June 07, 2004
To DAC or Not to DAC
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The sky is filled with planes, the hotels are all booked solid and the rental car agencies are sold out. It is time for the annual pilgrimage to DAC, the Design Automation Conference. This year's event in San Diego June 7-11 will be the 41st DAC. Why do they come like the swallows returning to Capistrano?
DAC is the premier forum for the electronic design industry to exchange information on products, methodologies, and processes. Attended by more than 10,000 developers, designers, researchers, managers, and engineers from leading electronics companies and universities around the world, DAC includes more than 200 exhibitors and offers a robust technical program of 200 papers, panels, sessions, and tutorials covering the electronics industry's hottest trends. Vendors of EDA tools, silicon solutions and embedded system-on-chip development tools participate in this annual event.
The conference is sponsored by the Association for Computing
Machinery/Special Interest Group on Design Automation (ACM/SIGDA), the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Circuits and Systems Society
(IEEE/CASS) and the Electronic Design Automation Consortium (EDA Consortium).
DAC describes its attendees as a highly qualified audience of design engineers, corporate and engineering management process from the leading semiconductor, computer, telecommunication, and consumer electronics companies. DAC also attracts editors, industry and financial analysts, pundits and others who influence the EDA industry. Lastly, there are developers and researchers from laboratories and universities.
Vendors at DAC consist of major tool exhibitors, minor tool exhibitors, non-exhibitors, and service providers. The minor/major classification is in terms of annual revenues. The major EDA players spend a small fortune. There is booth space (~$22/sq foot) and demo suites, booth rental and transportation, advertisements, direct mail, public relations, sponsorship of breakfasts and lunches, receptions and special events and so on. A larger cost is the travel, lodging, local transportation and food for an army of people. A guesstimate of T&E expense for someone traveling from Silicon Valley would be $2000, more if they entertain prospects and customers. The figure would be considerably
higher for someone flying in from out of state or out of country. Every salesperson and every one in Marketing can give their managers a list of valid reasons why they have to attend DAC. Cooler heads generally prevail lest the entire company shows up DAC.
Minor exhibitors may either try to imitate their larger brethren or join them by have a place within the larger vendor's booth or demo suite. This is a symbiotic relationship. The major vendors gets to show how many complementary products support its design flow, while the minor vendors gets to bask in the reflected glow for less money than going on one's own. Of course these relationships are not exclusive.
Some companies choose DAC as a place and time to launch new products. The whole EDA world is represented. Others will prefer to launch at a different time so as not to be lost in all the noise.
The press and industry analysts will be out in full force. They have an opportunity to meet with vendor executives and discuss business and strategic issues as well as to look at the product demonstrations close up. Of course, the analysts are looking for new clients and to stroke existing ones and trade magazine publishers (not editors) are looking to sign up future advertising.
The individual engineers or designers and their management have an opportunity for education in the form of tutorials and increased awareness of what's available in the industry.
The biggest single reason for an individual to attend DAC is that everything is all in one place at one time. Not to trivialize it, this is in some ways like an Auto Mall. One can get a pretty good idea of what's available in a compressed time and place. All the experts are on hand and anxious to help.
As for the vendors' reasoning, I asked several vendors the question “Why do you participate in DAC, not just this DAC but the last one and the next one?” Some responses are given below.
“Mentor Graphics is the only EDA company around today that has participated
in DAC each year of the conference's 20 year history. Today, as the
fastest-growing EDA company, Mentor continues to have a major presence at
DAC as it is still the key annual event for the EDA industry.
Attending industry events like this provides a strategic value that can be
hard to quantify. DAC, as a gathering of industry leaders, watchers, and
customers, offers a level of interaction that is invaluable. Mentor,
through our exhibit and our suites, meets with hundreds of customers and
potential customers about our tools and our strategy. There really is no
other event that matches its scale and scope.”
Brian Derrick, Vice president of marketing,
Magma Design Automation, Inc.
“For EDA vendors, DAC can be a necessary evil or an essential driver. For
Magma, we choose the latter -- it's been the forum where we, while a small
company with no track record, first created buzz by wearing Hawaiian shirts
and erecting a volcano on the show floor, and by the end of that first day
in New Orleans it was hard to find someone who hadn't heard of us. Each year
since it's been the opportunity for showcasing new products and driving our
And for customers -- the reason we go through all this work in the first
place -- DAC is where they come see what to us may be just new products that
will (we hope) catch on with the market, but that to them are (they hope)
solutions to help them do their jobs. Among all the theatrics and thousands
of logo-emblazoned giveaways, it's easy to forget what is really important
about this event: bringing together designers seeking help with those who
attempt to provide it. Discourse between suppliers and demanders goes on all
year long but intensifies at DAC, where for days we balance what the market
would like with what our industry is prepared to deliver. Yet that friction
is a positive one, and the accompanying competition among us vendors somehow
drives an innovation without which none of us need show up for work.
So we're going to DAC this year, just as we have for years in the past and
no doubt will for years to come. Yes, it can be a real pain sometimes. Thank
goodness we have it.”
Nitin Deo, Vice President, Product Marketing
Other significant events in the industry include the user conference for each company. While these user organizations are generally independent, the vendors make significant commitment of funds and resources to support the meetings. Here the focus is on specific product lines away from the competition and with a knowledgeable and interested audience.
The popularity of tradeshows has declined in many industries. First, there are economic reasons. For attendees beyond a 100 miles radius the cost is considerable plus the trip takes time away from the normal tasks. Travel is generally considered a discretionary expense and is among the first to be cut or to be put under management scrutiny. For potential exhibitors the total expense of a major tradeshow can be a large percentage of the annual Marketing budget. Management must be convinced of the probable return on investment against other usages of the funds. Unfortunately, absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. Imagine if one of the major EDA vendors announced they were not
place, look for more online demos.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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