The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Part 1
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The Best of Times, the Worst of Times: Part 1

Way, way too much happening in the world. Can’t fit it all into one edition of EDA Weekly, so here’s Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 in November.

Third time’s the charm …

This is my third attempt to assemble some words about the financial crisis for this edition of EDA Weekly. My first attempt was a long weepy do about my father’s impoverished childhood during the Great Depression, and how his widowed mother lost their farm to foreclosure in 1936 to the Bank of Italy (now better known as the Bank of America). That set of paragraphs ended up being way too maudlin, even by my standards. They went into the Recycle Bin.

My second attempt was a long blather about how the 12-month decline in the value of SNPS and MENT – down 40% to 50%, respectively – has more/less tracked the woeful decline in the S&P 500, Dow Jones, and NASDAQ over the same period, and therefore may not be a reflection of poor fundamentals at Synopsys and Mentor. That LAVA and CDNS are down 78% over the last year, however, may be significant; the fundamentals at those organizations may indeed be suspect. But those sets of paragraphs seemed to be rehashing the obvious, even by my standards.

So, in a third and final attempt to say something of value about this unholy mess we’re all wading through, I’ve decided to just be honest. It’s Sunday, October 12th, and I have no idea – and, unfortunately, neither does anybody else – what’s going to happen in the markets when Asia awakens this evening, California time. By tomorrow morning, when you’re reading this with one eye and watching the markets with the other, whatever that international gaggle of financial brain surgeons are doing in Washington this weekend may, or may not, have helped to stabilize the world.

[Editor’s Note: As of Monday, October 13th, the markets seem to be responding. The major indices are moving up in most markets.]

No matter what happens, it still seems obvious to me that the attitudes that have translated into success in Silicon Valley are the same attitudes that would help move the world forward. Tough-minded investments in cutting-edge ideas, a commitment to innovation, restless thinking, and the willingness to reinvent ourselves over and over and over again. That’s not all that characterizes Silicon Valley, but it’s a big part of it. It’s not top-down problem solving; it’s organic, competitive, and cool.

Would be great if the Genie of the Valley would emerge from its Magic Lamp and grant 3 wishes:

  1. Massively parallel compute platforms that could accurately predict markets, and provide damping functions when those markets go gaga.
  2. Somebody with a BSEE or BSCE to finally stand at the helm of the world.
  3. Humility to replace hubris when it comes to demanding salaries and compensation. Tens of millions of dollars paid to any particular individual for a 3 or 4 years’ work – particularly when the results have been absolutely disastrous – is nonsensical, oligarchic, and provides the seeds of revolution, whether on Wall Street or within the EDA Nation.

Old numbers in a Brave New World …

* EDAC announced Q2 2008 revenues on October 9th. Unfortunately, the markets have moved so fast since the close of Q2, those numbers are of somewhat reduced value at this point. If we’ve really kicked a global recession into high gear over the course of Q3 and on into Q4, the fact that EDA revenues for Q2 2008 are only “slightly down” compared to Q2 2007, may not bring comfort to the worldwide sales force at EDA, Inc.

Nonetheless, here’s the quote from the October 9th press release. Per EDAC’s current chair/fearless leader, Mentor Graphics’ Wally Rhines: “Solid year-over-year growth in the PCB/MCM and services segments were offset by declines in CAE, IC Physical Design & Verification, and Semiconductor IP, resulting in an overall decline for Q2, 2008. Geographically, Western Europe and Japan showed growth in Q2, but this growth was offset by declines in North America and the rest of the world.”

Also in the October 9th EDAC press release: Companies that were tracked employed 28,004 professionals in Q2 2008, up 7 percent from the 26,164 employed in Q2 2007. If rumors on the street regarding layoffs at several EDA vendors prove true, those numbers may read differently the next time the EDAC MSS numbers are released.

Clearly, the EDA industry, sales and employment, is only as strong as the customer base. For more discussion on that customer base, take an hour to listen to an October 9th discussion aired on San Francisco’s KQED. Host Michael Krasney discusses Silicon Valley and the Financial Crisis with Carl Guardino, head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and others.

The next 30 days in Silicon Valley …

* October 22ndCadence announces Q3 numbers

* October 29thKaufman Award Dinner

* November 4th to 6thMentor User2User Conference

* November 4thU.S. Presidential election

* November 6thSynopsys Interoperability Forum

* November 10th to 13thICCAD 2008

Gladiator II: Master & Commander, Musician & Chief

* At long, long last Aart de Geus is being honored by the EDA industry. Way overdue is the awarding of the Phil Kaufman Award to this Master & Commander of electronic design automation. Well over 90% of the chips in use today have been designed using that anchor tenant of the Synopsys’ Tool Box, Design Compiler, and the litany of Aart’s contributions to the technology and business of electronic design only starts there. The glitterazzi of EDA will be out in force at the annual Kaufman Award Dinner on Wednesday, October 29th, to honor Aart de Geus. You should be part of the celebration.

By the way, Inside Edition reports that Russell Crowe is hoping to play Aart in the upcoming biopic: Master & Commander, Musician & Chief. Should Mr. Crowe show up for the EDAC dinner on October 29th to press his case for the part, here’s a word of advice: Get Dr. de Geus’ signature on your program before you get Mr. Crowe’s. Aart’s impact on life as we know it will be judged by historians to outweigh that of Mr. Crowe’s by several million orders of magnitude in the upcoming millenium. Hence Aart’s signature will be a helluva lot more valuable to your heirs than poor Mr. Crowe’s. It’s true that like de Geus, Crowe is also a musician, but I’ll bet even Aart’s musicianship outranks that of the Aussie.

Wowza. Get on board the Multi-core Train!

* Mentor Graphics has got a new “task-oriented parallelism technology” in its Olympus-SoC P&R system. The company says the new technology “allows timing analysis and optimization tasks to run in parallel to deliver up to 7X improvement in timing analysis run times, and up to 4X improvement in design closure times using eight CPU cores.” NEC’s offering up endorsements, as is Fujitsu.

The only thing I’d take issue with in the October 13th press release from Mentor is the same thing I always take issue with. This is not news: “The latest ICs require exponentially increasing processing power to reach physical design closure within tight time-to-market schedules. Design sizes continue to increase with Moore’s Law, complicated by manufacturing variability and signal integrity issues that require closure over many design and process modes and corners.”

What is new? Also from the Olympus-SoC P&R release: “The best way to gain additional speed is to apply the full power of multi-core processors to the most compute-intensive aspect of the flow – timing analysis and optimization related tasks.”

SPICE gets an upgrade – having your cake and eating it, too

"RASER is the first simulator in the market that does not trade off accuracy for capacity and performance."

* Angel-funded EDA startup Infinisim hopes to become the next household name in simulators. The company’s newly announced RASER “guarantees SPICE-accurate results with an average of 50 times speedup and capacity for large mixed-signal circuits. Underlying RASER … is Infinisim’s patent-pending Real-time Adaptive Simulation technology, [which] adapts to the changing circuit simulation environment at every time-point of the simulation while using the full device models and adhering to the full SPICE accuracy requirements. Using this technology, RASER is able to automatically and simultaneously deliver SPICE accuracy and handle large-scale mixed-signal circuits.”

I spoke by phone with the team at Infinisim on September 26th and was impressed with their confidence. As you all know, in the world of startups, Silicon Valley, and money, it’s all about team – so be placing your bets on Zakir Syed, Perry Gee, Dileep Divekar, and Samia Rashid. Their combined track record includes Simplex, Ceva, Applied Simulation Tech, iManage, and more. They swear by their new technology, are proud that it’s angel money, not VC money, that’s fueling their enterprise, and they fully expect to succeed sooner than later. Watch their space for further developments.

ARM is not an EDA vendor …

* Nonetheless, they’ve got some pretty cool tools. I chatted with the RealView team from ARM on October 7th at the ARM Developers Conference in Santa Clara. We talked about the newest version of RealView tool, but rather than quote from my notes on what ARM’s Elan Tanzer and Mark Onions told me in person in Santa Clara, here’s a soundbite from their press release:

“A host of new benefits combine in the RealView Development Suite 4.0 Professional, including new compilation techniques to achieve up to 10-percent processor performance improvement and enhanced system profiling … Among the key benefits: 1) Link-time code generation [to] significantly reduces code size, and gain the option to either increase system functionality with no additional memory requirement, or lower overall system cost; 2) Profiler-driven compilation, [which] enables code to be optimized based on actual use, significantly improving software performance and responsiveness of applications on ARM processors; and 3) A new version of the ARM Profiler. [which] supports capture and storage of continuous instruction trace for up to 10 days, which would provide detailed information on what software the device is executing and how this affects the performance and behavior of the system.”

I repeat, ARM is not an EDA vendor …

ARM builds community and communities …

* ARM now boasts 475 companies in the AMR Connected Communiy. That community was out in force in Santa Clara this past week when ARM CEO Warren East gave his keynote at ARM Dev Con on Tuesday morning. East spoke affectionately about the hundreds of partners in his community, declared collaboration to be the key to the future, and looked back only long enough to praise the broad shoulders of previous technologists and their contributions over the last 60 years which have culminated to over 12 billion ARM cores having been shipped to date. Wow. That’s a lot of ARM in your/my life.

The only time I questioned East’s comments is when he declared that the ad content online is spreading attests to the power of today’s web-based businesses. As a journalist who sees further despair among the editorial community, I’m not sure the folks in the Press Room would completely concur with East’s optimism about the quantity of online advertising.

Nonetheless, it’s true the world has moved online – no doubt thanks, in part, to the efforts of the folks at ARM. However, it’s the future of the smart, embedded, distributed nodes of the electronic network that now drives our world where ARM and its 475 partners now lives. Sensors, limited feature products, things that work without accessing the mother ship really are where it’s happening. Ad dollars online are not an indication of the growth of the Web. The proliferation of remote access devices are.

Sun awards $$ for really good ideas …

* Sun Microsystems has launched their Open Source Community Innovation Awards Contest to inspire students, professors, and industry types alike to get the lead out in pursing applications and technologies to speed up the Open Source Express. More’s the better that progress in multi-core is benefiting, as well. The contest started in 2008 and will happen again in 2009.

EDA’s own Shrenik Mehta, Chair of Accellera, Senior Director for Frontend Technologies and the OpenSPARC program at Sun, and a coordinator for the Innovation Awards Contest, is quoted in the Sun Press Release bragging on this year’s winners: "Sun developed the Open Source Community Innovation Awards Program to foster innovation on a global level and recognize the most interesting initiatives within open source communities worldwide. The winners ranged from professors and students in academia to developers working in industry, all of whom demonstrated extraordinary creativity and collaboration leading to some outstanding innovations that will have a very real impact on the OpenSPARC community."

One of this year’s winners, Andrey Brito, a PhD student at the Dresden University of Technology, won $20,000 for the “Best Adaptation of a Single-thread Application to a Multi-thread CMT Environment. “
Brito is quoted in the Press Release: "The performance of single thread applications can be increased considerably by processing events in parallel. In my submission, I used speculation to harness the power of multi-cores to parallelize stateful components, which provided a 400% increase in application performance. Hopefully my example will motivate other people to optimize their applications to take advantage of the significant increase in performance of multithreaded computing environments."

If you didn’t put in your bid for an award this year, it’s not too late to be in the running for next year. I was one of the 6 judges on the 2008 panel that included Sun’s Fred DeSantis, Tallwood’s Renu Raman, UCSC’s Jose Renau, Xilinx’ Paul Hartke, and IIT’s Preeti Ranjan Panda. Kudos to Sun for this commitment to innovation through the distribution of this type of seed money.

The Best of times, the Worst of times – Part 2 …

Next month here in EDA Weekly, news and developments from The MathWorks, Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, Magma, The Common Platform, Real Time, IAR, MIPS, Carbon Design, OCP-IP, DAC, and more. See you then.