April 23, 2007
DATE 2007: Secrets et Surprises à la Côte d'Azur
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
Posted anew every four weeks or so, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by EDACafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Is there a more gloriously beautiful place in the world than the French Riviera? Any other locale that so completely defines glamour, luxury and the good life – beautiful people, balmy breezes, and azure seas.

Fortunate the folks, then, who attended the 10th annual European Design Automation and Test Conference in Nice this past week. Because, short of an azure sea or two, DATE lived up to all of the promise of the South of France. There was glamour at the parties, luxury in the endless booth food and wine, balmy breezes rustling through the palm trees lining the street outside the Acropolis Convention Center, and beautiful people everywhere. If you needed azure seas, however, you were out of luck.

The Acropolis is a long half mile inland from the blue, blue Mediterranean Sea and if you were a delegate, exhibitor, or hanger-on at DATE, you were stuck indoors the bulk of the week concentrating on electronic design automation, test, manufacturing, and other adjacencies. That’s not to say that these topics are not compelling – even heart-stopping at times – but they just don’t compare to a long afternoon spent in a sunny seaside café lingering over a glass of red, watching the occasional yacht putter past or sailboat glide off into the distance.


DATE got underway on Monday with a set of tutorials including the requisite hours dedicated to DFM and ESL -- this year featuring Blaze DFM’s
Andrew Kahng et al and Bluespec’s
Arvind and friends, respectively. Although I was committed in principle to attending some part of those workshops, I lingered instead in that sunny seaside café most of the day. And glad I was that I did, because it was my last view of the sea in Nice. For the next three days, I was locked up with the rest of EDA in the efficient, modern construct of the Acropolis, and on the next I was among many who left Nice for good.


Tuesday morning at DATE was opening day, and the plenary session was well attended. Not everyone was in their seats promptly at 8:50, but by the session’s end, the theater was full.

Rudy Lauwereins, 2007 DATE General Chair, welcomed one and all. He said the conference had merged the designers’ forum into the regular conference program, plus was set to showcase the best industrial designs from many companies.

He also said the program reflected the moving focus of DATE from traditional ASICs to system design and test, and embedded software, design and test. He announced that DATE was showcasing 100+ vendors on the exhibit hall floor, including more startups than ever before. He also announced that 5000 people would be at the conference over the course of the week.

DATE Technical Chair
Jan Madsen said 92 paper would be presented, selected from the 845 submissions received from around the globe – 350 from Europe, 280 from the U.S., and the highest number ever received from China, Taiwan, and India. He also noted the most popular topics in 2007 appeared to be multi-core processors and network-on-chip.

Next, a host of awards were distributed.
Aart de Geus presented the Phil Kaufman Award to
Bob Dutton. Bernard Courtois presented the EDAA Lifetime Achievement Award to
Tom Williams and DATE Fellow Awards to all previous DATE chairs.
Yervant Zorian presented various IEEE awards and congratulated the latest IEEE Fellows in Design and Test. The next 60 minutes were consumed by the two keynotes, one from Toshiba R&D General Manager,
Tohru Furuyama, and one from CoWare CEO
Alan Naumann.

Furuyama reviewed the range of consumer products now blanketing the globe. He said maintaining the pace of innovation in electronics requires hardware/software codesign and multiprocessor architecture, including Toshiba’s flagship MeP processor core. He also invoked the IBM Cell processor, the ARM core, and the Venezia subsystem from Toshiba which includes the MeP core.

Furuyama went on to talk about the pros and cons of heterogeneous multi-core architecture versus homogeneous. Furuyama said heterogeneous architectures lend themselves to IP reuse, power efficiency, and minimizing chip costs for volume sales. Alternatively, homogenous architectures offer scalable platforms, flexibility, software tuning for bug fixes, and improved time to market. The cons? When heterogeneous architectures need bug fixes, post silicon, they require respins, while further progress in homogeneous architectures will require the development of more effective compilers.

Among many other bullets on his topic list, Furuyama also endorsed ESL, said RTL simulation is accurate, but slow, and celebrated that we’re almost at the point where behavioral synthesis is generating RTL code. Then he touched on various DFM issues – complex design rules, hot spots, and architectures from IMEC and STARC.

If you think this sounds like a lot before the first espresso of the day, you’re right. Dr. Furuyama was fascinating, but for travelers from distant shores such complex topics early in the morning were challenging.

Alan Naumann then took the stage, fully mic’d, and delivered his comments in the style of all great software commanders, striding around out in front of the proscenium arch. From there, he invoked Darwin, dinosaurs, and tar pits. He threw in references to Nice, Rome, evolution, iPods, digital cameras, market dynamics, change, digital consumers, algorithms, quad cores, Intel, TI, Motorola, Cannon, Sony, OKI, ST, Tensislica, ARM,
EETimes, and finally Toshiba itself. Naumann made it clear he likes platform design and thought he might be quoting Chris Rowen when he opined: “The processor is the NAND gate of the 21st century.”

Finally, in light of a precipitous drop-off in ASIC design starts, Naumann again advised his audience to evolve quickly or fall into the tar pits – a nasty fate that befell the dinosaurs, he said.

Perhaps I was hallucinating and in need of my mid-morning caffeine, but the more Alan Naumann talked about RTL-design dinosaurs falling into the tar pits, the more I wanted to raise my hand and point out that the dinosaurs
are the tar pits. The tar pits are the gooey remains of a moment in the biosphere that disappeared once and for all 65 million years ago. What fell
later into the tar pits were the great mammals that wandered the globe, or at least Wilshire Boulevard, a mere ten-to-twenty thousand years ago – not the dinosaurs. Oh well, what’s a few million years between friends? Especially on a Tuesday morning in the South of France.

I am hoping, however, that the next time Mr. Naumann gives a keynote about RTL designers, dinosaurs, and extinction, that I’m not sitting in a theater just one chair away from the CEO of Synopsys, whose company’s flagship product is based on an RTL view of the world. That was not my idea of fun, even in the South of France.

There was fun to be had based on the CoWare keynote, however, later in the week. I mentioned the dinosaur/tar pit conundrum in a meeting with some European technologists and to my amazement, although they were totally clear on the concept of a dinosaur, they had no idea what a “tar pit” was – or is. Guess tar pits are kind of a California thing, and one of those ideas that definitely gets lost in translation.

What didn’t get lost in translation, however, was Alan Naumann’s call for future design methods to include ESL tools for architectural exploration of multiple alternatives, software/hardware codesign, and application-specific processors that can be used in combination with multiprocessor SOCs. He admonished his audience to acknowledge that we need concurrent development of algorithms, architectures, and processors – and the engineers who can deal with the life forms that reside at these higher levels of abstraction.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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