July 21, 2003
Agere Systems' Jon Fields
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| by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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My high school senior recently told me that it's poor form, from a literary point of view, to open an essay with a quote. I'd counter that in the case of Jon Fields, it's safer to pull a quote from his official Agere Systems bio, than to trust my scribbled notes in attempting to describe his current (huge) role with the company.
“Jon Fields is Vice President of the Design Platform Organization of Agere Systems. Fields oversees IC CAD support, common IP sourcing and design, custom and ASIC IC design kits, new technology introduction, foundry support, IC package design, and Agere's Bangalore development center.”
“Mr. Fields joined Agere Systems' predecessor, AT&T Bell Laboratories, in 1979. In a career spanning design of 32-bit microprocessors and peripheral chipsets, Jon was the lead designer of the WE32xxx family's first memory management unit and floating point processor chips, design manager of PC products, and senior design director of mass storage products. In this role, Jon helped propel Agere to the number one position in the hard disk drive IC market. Jon has a BSEE from Rutgers University and an M. Eng. from Cornell University.”
Query - With some 24 years in essentially the same organization, does all of this make Jon the quintessential Company Man?
Answer - Not by a long shot.
And, I don't use that phrase lightly, because apparently Jon was doing shots with the best of them at DAC 2003 - holding his own quite nicely, thank you - and still out jogging at the crack of dawn before each long business day in Anaheim.
At least, that's what he was telling me during our recent, lengthy phone conversation.
I don't actually have any cooberating evidence to prove Jon's claims, but I'm willing to take his word for it because, even though Jon's a manager with no small measure of responsibility (did you read that job description?) and 320 folks reporting to him, he's fundamentally an engineer - you can tell that as soon as you start talking to him - and as we all know, engineers don't lie and they don't exaggerate. When an engineer tells you that he was doing shots in the evening and was up bright and early the next morning jogging, several days in a row, you best believe him.
One other thing you'll know as soon as you start talking to Jon - you can take the manager out of the engineer, but you'll never take the engineer out of the manager.
Which is as it should be, as engineers are trustworthy, loyal, clean, reverent, etc., tall, dark, handsome, sober (even after shots of tequila), down-to earth, and wry.
All of this is by way of saying that it was great chatting with Jon and I'm grateful to Gale Morrison (now of Agere Systems, but formerly of Electronic News fame) for setting up our conversation. Here are some of the highlights of Jon's wide-ranging comments from our 90-minute chat.
On being a CAD manager
“This is a different role for me. I'd been used to closing deals, defining products, ramping up and delivering products - things where the success [or lack thereof] was very clear. In CAD support, it's not clear whether the customer is ramping up or not, whether you've had an impact on manufacturing or cost effectiveness or not. On a good day, you simply find out that nothing's gone wrong. It's ultimately the success of the project [that you take pride in] and whether [business units] voluntarily spend their money with you, which proves your contribution.”
“I take care of the stuff that nobody else wants to take care of, which makes me believe that in my former life I was really, really bad. Anybody who's a CAD manager is being punished for past sins.”
On the EDA industry
“At Agere, we're assembling a flow from the best that EDA has to offer and writing scripts to glue it all together. We don't see that [task] going away anytime soon. You only do your own [in-house EDA tools] if it gives you the competitive edge. You never invest in parity. Why would you? The most you'll be able to say for your work is that you wrote it yourself. An EDA vendor has a better shot at providing tools.”
“But I would give the EDA industry some simple advice. You should be concentrating on performance, ease of use, and integration. Currently, I don't see any of the EDA vendors giving adequate attention to these things. It doesn't mean that I don't respect many of the vendors, however.”
“Synopsys, for instance, is handling the Avanti acquisition well, even brilliantly. People I know and love are very happy working now at Synopsys. Paul Lo, Mike Jackson
They are excited and feel very empowered by their new situation.”
“Magma's got the right vision - an integrated approach that takes you to physical design - and its handling of hierarchy makes sense. But Magma may not be big enough to carry it off. We don't use Magma [tools], by the way.”
“Cadence is in the OpenAccess camp. With all of their acquisitions, Cadence is gluing together products that come from very different sources. It's more difficult to pull that off. They have some catch-up to do to have a shot at maintaining the customer base [of the acquired companies].”
On managing the team
“It's clear to me that Agere must be doing something right because our IC design engineering population has been steady at approximately 1000 [for a number of years].”
“Each month, I sit down and read a 20-page report from my staff. [However], we all sit down and talk weekly - my 6 direct reports, my admin, the project manager, the CFO, and the HR manager. It's my personal philosophy that we don't have meetings to discuss things that have been written down in status reports. Those reports should be read prior to a meeting. Also, to the extent that managers don't need to know something, [reports should be tailored to what they do need to know].”
“I've got a great team in place here and they know that every problem needs one workable solution. With the scope of my job description, I need to delegate to good managers. I have mandatory weekly meetings with my direct reports, and monthly meetings with all of the managers. I prefer short meetings that are 60 to 90 minutes long.”
“Meanwhile, we've got 100 people on the team in Bangalore. They're doing software development, supporting some legacy DFT software (that pre-dates our adoption of the LogicVision platform), as well as a long list of other interesting projects. We're trying to do more than just create an extension to Agere Systems. We're trying to create a great Indian company - Agere Systems India. We've got local management in place there with local project leaders. We have empowered the local management, rather than present rigid deliverables to the team in Bangalore.”
“The country manager in India reports to me, but the business culture at the center is an Indian business culture. That culture is different than here in the U.S. Employees in India are very disciplined. They document what they're going to do and how they're going to do it - and then they do it. Here in the U.S., first we often do the thing, then we write down what we did and how we did it. We don't always plan ahead in the same way.”
On the economy
“These are difficult times. These days you need to stay close to your financial reality. All technical ideas have to be evaluated against a zero-sum game. Something new has to come out of not doing something else. [However], if you can present a great story, you'll get the budget increase.”
“The economic downturn has not been about [specific] industries, as people generally believe. It's been a one-time event, a Perfect Storm between Y2K, the Internet bubble, and the competitive local exchange bubble. Now we're waiting for the next killer app [to appear] - which may turn out to be in voice [technologies].”
On doing shots
“I went to the Tuesday night Cadence Customer dinner at DAC. It was all pretty formal, so somewhere mid-way through the evening, Penny Herscher and I left and went over to the Denali party at the House of Blues. We did shots along with a bunch of people from Magma. Rajeev Madhavan [CEO at Magma] even did a shot of tequila, because I encouraged him to and I'm the customer. I'll say to Penny's credit, she would only do shots of Vodka. She doesn't like Tequila and wouldn't do shots of Tequila even for a customer. You've got to respect her for that.”
On being opinionated
“Just ask my wife. She'll tell you that I've got an opinion on just about everything. I'm often concerned, however, because she frequently ignores my [excellent] advice. She always says that advice is only worth as much as you pay for it. I'm never quite sure what she means by that.”
Industry news - Tools and IP
Aptix Corp. announced that it has begun shipping Release 5.0 of its software for its reconfigurable prototyping products, System Explorer and Software Integration Station. The company says the new release is available to all customers with software support contracts, and includes new support for TCL scripting, improved probing and triggering, and new hardware self-test. New features in Release 5.0 also include Design Pilot software enhancements, TCL support, faster flow for incremental changes, asynchronous clock data path management, flexible probe assignment (pre- and post-partition), an improved logic optimizer, and partitioning options to reduce the number of FPGAs.
Cadence Design Systems, Inc. announced that Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. used Cadence's Incisive platform and Palladium acceleration functionality to increase verification performance by 1,000 times, and reduce verification test time from six weeks to 50 minutes. Masanobu Mizuno, Manager at Matsushita's Advanced LSI Design Technology Development Coordination Group said, “Cadence Palladium, with its multi-user capability and short turnaround time, provided the methodology that enabled us to move easily from simulation to simulation acceleration. Using the Cadence verification platform to verify our large-scale media processor resulted in a reduction of our
time and improved our design quality. Palladium compile time is 10 times faster compared to the previous-generation CoBALT accelerator, and run-time performance was improved.”
Incentia Design Systems, Inc. announced that Toshiba Corp. has selected Incentia's TimeCraft static timing analyzer for timing verification of its multi-million gate, high-performance SoC designs. Toshiba and Incentia signed a multi-year agreement for widespread use of TimeCraft. Tamotsu Hiwatashi, Senior Manager, Planning Department, System LSI Design Division of Toshiba, said: “TimeCraft satisfies our stringent STA requirements with it features, speed and capacity. Its fast analysis drastically shortens our total STA turnaround time.”
In related news, Incentia announced today that it has improved the performance of TimeCraft. The company says the new release improves runtime up to 5X and reduces memory utilization up to 30% on large designs, when compared to the previous release.
Mentor Graphics Corp. announced that Calibre has been selected as the internal standard at Hua Hong NEC Electronics Company, based in Shanghai, China.
Hua Hong NEC is a pure play IC foundry for advanced process technologies and describes itself as “the world's leading VLSI microprocessor manufacturer.” Hua Hong NEC offers 0.35 micron and 0.25 micron for volume production and will release 0.18-micron volume production in late 2003. Mentor Graphics says that with this adoption, “Calibre is now the internal standard for the top three foundries in China.”
Also from Mentor Graphics - The company announced the availability of the Seamless Co-verification Processor Support Packages for the ARM1136J-S and ARM1136JF-S high-performance cores. The company says these are the first new models delivered under the recently extended licensing and distribution agreement between ARM and Mentor Graphics.
Finally, from Mentor Graphics - The company announced the availability of the PADS suites, which provide “complete, front-to-back, Windows-based PCB system design flows allowing productivity gains and faster time-to-market through design flow integration.” The PADS suites includes new features such as an OrCAD translator for an easy migration to the PADS environment, an improved component library to eliminate the need for library creation, and the availability of online training that allows designers to learn how to use the tools from their desktop. Mentor also announced it has expanded its sales channel for the PADS suites with the addition of three new resellers in the
United States, Canada, and Russia.
Coming soon to a theater near you
CICC'03 - The 25th annual Custom Integrated Circuits Conference is taking place September 21st to the 24th at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose. Conference organizers says that they're offering “a balanced program focusing on Innovation, Education and Communications.”
Innovation will be provided via an “in-depth look at the latest innovations in IC design and technology, featuring 120 technical papers from university and industry constituents on such topics as analog circuits, wireless and DSP design, and EDA advancements.” Education gets the nod through “four full-day educational sessions taught by scientific experts and three panels populated by IC industry leaders.” And Communications will emerge from “numerous opportunities to enhance community building through extended communications: technical exhibits, interactive panels, author interviews, and time for networking at the annual exhibitor reception and happy
hour.” That last sounds quite good.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Robert Lucky, author of the bimonthly "Reflections" column in IEEE Spectrum Magazine. The luncheon speaker, Dr. Tsugiu Makimoto, Corporate Advisor at Sony, who will address the role of chip technology in robotics development.
Ansoft Corp. announced that Ulrich Rohde has received a Marconi Memorial Gold Medal of Achievement from the Veteran Wireless Operators Association (VWOA) for his “exemplary achievements in the field of microwave circuit simulation and design.” Dr. Rohde has served on Ansoft's Board of Directors since 1997 and has 20+ years' experience with microwave circuit theory and technology. He is an IEEE fellow and was formerly President and CEO of Compact Software Inc. Currently, Rohde is President of Communications Consulting Corp., Chairman of Synergy Microwave Corp., a Partner at Rohde & Schwarz, and a member of the faculty of several universities.
Barcelona Design Inc. has named Susanne Hampe as a Sales Director for Europe. Hampe will be responsible for establishing sales operations for Barcelona's entire line of products in the European market, and will report directly to Bob Johnson, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Field Operations. Before joining Barcelona Design, Hampe worked for Simplex Solutions as General Manager for Central Europe. After Cadence Design System acquired Simplex, she assumed the role of Business Development Manager with responsibility for Europe.
Mentor Graphics Corp. announced that its customer support division has been certified for the fourth straight year under the Support Center Practices (SCP) Certification program. The Press Release says, “SCP Certification is an internationally recognized standard that defines best practices, quantifies the effectiveness of customer support, establishes a foundation to build on existing quality processes, and provides a clear focus on measurable results. Certified organizations must demonstrate their continued commitment to high performance standards through annual re-certification audits.”
Mentor says that certification was achieved “after extensive audits of the company's multiple support centers. In 2000, Mentor Graphics was the first electronic design automation (EDA) company to earn SCP Certification, and today remains the only EDA vendor with this certification. Achieving SCP Certification further demonstrates Mentor's commitment to providing consistent, high-quality support to its customers worldwide. To confirm that Mentor Graphics met the requirements of the more than 100 business elements defined in the SCP Certification program, comprehensive on-site audits were conducted in several Mentor Graphics locations in North America and Europe.”
Yet even more from Mentor Graphics - The company announced it has received a “Ten Best Web Support Sites” award from the Association of Support Professionals (ASP) and is the first EDA company to win the award. Mentor says it was recognized for its secure, full-service customer support Web site, SupportNet.
In the category of...
Another acquisition blows ashore during M&A season
There are acquisitions and then there are Acquisitions with a Capital A. With the Cadence Design Systems acquisition of Verplex Systems - announced this week, to be finalized in mid-August - you've really got an Acquisition, a powerful win-win situation for both Verplex and Cadence, but particularly Cadence. As acquisitions go, many would agree that this is one of the more notable of late.
In picking up Verplex, Cadence is bringing a solid EDA player into the fold. Verplex is a company with 90 employees and an established and respected technology initiative in formal verification. If all goes well, it promises to be a willing and able partner in Cadence's move to further address verification challenges in the world of big, complex designs.
I had a chance to talk to the two sides of the acquisition on Tuesday, July 15th - Cadence Executive Vice President and CMO Penny Herscher and Verplex President and CEO Michael Chang. Verplex is a bigger company than some of the others recently acquired by Cadence, and both Herscher and Chang acknowledge that the choreography of this acquisition is just that much more complex for the 'acquirer' due to the size of the 'acquiree.'
Not surprisingly, both Herscher and Chang say the conversation regarding this merger has been underway “for years,” and now that it's coming to fruition, there is clearly a deep and respectful commitment on both sides to make this one work.
Herscher says that the Verplex Conformal products will be integrated into the Cadence Encounter platform, and that the Verplex BlackTie product will dovetail nicely into the Cadence Incisive platform. Chang agrees, and confidently predicts that his organization can only benefit from the additional sales channels, customer base, and R&D boost that will come its way via Cadence.
Herscher: “It's an exciting merger that will close in the middle of August. Meanwhile, we'll be leaving everyone at Verplex alone for 90 days, while they continue to support their customers and grow revenue. We'll probably move them over to the Cadence campus by the end of the year.”
Chang: “Our people are very excited about the acquisition, which will allow us to sell to a much bigger channel. [Historically], Verplex and Cadence have not been competing in the same space. For our competition, however, the acquisition is going to create a greater challenge for them. I look forward to Penny's support and [appreciate] that we'll be left alone so we can continue to focus [on the technology].”
Herscher: “This is an interesting acquisition as it brings two distinct pieces of technology [in-house]. Verplex Conformal will be integrated into our Encounter digital IC platform and Verplex BlackTie will be integrated into our Incisive verification platform. [Therefore], Michael will have to lead two technical teams and learn two technical architectures to capitalize on the strengths [of the combined product offerings]. Obviously, as Verplex is a much bigger company [than several of Cadence's other recent acquisitions], it's going to be a more complex integration task to accomplish.”
Chang: “Equivalency checking as a methodology and tool has been a bottleneck in the functional verification space. With Cadence endorsing this space, however, now everybody will see that this [technology] will provide a lot of benefit to the industry.”
Herscher: “Per usual, Cadence will be buying the champagne.”
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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.