November 17, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Time: Part 2
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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!

I attended 5 events at ICCAD: Monday’s panel discussion moderated by Cadence’s

Andreas Kuehlmann, Monday’s SIGDA dinner honoring Achievement Award winner
Ed McCluskcy from Stanford, a Tuesday morning tutorial on Graphene Nanoribbon FETs given Rice University’s
Kartik Mohanram, a lunchtime keynote given by EPFL’s
Giovanni De Micheli, and a Wednesday afternoon Birds of a Feather session featuring a host of EDA bloggers discussing present opportunities and future growth for this increasingly pivotal conduit of communication.

*
The Kuehlmann Panel included ARM’s
Rob Aitken, Intel’s
Jerry Bautista, Carnegie Mellon’s
Wojceich Maly, and U.C. Berkeley’s
Jan Rabaey. The conversation centered around extending Moore’s Law into the foreseeable future, a somewhat tried-and-true topic that took on amazingly contentious dimensions in the hands of the four panelists on November 10th. For starters, Kuehlmann compared the history of aeronautics with that of the semiconductor industry, and concluded that the most advanced aero-tech has rarely been embraced by the commercial aviation industry, because few companies can afford the implementation of leading-edge innovations.

ARM’s Aitken took it from there and explained in detail why Moore would continue on – multiple VT, strained silicon, hi-K materials, immersion lithography, and a mixed bag of tricks from EDA. Not surprisingly, Intel’s Bautista said the answers to life’s questions resides in everything multi-core/multi-thread. Look at Intel’s 80-core products, he admonished, built on standard 65-nanometer processes. CMU’s Maly went next and went off like a rocket. Difficult to tell sitting in the audience if his agitation was authentic, but the gist of his message was it’s 3D or No Go; Maly’s message mixed with lots of

aspersions cast on the larger semiconductor industry for continuing to fail to listen to his prophetic voice. UCB’s Rabaey wrapped up the opening statements by revisiting the topic of his ITC keynote on interconnected mega-memory computational cloud structures.

Once the opening salvos had been delivered by the Gang of Four, the discussion went forth in a distinctly animated way. Not sure I was tracking everybody’s particular territory or point of view, but in the end Kuehlmann could feel satisfaction that he’d created far Moore than a molehill out of a mountain – there are some thorny issues here, that simply will not go away anytime soon. Meanwhile, it would have been really interesting to sit with Kuehlmann, Aitken, Bautista, Maly and Rabaey, after de Micheli’s keynote talk the following day. All told, the differences between theory and reality – at both the

Monday panel and Tuesday lunchtime address -- seemed closer to a chasm than a coming-together at ICCAD.

*
The ACM/SIGDA dinner at ICCAD on Monday evening showcased the 2008 SIGDA Pioneering Achievement Award Winner, Stanford’s
Ed McCluskey. Professor McCluskey gave a deceptively unstructured, organic talk, mixing personal recollections of his long career with highlights of seminal papers and books – several of which he authored or co-authored – that have influenced design and test over the last 70 years. The audience was hard pressed to keep up with McCluskey as he peppered them with questions, Socratic style, to test them on their knowledge and understanding of the importance of each work he mentioned.

From my vantage point at the back, most of the stellar technologists in the room barely earned passing marks on Dr. McCluskey’s impromptu orals, but they swallowed their pride and made their way to the podium one by one, nonetheless, to warmly celebrate McCluskey’s accomplishments and mentoring. The congratulatory queue included Virage Logic’s

Yervant Zorian, U.C. Berkeley’s
Bob Brayton, Synopsys’
Tom Williams, TIMA Lab’s
Bernard Courtois, EPFL’s
Giovanni De Micheli, DAFCA’s
Miron Abramovici, University of Illinois’
Ravi Iyer, and Carnegie Mellon’s
Daniel Siewiorek.

[If you were not at the dinner, try answering these questions: 1) Why was Shannon’s 1938 paper so important? 2) When and who wrote the paper first describing stuck-at faults? Don’t know the answers? Dr. McCluskey’s talk was taped; do your homework before you tune in.]

*
The Graphene Nanoribbon FET talk was part of a morning tutorial detailing design and CAD challenges in graphene electronics. Pretty esoteric stuff, but if Juan-Antonio Carballo is right, it’s the stuff of the future – novel materials and applications that can help stretch the boundaries of EDA.
Kartik Mohanram detailed some of the edge-quality issues that cause non-idealities to occur in these two-dimensional graphene lattice structures during his talk. Interesting that these materials can have metallic or semi-conducting qualities, depending, so intuitively there seems to be a lot of promise here.

By the way, Stanford’s

Subhasish Mitra, session moderator, kept Mohanram on his toes, but not off balance, throughout the presentation with repeated questions. If GNRFETs ever get off of the drawing board into production, rest assured the technology will have been thoroughly vetted first by the ICCAD community & friends.

Dr. de Micheli’s Tuesday keynote was a rip-roaring romp through everything that EDA could be, if EDA wanted to be – CAD tools for more efficient energy sources and CAD tools for a host of biological design challenges. Building on work from various universities around the world, and illustrated with images from a host of papers and R&D labs, de Micheli explored the idea of a SPICE-like tool for biochemical abstractions, simulations, and testing. He talked about the difference between engineered systems and biological/organic systems – the former being difficult
to design and manufacture, while the latter tend to be efficient, ultra low-power, low voltage, and amazingly robust.

Like the McCluskey talk, Professor de Micheli’s talk was taped, and worth committing an hour to review if you were not there. I am 100-percent certain that within 10-15 years, everything de Micheli discussed will have moved from the paradigm of a lunchtime keynote into the more scientific, and technically acute paradigm of the regular sessions at ICCAD. Mark my words.

*
The EDA Bloggers “Birds-of-a-Feather” meeting was a lively gathering, to say the least, on November 12th at ICCAD. If you want to hear more of my impressions of the meeting, I invite you to go to my ‘blog’ at
EDA Confidential. If you don’t think my site qualifies as a blog, welcome to the wacky world of blogging, where semantics are still as hot a topic as the logistics behind the medium. [
]

*
Finally, it wouldn’t be ICCAD without the
CADathlon, a marvelous, annual design contest that pits 40 EECS grad students from 20 universities in a marathon battle of intellect and design savvy. This year’s winner was the team from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona. Excuse my excessive optimism, but in observing many of the grad students in attendance at ICCAD, the future of this industry surely resides in bright and energetic minds – no matter what the graybeards and naysayers may say. There is a great future ahead. Again in 2008, ICCAD showcased new and novel technologies, and
future opportunities for innovation and success. It was exhilarating to be there just to listen in.


**************************

Industry on the march …



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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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