DAC 2008 – Trepidation to Triumph

This past week in Anaheim, the 45th annual Design Automation Conference was a true proof-of-concept event for the EDA industry. For the first time in recent memory, long-time anchor tenant Cadence Design Systems was not there as an exhibitor. Neither was ARM, another stalwart exhibitor of recent years. Above and beyond the financial implications to the conference of these two huge exhibitors pulling out in 2008, a more fundamental question floated around the Anaheim Convention Center this past week: Can DAC survive without these guys?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

Last year at DAC’07 in San Diego, where both ARM and Cadence had booths, there were 8700 attendees (including all categories of exhibitors, registrants, workshop attendees, and general hangers-on). This year at DAC’08 in Anaheim, where neither ARM nor Cadence was exhibiting, the number was closer to 8400, a 3.5-percent drop in attendance year-to-year.

Considering the price of oil (ergo the price of travel), the recession in the semiconductor industry (and the economy in general), and the employees from Cadence and ARM who did not come this year, a 3.5-percent drop in attendance is actually a helluva triumph, not a tragedy, and something to brag on.

DAC 2008 General Chair Limor Fix, in a press release dated June 11th, was defiantly exuberant: “The biggest challenges and opportunities of our industry ─ in the wireless market, analog design, software/hardware co-design, verification and manufacturing – were the topics of many of DAC’s well-attended sessions and events this year. Once again, DAC is the place where electronic design meets!”

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I had a lot on my plate at Anaheim this past week. I was chair of the Workshop for Women in Design Automation on Monday. I moderated a panel at the end of the all-day Management Track program on Tuesday. I moderated a Pavilion Panel in the Exhibition Hall on Thursday. I served as a first-time member of the DAC Exhibitor Liaison Committee, wrote several DAC-related articles for the DACeZine, and made a small contribution to the Marie R. Pistilli Award presentation at the General Session on opening day.

It was a busy week, a stimulating week, and a week where I saw fewer companies than in years past and attended fewer sessions. Nonetheless, I scurried frenetically hither and yon, dashed in and out of panels, workshops, sessions, keynotes, and in and out of the Exhibition Hall, rudely interrupted a lot of people mid-sentence or mid-conversation, and captured my own impressions of the conference. I also managed to come away from Anaheim with lots of questions and a few answers. You’ll find them below, categorized roughly by topic.

Next year, DAC is in San Francisco at the end of July. That’s bad news for the Europeans, good news for those of us based in Northern California, and important news for those who are starting to gear up for 2009. I suspect between now and then, additional answers will emerge for some of the questions below. I also suspect that for every question answered, another 10 or 100 will crop up to take its place. I did a lot of thinking this past week in Anaheim. I suspect you did, too.

(Please click on “print article” up there on the right to see all of this on one page.)

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Anaheim …

It’s fun to get mushy about the venue where DAC takes place every year, but Anaheim is a tough row to hoe in that category of literary musings. Because although Anaheim is something esoteric and unique in its excesses, it’s definitely not to everybody’s tastes. It’s a place that’s offensive to some, but a delight to others.

Anaheim is either quintessential California, or it’s the antithesis of everything that’s great and good about California. It’s either a grotesque FantasyLand, or a place of robust innovation and economic vigor. It’s either Orange County, where business reigns supreme, or it’s tantamount to Death by the Dullness of Endless Homogeneous Grid Pattern Franchise Sensory Overload.

If you don’t have kids, or can’t or won’t take them to conferences, Anaheim is just a dot on the map and a business destination. If you’re a sophisticate, an intellectual, or a skeptical observer of human nature, Anaheim has little to offer other than the mindless, dumbed-down commercial pabulum that serves as a modern opiate of the people – a place Marx and Sartre would have loved to hate.

If, however, you have young children and you combined a trip to Disneyland for them with a week at DAC for you, you probably don’t get the anathema thing when it comes to Anaheim. In fact, you might even celebrate the co-locating of DAC with Disneyland.

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Bodies, Booze, Babes & Beefcake …

Q – How many people came to DAC?

The numbers from the DAC folks are official: 8400+ in total, including 2400+ session attendees, 2400+ exhibits-only attendees, 215 exhibiting companies, 3500 exhibiting personnel, 59 members of the press, and 10 analysts.

Meanwhile, I heard tell of at least one blog posted early on during DAC week that claimed there was nobody at the EDAC reception at the Hilton from 5 PM to 7 PM on Sunday night. Not sure where that individual was, because there were so many people gabbing near the bar, a portion of the entertainment was not audible over the din.

Q – Are technologists natural performers or natural barflies?

The EDAC Game Show included participants from ARM ( John Goodenough), Synopsys ( Kevin Kranen), TSMC ( Tom Quan), Virage Logic ( Brani Buric), Analog Bits ( Mahesh Tirupattur), and Magma ( Yatin Trivedi), and was hosted by EDN’s Ron Wilson, MC’d by OEM-wannabe (Mentor’s) Wally Rhines, featured cameo appearances by Gary Smith and John Cooley (voted out of the industry and dragged off-stage by Mentor’s Dennis “Don’t Mess with Me” Brophy),
and premiered one instantiation of Beefcake and one instantiation of Babe in Bordello Burgundy. That ARM’s John Goodenuff was unable to get anybody to come forward and claim his particular raffle prize was a comment on the quantity of camaraderie and booze swirling around at the back of the room.

It was all great theater, but sitting in the front row I made a note that most technologists should hold onto their day jobs rather than contemplate a career in stand-up comedy. Exclusive of Goodenuff and Rhines, the beefcake and the babe, the guys who were on stage really need to restrict themselves to technical sales and marketing.

Following the Game Show, the crowd of barflies at the EDAC party moved en masse across the mezzanine at the Hilton Hotel and imbibed even more and gabbed even louder at the General Chair’s Reception from 7 PM to 9 PM.

Ohmygosh! Nvidia’s Chris Malachowsky, EDA Analysts Gary Smith and Mary Olson, and Gartner’s Bryan Lewis could not be heard over the din from the back! Really too bad, because they had lots of informative stuff to say.

So, let’s think this through together. If you open the bar at 4:45 PM at the first of two back-to-back events on Sunday night at DAC, do you really think anybody’s going to be listening by the time the deadly serious stuff – ala Malachowsky, Smith, Olsen, and Lewis – gets underway at 8 PM? Back to the drawing board for everybody involved in the timing for these Sunday evening events!

Q – What if you weren’t drinking?

I was among the minority who listened to the speakers at the General Chair’s Reception Sunday. Malachowsky predicted
heterogeneous computing on massively parallel compute platforms capable of “scaling transparently” would become a way of life, spearheaded by developments in graphics chips. Olsen declared 2008 to be the Year of Living Analog-ly. Lewis said the industry’s going through transformations, consolidations, collaborations, new global alignments, and a quickening of interest in all things reconfigurable. Smith rounded out the hour.

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  • Nice article about DAC. Well done. June 16, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Bill'
    Nice article about DAC. Well done.
    I do think that the DAC organizers should think about the way the show is organised and I don't feel that the actual numbers of attendees is accurately reported. It would be good to have the numbers of people who were physically there. I hope you will have a chance to check that out since they have the RFID to interrogate.

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  • Fact Check - Blogging BoF June 16, 2008
    Reviewed by 'JL Gray'
    Peggy,
    Enjoyed your writeup of DAC. You've got a couple of factual errors in your discussion of the Blogging Birds of a Feather session, though. I (not David Lin) MC'd the event and gave the opening presentation. David Lin followed with an excellent presentation on corporate blogging. Steve Leibson gave the final presentation. Also, I work for Verilab, not Veritools. Check out my discussion of the BoF (with links to other writeups) on my blog at:
    http://www.coolverification.com/2008/06/first-annual-bl.html
    Take care,
    JL
    JL Gray
    Verilab, Inc.
    www.verilab.com
    www.coolverification.com (blog)

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  • To blog or not to blog June 18, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Dave Kelf'
    Hi Peggy
    As usually, I enjoyed your DAC write up, now post-DAC mandatory reading. Your insights on the blog sessions were particularly interesting. My question… where were the marketing guys? I expected to see 20 editors, 20 bloggers and about 100+ marketing folks from the exhibitors. EDA, and indeed journalism itself, is evolving on so many levels, so getting to grips with the shifting sands of opinion leadership has to be front and center on many marketing todo lists. Maybe I am wrong but I was surprised at the apparent lack of interest. Maybe that is another sign of EDA evolution, or in fairness maybe they were all too damn busy with the rest of the show.
    Dave Kelf


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  • BoF on Blogging June 18, 2008
    Reviewed by 'John Blyler'
    Hi Peggy. Liked your last query concerning bloggers as members of the press. If all those of us had to do was blog, our lives would be so much better. Unfortunately, with access comes responsibility. But your conclusion said it all, namely "will there be a press room at all." C'est la vie!
    P.S. For some odd reason, I can not increase the size of the "Discussion Mode" windows. So have of my text is invisible, at least to me. So there's bound to be a few grammatical errots.

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  • # of DAC attendees June 17, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Yves'
    To continue on Bill's point, I suggest to compare the audience in similar locations, i.e. Anaheim 2008 vs. 2005. To my knowledge, the number of people is usually proportional to the inverse of the distance with the Bay area. That could affect your conclusion at the start of the article.

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