DAC 2007 – Perceptions of Primacy in Pleasantville

Following the hour with GM, I ran to an hour with IP. The 3 o’clock Pavilion Panel on the DAC Exhibition Hall was assembled to answer the question: “Just Who is Providing the IP?” Happily, Star IP provider ARM was on the panel along with one of its Star IP customers, STMicroelectronics. ARM’s Mike Muller and ST’s Paul Bromley launched into what turned out to be an authentically unscripted conversation about IP, who provides it, and when and where and why.

Sitting between them on the Panel Pavilion couch, and adding to the discussion, was Design & Reuse Center’s Gabriele Saucier, a last-minute addition to the panel because of my concerns (as moderator) that it’s not a ‘panel’ but an ‘advertorial’ when the conversation is only between a vendor and his customer. And, thanks to some quick work on the part of ARM’s Lauren Sarno, Madame Saucier was added to the conversation just 2 days prior to DAC. Meanwhile, as I was moderating this panel and not typing during the discussion, the following summary of the conversation is based on impressions more than notes. I’m paraphrasing here what I believe to have been the high points of this hour-long give-and-take.

ARM is a Big Guy in the IP industry, but they acknowledge they still have ways to grow and improve. They do not pretend to be able to answer everyone’s IP needs, but in the areas that they do participate, they insist their IP is the best – well validated and vouchsafed by a huge organization. Nonetheless, a company the size of ST may not always turn to ARM, or any other third-party provider for that matter, to meet all of their IP needs. They have lots of internal IP that they can use to speed up projects through the magic of design reuse. ST, however, is not as adept as they would like to be at cataloging and mining all of their internal IP. Hence, they may actually be turning to third-party vendors for IP that will be supported by an external provider because it’s a quicker end to a means than trying to work internally to find inaccessible IP, which even when located may not be adequately documented.

Meanwhile, despite ARM’s mantra that IP should only be bought from large, proven vendors, the Design&Reuse site includes IP offerings from over 400 different vendors – including some in China and India – and it’s still a bit of the Wild West out there when it comes to IP. ARM is not pleased that there are so many vendors because it does not help to improve the unfortunate impression among potential customers that IP comes with problems or from fly-by-night organizations. ST, on the other hand, is not committed to the ‘Fewer is Better’ IP vendor proposition. Currently, they work with dozens of vendors to meet their third-party IP requirements. Despite other disagreements, ARM, ST, and D&R are all in accordance that standards are the path to Nirvana when it comes to IP.

Once this conversation got rolling, we could have continued for another hour or two, but between 4 PM and 7 PM on DAC Monday, the options for the overly-caffeinated were too complex to stay put for that long.

Starting at 4:30 in the UPF booth in the Exhibition Hall – manned by folks from Accellera, Synopsys, Mentor, and Magma – there was champagne and some really nice hors d’oeuvres. Things were just getting started there when I dashed by, but it looked like it was going to be fun. There was also food and beverage, and potentially IP Nirvana as well, to be had at the SPIRIT Consortium meeting upstairs in the Convention Center starting at 6. Again, mine was a drive-by visit, but first impressions said the SPIRIT folks were expecting well over 100 people to show up for presentations from 13 different companies demonstrating their successes-to-date working with the SPIRIT IP-XACT standard.

Amidst this overlap of UPF and SPIRIT, there was a CEDA lecture and networking event, also on the 2nd floor of the Convention Center. CEDA, the Council on EDA, is an IEEE-sponsored organization and their Monday evening event included a talk by University of Washington’s Richard Shi based on his IEEE Transactions on CAD Best Paper, “On Symbolic Model Order Reduction.” Again, I only ran by long enough to say hello to a few folks as the event was getting into gear. Meanwhile, also at the very same time on the 2nd floor of the convention center, Sun and Synopsys were hosting their Annual University Reception. Sun’s Shrenik Mehta, currently Accellera Chair, was busy greeting the many academics who were arriving for that early evening event when I stopped in. Again, I was only there briefly, but the next day Shrenik told me that the talk given during the evening by U.C. Berkeley’s Jan Rabaey was outstanding.

Okay – time check here. UPF, SPIRIT, CEDA, University Reception all co-located and concurrent, but did you know Si2 was also having a meeting at the same time, also on the 2nd floor of the Convention Center? Gosh – with all of these people, meetings, and topics, who was it that was suggesting that DAC and/or EDA is dull or dying? Hmm. Guess they weren’t in San Diego between 4 and 7 and Monday, June 4th.

And Monday was not over yet. For those lucky enough to be on the guest list, Mentor Graphics was hosting their annual Press & Analyst dinner at the Coronado Hotel across the water on Coronado Island. By car or taxi, this is about a 15-minute ride from the Convention Center and for those who suspected the dinner would be delish, they were not disappointed. Mentor spiced up the cocktail hour with presentations from customers UMC, MIPS and TI, and then served a sumptuous dinner, with equally sumptuous wine, rounded out with a performance from a black-light dance team. Mentor’s festivities wrapped up at 10, leaving time (unbelievably) for one more event before the evening was through.

Virage Logic hosted a late-evening Brandy & Cigar event back in downtown San Diego at the Salomar Hotel. Even though most of us were into an 18-hour day at that point, this was a great gathering of folks. Everybody there was either too tired to be tense, or too relaxed to be tired, and just about everybody who was anybody from the EDA vendor community was there. Of course the topic of the hour was the hottest topic of the day.


Perceptions of Primacy in Pleasantville

Embarrassingly, I seemed to have been the last among the thousands at DAC on Monday to have heard the crucial rumor that Cadence was going to go private via a $6.4 billion infusion of cash from either KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts), the Blackstone Group, or both. But heck, between the Women’s Workshop, the GM keynote, and the IP Panel, it had been a busy day. By 4 PM, I suddenly found I had some rumor-mill catching up to do.

The Cadence story appears to have started early on with a report in the New York Times quoting unnamed sources about the deal, which was then picked up by everybody and their brother on Monday and spun out as a “news” story in every publication even remotely connected to Cadence’s world. Not surprisingly, Cadence stock spiked immediately on the “news” and CEO Mike Fister was being hailed all over DAC as some kind of miracle worker. Comments like, “Heck, if he can get Cadence valuation up to $6.4 billion, you’ve got to hand it to the guy.”

Others were not quite so complimentary. Many let me know over the course of Monday afternoon and evening that this type of thing might be good as a source of windfall profits (is that a term we even use anymore?) for a few executives at Cadence, but in the long run it wasn’t good for the shareholders, the customers, or the employees. One CEO was bold enough to suggest that if a company can’t innovate, their only option is to go private and let their legacy tools run their course as cash cows before the company is put out to pasture. Many, however, did agree that a private buy-out was indeed good for anybody who was sick of messing around with the tedium of Sarbanes-Oxley, or the demands of the investing public who kept asking why the company wasn’t growing or innovating faster. But even those with the most pointed criticisms, never failed to give begrudging respect to Mike Fister, EDA Man of the Hour on DAC Monday.

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