September 15, 2008
EDA: The Promise & The Challenge
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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 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!

There’s so much promise in electronic technology. And, as the news of the past several weeks clearly indicates, there are so many global challenges awaiting further delivery on that promise:

* Tracking destructive weather patterns; better modeling to predict the weather patterns in the first place.

* Developing sleek mass transit to serve the world’s increasingly urbanized populations; massively smarter control systems to regulate the transit systems already in place, and help prevent human error.

* Uncovering and implementing novel energy sources to replace today’s toxic carbon-based infrastructure; increased efficiencies in utilizing existing energy sources, in the meanwhile.

* Predicting disease and preventing destructive congenital conditions; customized pharmaceuticals and delivery systems attuned to the unique physiology of each individual.

* Better distribution of educational resources to fully utilize the intellectual capital vested in humanity; connecting the world to optimize commerce, communication, and understanding across cultures.

* All of this, and entertainment too.

If you were on the ground in Silicon Valley last week, you would have heard the EDA industry is poised to continue to help convert all of this promise into reality. You would also have heard that it’s happening because electronic design automation is simultaneously moving to higher levels of abstraction, while also developing closer ties to manufacturing.


Tallo: ESL has landed

Ken Tallo is the newly elected Chair of OSCI, the Open SystemC Initiative, succeeding ST’s
Alain Clouard. With his OSCI hat on, Tallo told me by phone last week that OSCI continues to maintain its momentum by establishing and deploying standards and methodologies around SystemC, and by reaching out for additional membership from “tech-driven market segments.”

He said OSCI will become “increasingly influential and impactful” as the use of SystemC extends beyond EDA to additional software companies – bios and OS and embedded firmware vendors – plus the auto, aero, and medical industries, and any companies producing and building “complex platforms or systems that have started to embrace System C. We need participation and influence from all of these companies,” Tallo said.

Tallo’s not new to OSCI; “I’ve been repping on the board for Intel, but now as Chair, I want to continue momentum that’s already established with TLM 2.0 and recent announcements around the AMS extensions to the standard. OSCI needs to keep releasing specs and creating standards that the industry can rally behind and continue to propel that image forward. We have over 52,000 registered users, while the number of downloads of the reference manual and TLM 2.0 specs over the last 3 months has been incredible.

“We want to become part of the elite group of organizations – groups like Accellera and SPIRIT – that survive in the long term. As long as we execute well and deliver what the industry finds value in, we’ll become even more influential based on the quality of our results.”

Meanwhile, with his Intel hat on, Tallo said SystemC and
system-level design have arrived: “I was on a panel about ESL at DAC several years ago, where we made predictions then that in the next couple of years system-level design would be in the forefront. Now that time has arrived, even though many in the industry continue to use 10-year-old design methods – synthesizing Verilog to gates.

“I personally lived through that whole transition when Verilog came along. There were lots of engineers then who absolutely did not want to let go, saying they could synthesize faster than any tools. Where are those guys now? Out of the market. The same thing’s happening now.

“It’s true [the speed of adoption of system-level design] will depend on having the EDA infrastructure in place to support it, but that’s coming. The EDA companies are on the board of OSCI. They’re now focusing on solving the challenges of designing complex SoCs where the difficulties, particularly in manufacturing, are immense.

“It’s a transition that’s taking place even as we speak, and the industry is looking at all of this and knows that if we can’t put enough logic and functionality onto the real estate, the industry will stall. No matter what the naysayers out there say, this will be the big focus area going forward. A recent survey at DAC said that 70 percent of SystemC users today are actually synthesizing pieces of the design – they’re seeing the value of taking high-level models and synthesizing down to gates.

“The [transition] is also driven by universities as they’re being forced to make the shift, as they start to embrace SystemC in their mainstream courses. We’re going to see things quickly evolve in the next year or two, as higher levels of abstraction definitely emerge.

“I manage the virtual platforms group inside of Intel, and also manage external IP for the company. We’re making the requirement today at Intel that all IP must come in with ESL models, so we can create our products faster, bigger, and better. It’s not just buzz anymore – it’s where we are.”


Rhines: The best days are still ahead

There are three things that distinguish a keynote from Mentor Graphics CEO
Wally Rhines: a) he starts and ends on time; b) if he says he’ll be there, he’ll be there; and c) his presentations are so rich in facts and figures, you never, ever leave without having learned something new. Such was the case once again last week, when Rhines delivered a knock-their-socks off, content-rich keynote to the assembled masses at
EDA Tech Forum last Thursday in Santa Clara.

He started with a review of what everybody says is wrong, mature, stale, or dead-in-the water about EDA. By the time he was done 45 minutes later, however, Rhines had managed to turn the tables on the industry naysayers, articulated a host of reasons why the industry is nowhere near becalmed, and ended with a rousing, “The best days in this industry are still ahead!”

In between, he invoked Russian economist,
Nikolai Kondratiev, who suggested economies are characterized by 50-year cycles that include innovation, robust commercialization, and subsequent economic slow-down as the implementation of that innovation ages and matures. Rhines said steel, chemical, and automobiles display cycles which confirm Kondratiev’s theory, and noted the industrial revolution of the 1850’s, the combustion engine in 1900, the transistor, laser, and jet engine of the mid-20th century also reflect “Kondratiev-ian” cycles. If Kondratiev is right, Rhines said, we’re now headed once again into an economic “winter” whereby the financial benefits of innovation
today will not be available until our children’s generation comes of age.

But, Kondratiev is
not right this time, Rhines said – this time things are different, and here’s why: In China, the middle class will grow from 30 percent of the population today, to 50 percent by 2020. In India, the percentage of the population that’s middle class today will increase tenfold by 2025. In geographies such as Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America, we’ll also see dramatic increases in the number of people with middle class earnings and discretionary income. Those changes will translate into hundreds of millions of cell phones being purchased, computers, televisions, and a host of other products; the growth in non-U.S. consumer
markets is one of two reasons why Kondratiev is not right this time, per Rhines.

The other reason is consolidation in the industry. Despite predictions of doom for 45 and 32 nanometers, Rhines had charts and graphs to suggest that the ramp-up for these newer process nodes is equivalent to the ramp-ups we observed in previous years for 90 and 65 nanometers. The demand is there, albeit harder to accomplish these geometries, and the designers are stepping up to the challenge with better tools, more connectivity between geographically dispersed design teams across consolidated corporate entities, and the move to more programmable devices, FGPAs.

Rhines embellished
Metcalf’s Law: “The value of a telecomm network is equal to the square of the number of users.” He added
Wally’s Corollary: “The magnitude of the innovation is proportional to the square of the number of innovators in the Internet age.”

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.

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