for the fabulous 10 AM keynote.

Well that certainly resolved my dilemma, so I decided to follow those marching orders. I started in the East Lobby and registered easily for the Tech Forum. Then I crossed Check Point Charlie to the West Lobby to register and check out the sumptuous food cheerfully welcoming early arrivals to the FSA Expo. Then things bogged down a bit, as I had to stand in line with at least 40 other people to wait for the sole clerk processing Exhibitors/Speakers/Press registrations. Frustrating because the other 10 clerks for the Pre-Registered sat idle – their lines were empty.

Finally, however, we all made it onto the show floor and things were great there. Very neat. Very tidy. Very upbeat. A decent amount of traffic, and everyone relaxed and ready to share their info. Scads of foundries, plus a huge dollop of fabless and IP companies. All told, it looked far better and more complete than last year’s FSA Expo down in San Jose, so kudos to all involved for the facelift on the event. There was also a lengthy panel about IP going on in the nearby ballroom during that first hour, moderately attended by the look of things, because it seemed the real action at the Suppliers Expo was going to be out on the show floor for the bulk of the day.

After I finished my tour of the West End, I packed up my badge, my bag, my numerous press kits, and a chotchky or two and made my way back to the principle theater on the East End for the EDA Tech Forum 10 AM keynote. There, surrounded by the largest number of palm trees I’ve ever seen on a single high-tech convention stage, Tech Forum Editor-in-Chief Paul Dempsey pleasantly welcomed everybody to the show and introduced the speaker, NASA’s Dr. Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator of the Mars Exploration Program, an adventure personified by two robotic rovers named "Spirit" and "Opportunity.”

Oh my gosh – what a fabulous keynote! With at least 500 people in the audience perched on the edge of their seats, Squyres ran us through the history, design, simulation, launch, journey, landing, control, exploration, and overall ups and downs of the plucky Mars rover companions that are still, 3 years into the program, patiently working away at an ever-expanding agenda of tasks sent to them from their masters at JPL, extending day-by-day their now-legendary 60-day mission to explore the surface of the most forlorn planet in the neighborhood for as long as those crazy robot twins can last.

Squyres’ talk was compelling, particularly as there had been breaking news that very morning that the duststorm-afflicted “Spirit” had been rejuvenated after its life-giving solar panels had been swept clean by the very winds that had deposited the photon-forbidding dust coat in the first place. Kudos to the folks at the EDA Tech Forum for hosting such a talk. Great speaker. Hugely interesting topic. Profound implications for both science and engineering. And a springboard to follow-on conversations on a host of other topics normally commandeered by theologians, philosophers, and artificial intelligence aficionados.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.


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