Buzz@DAC & Kuhl@CAL

This column’s a two’fer …

A visit to the Cadence Berkeley Labs overlooking the legendary Cal campus, plus a visit to DAC overlooking a different kind of legendary campus – Disneyland USA.


EDA in Anaheim …

Admit it. The EDA industry is just a bunch of human beings running around trying to optimize a whole lot of stuff – a host of algorithms, a boatload of code, a microdot of real estate, a handful of business models, a passelful of marketing messages, a fistful of dollars, a little bit of power, and a whole lot of glory.

When this wacky group of Optimistic Optimizers gathers together in the Happiest Place on Earth between June 8th and the 13th, they’ll be optimizing one more thing – the Design Automation Conference.

The thing about DAC is that there’s pretty much room for everybody – the researcher and the raconteur, the manager and the marketeer, the CTO and the CEO, the AE and the EE, the MBA and the CPA, the JD and the PhD, the BA and the BS (lots of that last one), the programmer and the product guy, the student and the scholar, the talent and the tap dancer, the VC and the visionary, the PR and the R&D, the fathead and the faint of heart, the truth teller of all that is (on and off the record) and those who foresee the truth of all that might be.

Yep, they’ll all be in Anaheim in June and they hope you will be, too. If you click on print article up there on the right, you can scan through this column and a feisty sampling of why they hope you’ll be there. But if you want to savor DAC’s full offering, you’ll have to join us all in June to experience the real thing. The Magic Kingdom awaits …

We’ll see you there!



It’s a shame that Cadence ain’t coming to DAC this year, because one of the Kuhlest Guys on Earth won’t be in the Happiest Place on Earth in the second week of June.

Instead, he’ll be in the Hippest Place on Earth, enjoying his way-cool office, his to-die-for views, and one of the slickest gaming rooms in all of High-Tech-dom.

If you’ve guessed I’m talking about Andreas Kuhlmann and the Cadence Berkeley Labs, you’d be spot-on right. But if you think the Buzz is gone from DAC because Cadence ain’t coming, you’d be spot-on wrong. Andreas is definitely one Kuhl Kat, but DAC is one Cool Conference, and I think it’s a shame that Kuhl and Cool won’t be sharing Tomorrow Land, the Teacups, or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with all the rest of us in Anaheim from June 8th to the 13th.

But I digress …

Andreas Kuhlmann started out life in Germany, earned a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Technology at Ilmenau, did a stint at the Fraunhofer Institute of Microelectronic Circuits and Systems, spent 10 years at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in New York working in logic synthesis and verification, and then came to Berkeley one day for a visit and never left.

He joined the Cadence Research Labs in 2000, became an adjunct professor at Cal in 2002 to doubly defend his decision to stay in Berkeley, and by 2003 was Director of the Cadence Labs.

Things have only gotten better since then, however, because in September 2007 Kuhlmann and the entire gaggle of 25± over-achievers associated with the lab have been housed in one of the snappiest offices in town.

Perched up on the 10th floor of some distinctly A+ real estate at the corner of Shattuck and Center, these folks have a view to the East that takes in the Campanile and most of the trees of the picturesque U.C. Berkeley campus, and a view to the West that’s even better. If you stand at the windows adjacent to Kuhlmann’s desk, or in the conference room next door, you look right over the rooftops of the city and out to the Blue of the San Francisco Bay and the Gold of the Golden Gate Bridge beyond. Does it get any better than this?

Yeah probably, because Kuhlmann et al don’t have to dwell on the view to get their kicks. They’re such gluttons for intellectual punishment, they’re just as happy hunkered down over their computers, cranking out obtuse algorithms, and coding stuff that only a rocket scientist would understand. Clearly, their idea of fun is learning that Moore’s Law has pushed them into even darker, smaller geometries and presented them with even more hellishly difficult design, optimization, and verification challenges.

These guys are the ultimate uber-nerds, but Kuhlmann speaks highly of the life they lead nonetheless. The motivation for everybody at the lab, per Kuhlmann, is the opportunity to meet one’s own personal challenges in the research, as well as to see how the research plays out in a commercial setting.

“Whether in academics competing for a Best Paper Award, or in a commercial setting, you always want to be first,” he says. “When you combine that attitude with a culture of success, and insert it into the laboratory, it’s inevitable that your work will make an impact on a company.

“In my role as someone who runs a research lab, I’m like a catalyst exposing people to problems in need of a solution, and helping in the conversation – especially for the younger researchers – about how you structure the relationship between research and the product group who benefits from that research.”

Kuhlmann says the Cadence Berkeley Labs were chartered from the get-go to examine a host of technologies – systems, verification, implementation, modeling and simulation, and DFM – and to keep the boundaries between those technologies fluid.

“At a company like Cadence, we’re probably the only ones who can do that,” he says. “Here at the lab, we come from a range of backgrounds and have [among us] some of the best minds in the world across all of areas of interest. Our formal verification guys talks to our circuit simulation guys, and so on, which results in a lot of interdisciplinary progress being made. A good research team must always be interdisciplinary – you need people with strengths in many areas. That’s where the synergy to produce great research comes from.

“That’s also why our role within Cadence is bigger than just supporting any one particular product group,” he adds. “We provide support across all product groups, helping to define strategies, and where things should be heading in the short and the long run.”

Kuhlmann points out that he enjoyed a similar kind of experience when he worked at the T.J. Watson Research Center: “I learned a lot while I was at IBM. What I liked best about working there was, it was always a combination of research and applications. No matter what we were doing, it was always driven all the way to the designers and focused on delivering solutions to their desktops.”

Kuhlmann says that’s how things work at Cadence, as well: “Here at the lab, we act as a service organization to both the Cadence developers and their customers. Cadence product people, of course, hear from their customers, but we have the latitude to deal directly with the customers, as well. We don’t always know how our work will be commercialized – we’re more research oriented than product oriented – but we’re structured so we can enjoy the short, mid, and long-term view of things simultaneously.”

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