* Back in the Mykronos Café, I met up with Douglas Pattulo and Jean-Christophe Longchampt, both of TSMC Europe and based in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). Although not exhibiting, TSMC threw a huge shadow at DATE with their April 21st Tech Symposium announcement, "a foundry-specific Integrated Sign-Off Flow, available now 65-nanometer designs. [The flow] tightly integrates all process-specific items including pre-qualified library and IP, selected EDA tools, production-quality flow, advanced design methodology, and TSMC foundry technology files that have been proven and refined over hundreds of applications." I emphatically told Douglas and Chris that their news only further convinced me that TSMC is morphing into either an EDA vendor or, more likely, the brains of a virtual IDM. They laughed, denied my allegations just as emphatically, and we parted friends.
* Also in the Mykronos Café, I met with Cadence Design Systems Europe Vice President Wolfgang Stronski, based in Feldkirchen (Germany). Neither was Cadence exhibiting at DATE - in good company with Synopsys and Mentor - but the three Big Players in EDA were well represented on panels and in Private Suites designed for companies wishing to meet with their constituents without funding a booth. Wolfgang and I spoke about a perpetual question in EDA: How does the EDA vendor reach into the customer's organization? At the senior management level? Mid-level management? The CAD organization? The individual tool user? Wolfgang said that answer is a complex one, and is answered on a case-by-case basis.
* Ranking high in the category of Very Cool Companies, I met with Kees Steenberger from GreenPeak, based in Utrecht (The Netherlands). Yes, GreekPeak were exhibiting at DATE, yes I met Kees in the Press Room, and yes the company's story is compelling. They're a fabless semiconductor, providing "mesh networks that are enabled by the use of energy harvesting devices," matching the electrical needs of the applications within which their products sit with ambient energy sources, particularly of the mechanical variety. Watch for more news in the coming years from GreenPeak as their products help drive the burgeoning micro-sensor market.
Observing the EDA ecosystems at DATE ...
The formal meetings described above left me thinking about the mindsets that have driven EDA in the past, and the mindsets that will drive the industry in the future. Although EDA has appeared somewhat dispirited of late, given the low valuations of the publicly traded EDA companies and a sharp decrease in advertising, ergo coverage, in EDA, the things I saw and the people I listened to at DATE completely re-energized my optimism for the industry. It's true the Exhibition Hall is evolving - not surprising, given the amount of information available online about everything and everybody - but the technology remains endlessly compelling and chock-full of unanswered questions and challenges.
Those impressions were reconfirmed in criss-crossing the Exhibition Hall and running in and out of the hallways of the Acropolis Convention Center. Case in point: Synopsys' Yatin Trivedi told me, when we crossed paths, that he was very enthused about the quality of the conference program at DATE, and the Exhibit Hall. He gestured over to the vibrant mass of people milling about in the University Booth and challenged anyone to say that a) DATE is over, or b) the EDA industry does not have a thrilling new generation of technologists ready to come of age.
I also caught up with the intensely over-committed Andrew Kahng, professor at U.C. San Diego, founder of Blaze DFM, and General Chair for DAC'09 in July in San Francisco. Ever the multi-tasker, Andrew was simultaneously carrying on a conversation with me, exchanging witty repartee with Synopsys' Anton Domic, and continuing to bang out emails on his laptop on the table in front of him in the Mykronos Cafe. Andrew and Anton together insisted that EDA is ferociously alive and full of technical lures that will pull in the next generation of technologists. Anton admitted, as (gently) accused by both Jan Rabaey (and me) during a panel earlier in the day, that the major players in EDA can seem complacent at times. Wrong conclusion, per Anton. The real problem is lack of in-depth coverage of the technology, the exciting innovations at EDA companies big and small. (Did I mention there's a shortage of ad dollars to support that coverage?)
Meanwhile, many others from the EDA ecosystem were also clearly visible at DATE'09: D&R's Gabrielle Saucier; Virage Logic's Yervant Zorian, doing yeomen's duty coordinating Wednesday's Special Day on SoC Development; EDAC's Bob Gardner, working overtime along with Anton Domic to coordinate Tuesday's full-day Executive Session; Mentor's Simon Bloch and Joe Sawicki; Tensilica's Grant Martin, busy winning the Best Follow-on Questions Award; Stanford's Subhasish Mitra; ARM's Rob Aitken; Synopsys' Tom Williams and U.C. Berkeley's Jan Rabaey, both winners of the EDAA Lifetime Achievement Award, Williams in 2007 and Rabaey in 2009; edaForum's Juergen Haase; multiple generations of DATE General Chairs, including EPFL's Nani De Michelli, University of Bologna's Luca Benini, Politecnico di Milano's Donatella Sciuto, and IMEC's Georges Gielen; DATE Press Chair Freddy Santamaria; Mentor's Anne Cirkel, EDAC Liaison; TIMA Lab's Bernard Courtois, EDAA Liaison; SAME's Anne-Claire Desneulin; and Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines.
Why do I go to the trouble of providing this partial list of folks I observed or chatted with at DATE? Because again, if you think EDA is dead, or conferences no longer provide opportunities for the cross-fertilization of ideas within EDA, you are wrong. The need for face-to-face conversation has not diminished. People who work in technology need to feel the push and the pull of other people's ideas, live and in person. Conferences provide that opportunity in a structured, and surprisingly unstructured, way. Travel budgets notwithstanding, technologists still need to gather under one roof on a regular basis. It's the nature of the human condition, whether you like it or not, that people who need people are the techno-savviest people in the world.
Panels & sessions at DATE ...
My perpetual lament still holds true. Too much quality content running on parallel tracks makes it neigh-on impossible to see everything at a conference as large as DATE. I gave it my best shot, but best is never enough when it comes to DATE - or DAC, for that matter.
The opening session, MC'd by DATE'09 General Chair
Luca Benini included numerous awards, acknowledgements, and celebrations of the quality and quantity of paper submissions for this year's conference; over 400 people provided paper reviews in assembling the program. Also on stage during the opening ceremonies: Linkoping University's
Zebo Peng announcing the 2008 Best Paper Awards; University of Southampton's
Bashir Al-Hashimi presenting conference program details;
Bernard Courtois presenting DATE Fellows, and EDAA Award winner
Jan Rabaey ;
Yervant Zorian presenting a slate of IEEE Fellows; and
Wally Rhines accepting
Aart de Geus' Phil Kaufman Award.