March 24, 2008
DATE 08: Musings von München
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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* The world is changing. In fact, it’s changing so fast it makes your head spin.
Synopsys is buying
Synplicity; Cadence is buying
Chip Estimate; Magma is buying
Sabio Labs; Mentor Graphics is investing in
Vietnam National University to promote design expertise. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to read into all of this the fact that positions in system-level design, IP, analog design, and the global economy are all critical to the survival of the EDA industry.

Meanwhile in Munich, amidst these and other news developments, the 2008 Conference on
Design, Automation & Test in Europe has come and gone. Though perhaps quieter and less ‘boothed’ than in years past, DATE has again showcased world class technologists from academia and industry, futuristic ideas, schema for R&D cooperation and coordination across Nation States and technologies, smart cars, embedded systems for securing your life, your electronics, and your ideas, and a plethora of concepts for improving models, synthesis, simulation, power, scaling, test, multi-cores, multi-threads, and reconfigurable everything. Yep, DATE is indeed the European counterpoint to DAC. And yep, the survival of both of these conferences is hanging in the balance.
So, have another
brezel und bier, and enjoy the world as it morphs before our very eyes.


Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, en einer Konferenz …

* With apologies to Goethe: “Two (or more) souls do, alas, live in one conference” at DATE. There are software souls and hardware souls, but they’re all system guys at DATE. There are individual Member State souls, but they’re all pan-Europeans at DATE. There are academic souls and industry souls, but they’re all technologists at DATE. And there are regional souls – European, North & South American, Middle Eastern, Asian – but they’re all citizens of the global economy at DATE. And that’s not to say that all of these souls get along, but neither are some all evil or some all good in the
Faustian sense.

Instead, at DATE, far more than at DAC, you see all of these souls struggle with the conundrum of maintaining their own individual agendas, while simultaneously attempting to pull with the whole. But then, I’m an optimist and choose not to see the divisive clouds on the horizon – whether it be software overwhelming hardware, industry overwhelming academia’s commitment to basic research, private company conferences overwhelming industry-wide conferences, or one geography overwhelming another. Go ahead, have yet another
brezel und bier. If there’s to be war, let’s at least enjoy the peace until it erupts.


Tuesday at DATE 08 …

It took some smarts to get from the hotels in downtown Munich
out to the ginormous ICM Messe Munich conference center, east of town, in time for the opening session on Tuesday, March 11th. If you took the S-bahn, it took too long. If you took the U-bahn, you probably overshot the mark and ended up at Messestadt Ost, not Messestadt West, and had to walk a billion lonely miles back to the ICM main entrance. It was cold and windy, albeit somewhat sunny on Tuesday, so that walk could be punishing. Far better to know exactly how to get to DATE in the first place. Clearly many did, as this was not the first time at the conference for most in attendance. How do I know? Because so many
people complained to me that it was oh-so-quiet this year compared to years past. But they were wrong. There were 4700 people at DATE 08, virtually the identical number of people who attended DATE 07 in Nice.

There were approximately 80 companies exhibiting at DATE in Munich, compared to upwards of 150 in the Before Time. Just under half of the booths were located in the cavernous lobby of the building, while the remaining booths were set up in the front half of Hall B – the back half of Hall B being a bit empty. Clearly, neither that layout nor the number of companies exhibiting actually impacts the progress of technology, but it is a comment on what folks may be thinking about the ROI associated with the costs of conferences.

A number of companies – both European and otherwise – told me that the costs of DATE are too high and if forced to make a choice, they’ll opt for the (slightly) less expensive DAC. However, others told me that using DATE, or any conference, to its maximum potential has never been rocket science. You and your marketing/sales team need to figure out well in advance which key customers will/might come, and then plan your space and your budget accordingly. Thus, it would appear that those exhibitors who planned intelligently for Munich were neither disappointed with DATE, nor unwilling to return next year (April 2009 in Nice). Those companies told me they were able to
develop qualified leads in Munich, and were well satisfied with the ROI of exhibiting there.

Of course, this is all about the World of Exhibitors at DATE. There is another world at DATE – the World of Technical Sessions:

* The opening session at DATE is always uplifting, particularly if you’re in your seat on time and fully wired-up on espresso. DATE 08 General Chair
Donatella Scuito, from Politecnico di Milano, welcomed attendees and described the week’s program – developed by 425 Program Committee members and 50 Executive Committee Members (a far greater percentage of whom are academics when compared to the EC for DAC, by the way). If you’re excited by a conference chockfull of utterly fascinating topics, Professor Scuito’s descriptions were fabulous. Program Chair
Zebo Peng, from Linköping University, explained the time-tested process that resulted in the 198 papers on the program, chosen from 839 submissions – 50% from Europe, 30% from the U.S., and 20% from Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Peng also noted a 50% increase in submissions in the area of embedded software for this year’s conference. [Not surprising, given that
Embedded World in Nürnberg earlier in March showcased 800 exhibitors for 17,000 (!!) attendees.]

Next on stage,
Georges Gielen, from KU Leuven, introduced a series of award recipients, including the 2008 European Design and Automation Association (EDAA) Lifetime Achievement Award winner, U.C. Berkeley’s
Ernest Kuh. Professor Kuh was honored for “pioneering work spanning a broad spectrum of topics in EDA physical design and circuit design [as well as] fundamental contributions [with great impact] in the EDA research community and industry.” Kuh received a very warm welcome when he came up to receive his award.
Bernard Courtois honored numerous DATE Fellows:
Rudy Lauwereins, Herman Beke, Volker Dueppe, Peter Marwedel, Wolfgang Rosenstiel, and
Gabriele Saucier. Lauwereins was also honored with the IEEE Computer Society Outstanding Contribution Award, presented by
Yervant Zorian. Zorian presented, as well, the IEEE TTTC medal for Lifetime Contribution to
Jack Arabian.

The keynotes during the opening session were delivered up by EPFL’s Professor
Giovanni De Micheli, previously of Stanford, and Thales CTO
Dominique Vernay. De Micheli gave a wide-ranging talk about the social good that’s to be had by applying a broader view of design automation to emerging micro and nanotechnologies, and system-level design. By defining “audacious goals” for the technology – working to break language barriers, to eliminate energy dependence, to monitor and protect a fragile environment, to implement early warning systems for natural disasters, to further lab-on-chip work, and make progress in synthetic biology – he argued researchers will be pushed to solve today’s
thorny power, manufacturing, and materials problems, which will in turn, attract the best young researchers into the field.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.


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