DAC 2010 Report from the Floor

Formal analysis, though, has been introduced as a verification method, while instead it should be a design method. It should be used as a step to indicate the design intent that represents the designer interpretation of a specification. If marketed this way, these tools would have a much larger TAM (total available market) and a faster acceptance phase. Writing assertions before developing the code is a much more structured way to develop a product, then going about verifying the implementation by inserting assertions afterwards.

You Don't Know Jack

This is the tile of a panel held in the DAC Pavilion in the last couple of years. The panel is becoming a regular occurrence at every DAC. The panelists are high school seniors, this year two girls and two boys, who contribute their experiences on the use of electronic products. It was expertly moderated by Kathryn Kranen, CEO of Jasper Design Automation. It was very interesting to hear how they use their laptops and their dislike for towers and desktops (you cannot take them with you). The only exception is serious gaming, where the power of advanced graphics cards in desktops is of great benefit. But more interesting was the way they use their phone. First of all they are on almost continuously, even when driving or in class, but the phone is used almost exclusively as a texting device, not as an oral form of communication. The laptops are used for social interactions, with most of them having a number of networks of friends. They are very aware of the threats to privacy on the net. The real surprising answer was their unequivocal and unanimous dislike for the iPAD. The reason: "It does not do anything I cannot do on my laptop or my phone, and besides, I cannot play games on it." Is the iPAD destined to become a fashion accessory for the over thirty?

The Volcano Is Awake

Magma Design Automation was also singled out by Gary Smith as a company to watch during this year's DAC. Left for almost dead a couple of years ago by its competitors, the company has recovered through both financial and technological skills. Its balance sheet now looks healthy, and its products offerings are very competitive and gaining market share. Its presence in the analog/mixed signal markets is increasing, and the introduction of Tekton, a timing analysis tool based on completely new architecture and algorithms, is now considered a worthy alternative to Synopsys PrimeTime, long the de facto standard tool in this sector. So much so that Synopsy found it necessary to release a new version of PrimeTime just before DAC that offers some of the functionality of Tekton but built on the same architecture of the original PrimeTime.

In addition the acquisition of Sabio Labs two years ago is also beginning to bring fruits. Sabio Labs was the creation of Mar Hershenson a pioneer of analog IP creation and this year's winner of the Marie R. Pistilli award. The integration of the Sabio Lab technology with the Titan family of tools is giving results that allow the company to offer a complete spectrum of solutions to analog design problems.

Magma's booth at DAC, although situated in the periphery of the floor, was always crowded every time I went by, and Bob Smith, Vice president of Product Marketing declared himself satisfied with the quality of leads collected at the show.

An Interesting Startup

General attempts to lower power consumption in digital design have focused on power distribution and mechanisms to shut off unused circuits. A new French company headquartered in Grenoble, has a different idea. Tiempo founders say that asynchronous circuits use less power than synchronous ones, since they operate only when needed, not every clock cycle as synchronous circuits do. The problem had been how to convert synchronous design into asynchronous circuits. They have solved the problem and they came to DAC as exhibitors for the first time this year.

Tiempo CEO is Serge Maginot a veteran EDA technologist, and he has assembled a strong R&D team and an impressive group of investors, especially for a European company. I believe their technology is sound, and hopefully they will be able to match it with an effective marketing organization, something that too often is lacking in European companies.

Final Thoughts

Overall a good DAC worth attending. Next year it is back to San Francisco were at least Free Monday, if there will be such a thing, will be much more crowded than in Anaheim. How well will it do depends a lot on the financial health of the world. The signs are, unfortunately, not encouraging. Contrary to what a famous book says greed is not good.

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Review Article
  • Re: DAC 2010 Report from the Floor July 16, 2010
    Reviewed by 'Mikesbo'

    Boolean equivalence checking is part of the digital design verification process, and may be done at multiple points in the design flow. Implementation tools make many changes to the netlist (clock tree insertion, timing optimizations such as cloning and buffering, etc., some of which are still manual) and require a separate check to insure functionality is not broken.

    It is not simply QA for tool writers.

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  • DAC 2011 is San Diego July 05, 2010
    Reviewed by 'Daniel Payne'
    Thanks for the summary of DAC 47.
    I think you meant to say the next DAC is in San Diego in 2011 followed by San Francisco in 2012.

      3 of 3 found this review helpful.
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