March 24, 2008
DATE 08: Musings von München
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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The motivation for all of this was clearly stated: To stare down growing competition from both American and Asian players in these crucial technology sectors. Reynaert emphasized the advantages for Member States – the leveraging of resources across Europe, better synergy in overall vision, and more cost-effective implementation of the end-results. He said, “This is a very good way to get all of the players working together.”

Questions from the floor reflected concerns about the ability of small and medium-sized companies to benefit from the programs, and concerns that universities already involved with industrial partners might lose ground. Reynaert expressed confidence the concerns could be addressed, and I left thinking perhaps I should not have been there in the first place. I’m as aware as any of the increasingly intense acrimony between Europe and the U.S. – sometimes, it’s just better to know when to remove oneself.

* Skipping lunch, I headed back to the Exhibition Hall, met briefly with
Holly Stump from Jasper Design, had a nice chat with
Paul McLellan from Envision Technology about the company’s new Chill clock-power reduction tool, and then sat down to enjoy a 90-minute panel in the Exhibition Theater moderated by
Gary Smith: “Concurrency in a Multi-Processor World.” The conversation included Imperas’
Simon Davidmann, Tensilica’s
Grant Martin, and IMEC’s
Rudy Lauwereins (a possible DATE MVP for all the appearances he made at the conference).

Davidmann confirmed: “The future is definitely multi-core.” Martin refuted Smith’s “embarrassingly parallel” terminology: “There’s nothing ‘embarrassing’ about it. There are lots of evolutionary steps we can take to [get things going here].” Lauwereins reiterated the need for an evolutionary approach. Smith invoked Asia: “China puts out 50,000 programmers a year. In one year, they could solve the need for [concurrency through sheer manpower].” As I wandered away to meet with Agilent, I thought to myself: In the end, everything will devolve to geopolitics. Everything!

As I never found Agilent (apparently also channeling le Carré, they were ‘hiding’ in Room M6), I stopped in at the University Booth instead and had a great chat with
Steffen Moser from Ulm University. He and fellow grad students are working on a way-cool submarine/autonomous vehicle that he proudly told me was essentially designed and assembled by computer science students (with a wee bit of help from their EE professor/advisor). With 3 Altera FPGAs on board, the 5-foot vehicle’s got image processing, a kind of watery GPS set-up (through triangulation), and other cool stuff to assist in its life’s work – underwater spelunking in the Ulm area.

Before heading off to more sessions upstairs, I had one final amusement on the Exhibition Hall floor – an impromptu debate between Imperas and Virtutech over the real meaning of
Open Source. For another day, I’ll revisit this conversation and extend the discussion of difficult semantics –
proprietary, free, open, and
community. It may all sound easy enough, but trust me – it ain’t!

Attending sessions 6.1 (analyzing auto architectures) and 6.5 (testing low-power devices) proved stolen time well spent, although it’s far from heaven to arrive late, leave early, and attempt to be in two places at once. Following those schizophrenic moments, I found myself back in the Press Room for a lengthy discussion with Accellera’s
Dennis Brophy. As well as summarizing the array of contributions that have emerged out of this respected standards body over the last few years, Dennis noted that the Verilog standard has now been subsumed by the SystemVerilog standard and will be approved shortly by the IEEE. He said the emerging low-power UPF standard will be approved by DAC in June, and predicted that going forward, we should look for major leadership in the standards area from the technology community in India.

Following that conversation, I made one more quick trip to the Exhibition Hall to speak with the team from Coresonic, CEO
Rick Clucas and CTO
Dake Liu. Coming off of their presentation at ISSCC in San Francisco in February, these two are feeling confident that their baseband processor technology is destined for an up-and-to-the-right market trajectory.

* Finally, returning to Wednesday’s Special Topic on Automotive Systems, I closed out the afternoon by attending what was undoubtedly
Best of Show as far as technical sessions were concerned at DATE 08. Moderated, as well, by
Alberto Sangiovanni Vincentelli, Session 7.1 on “Technologies, Methods and Tools for the Future Car” included input from Daimler’s
Thomas Webber, BMW’s
Harald Heinecke, dSPACE’s
Herbert Hanselmann, TU Vienna’s
Hermann Kopetz, and Continental Teves’
Helmut Fennel.

Given the caliber and knowledge of these participants, this intensely informative and highly technical panel discussion could easily have served as an opening keynote discussion for the entire DATE 08 conference, and most definitely deserved that kind of showcasing. Instead, it was sadly misplaced at the end of the afternoon on Wednesday as attendees were spending more and more time in the Exhibit Hall and less and less time in the technical sessions.

The film crew at the back of the room told me after the panel ended at 6 PM that the video of the session would be available the very next day on the DATE website. That was 10 days ago, and I am still unable to find the link. Hopefully that will be remedied shortly. When it is available, may I suggest that all of you still reading here be sure to take 90 minutes out of your busy lives to watch this fascinating conversation. Everything from correct-by-construction design, to the applicability of standards, to the definition of an ‘open approach’ to innovation and the pros and cons of point tools was discussed – and not superficially, but from the standpoint of key
technologists who are driving the future of the automotive industry in Europe.

It is this kind of conversation that defines and defends the existence of an event like DATE 08, or any technical conference for that matter. I congratulate Sangiovanni Vincentelli for assembling this panel, and hope there will be more like it in the coming years.


Thursday at DATE 08 …

* Having opted out of the DATE Conference Dinner at the World Famous Hofbrauhaus in downtown Munich on Wednesday evening (rumored to have been jam-packed), it should not have been difficult to be back at the ICM in time for the start of the Thursday sessions. I was late, nonetheless, and found myself on the U2 whooshing towards Messestadt West at 9 AM Thursday, enjoying a conversation with an EDA CEO who happened to be on my train. Based in Silicon Valley, he said he did not regret having made the trip to Munich, but acknowledged that the ROI for conferences – be it DATE, DAC, or any other conference venue – is increasingly difficult
to sort out. No real news there, but his comments added another data point to the enigma surrounding the future of technical shows in general.

To complete my visit at DATE, I had appointments on Thursday with
Atrenta (The company’s growing 70% a year),
ACE and
Compaan (ACE has recently invested in Compaan),
CoFluent (The company’s just announced the latest release of CoFluent Studio), and
Teklatech (Teklatech’s debut at DATE 08 coincided with their first product release, the FloorDirector floorplanning tool).

I interspersed those meetings with additional technical sessions – first, Session 8. 5 and the single-electron device, which addressed strategies for simulating these highly problematic constructs, and then Session 8.7 and EPIC, an initiative for
Ending Piracy of Integrated Circuits out of the University of Michigan. I also attended a talk in Session 9.4, where researchers from Northwestern University evaluated an FPGA implementation of a network intrusion detection system, using hardware to detect suspicious anomalies in data patterns. Along with debates about the efficacy of such a scheme, there was also discussion of the ongoing use of a difficult-to-update 1999 table of attack data that encryption researchers continue to use to test their algorithms and hardware.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.


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