The 2007 European Conference on Design Automation and Test in Nice (April 16-20) featured two Special Day topics - Ubiquitous Communication on Wednesday and Aeronautics and Space on Thursday.
On Wednesday, delegates heard how the world of Ubiquitous Communication is moving forward quickly. On Thursday, delegates heard how the world of Aeronautics and Space is also moving forward quickly, just not quite so quickly. On both days, delegates heard that although the two worlds may march to different drummers, they both are banging their drums loudly calling out for better product security and improved standards.
Luckily for some, they weren’t banging the drums too loudly – at least on Wednesday morning – because Tuesday evening was the now-annual, now-legendary, DATE “International Informal Press Dinner” assembled by the impresario of élan, Freddy Santamaria. This year’s hosts were ACEs Martijn de Lange, AWR’s Heikki Rekonen, CSTs Martin Timm, Fenix Design’ Hein van der Wildt, and Vast Systems Alain Labat. It was a grand evening of good food at a great restaurant in the heart of Nice with well over 60 people in attendance and delightfully short welcoming speeches from the host companies. Everyone involved should be credited for a marvelous evening.
Meanwhile, for those cynics among you who think this kind of event is just a marketing ploy on the part of the sponsoring companies – not to worry. I’m pretty sure no customer ever bought a piece of design software or hardware just because the executives of a vendor company hosted an event for the press. Customers are too smart for that. Aren’t they?
For instance, clearly Mentor hosted several events to introduce their Veloce emulation product, but EVE was also showcasing a new emulation product at DATE, ZeBu-AX, based on the companys recent acquisition of Tharas Systems. Although the EVE demonstration did not include a champagne reception (that Im aware of), surely emulation customers will be benchmarking the product against other offerings in the market from companies such as Cadence and Mentor Graphics before buying, champagne or no champagne.
Meanwhile, speaking of champagne, apparently it was flowing at the OpenCoSy Community booth on the DATE Show Floor where researchers from RWTH Aachen, TU Delft, University of Edinburgh, Leiden University, and the University of Amsterdam were demonstrating their research on open compiler technology associated with CoSy from ACE. I’m sorry to have missed visiting that booth, not because of the champagne as much as having missed a chance to talk with the folks from the various universities.
Ubiquitous Communication was well covered on Wednesday at DATE. Numerous technical sessions throughout the day, and the lunchtime keynote, touched on topics such as design, verification, and test, security and trust, power consumption, and various business issues related to everywhere, all-the-time connectivity and data sharing.
The discussions covered a plethora of different systems – everything from consumer electronic devices that support entertainment and social networks, to data and video sharing, RFID (radio-frequency ID) devices, and a host of financial connectivity devices such as SmartCards and remote banking schemes.
The keynote address came from Innovision’s CTO, Dr. Heikki Huomo, and was very well attended. He argued that some models for the structure to support ubiquitous communication borrow heavily from a classic AI approach (artificial intelligence), where the system uses the context of the application to narrow down choices being offered to the user. He also said that “touch has become the new click,” where many devices are geared towards a screen user-interface rather than a mouse user-interface.
Dr. Huomo noted the Near Field Communication Forum (NFC Forum), supported by over 100 financial institutions, telecomm and semiconductor companies, is working to develop standardization and implementation of short-range wireless interaction in consumer electronics, mobile devices, and PCs. He also noted that there are huge privacy concerns around all of this technology, whether it be the protection of personal financial records in using short-range banking devices or the protection of personal conversations on handheld communication devices.
Privacy protection schemes, embedded security keys, and cunning algorithms were the topic of a morning session I attended that included papers from KU Leuven’s Dr. Ingrid Verbauwhede and Virginia Tech’s Dr. Patrick Schaumont. Their work centers around efficient implementation of security algorithms that are trustworthy and resistant to attack.
The presentation distinguished between several classifications of attack: active, which includes power glitches or large pulse attacks; passive, which includes EM radiation bombardment of hardware; invasive, which includes bus probing of systems; and non-invasive, which includes power measurements of systems over time to decode privacy keys, etc. The laundry list of categories of attack was staggering.
The researchers also presented a particularly intriguing study from the University of Washington. Nike apparently has partnered with Apple to include a device in their running shoe that’s got a wireless link to a runner’s iPod. Researches at UW were able to easily break into these Nike-iPod networks for dozens of runners and track their movements around campus, the tracking completely undetected by the runners themselves.
The overall intent of the presentation was to impress upon both hardware designers and the software designers the extreme need for extraordinary precaution in designing systems which are vulnerable as far as tracking and privacy are concerned. The presentation also emphasized that security strategies are never “free.” There has to be a systematic approach to resolving the growing body of security concerns related to the explosion of wireless devices that are becoming a ubiquitous part of the fabric of life.
In and around the sessions on Ubiquitous Communication on Wednesday, I had a chance to meet with a variety of different companies in the Press Room and on the Show Floor. The list included AWR, Carbon Design, CoFluent, CST, Coupling Wave Solutions, Esterel, EVE, IMEC, OCP, Synopsys, and Yogitech. Conversations such as these are often useful to journalists, albeit difficult to shoehorn into a conference schedule when time might be better spent attending sessions. It’s a perpetual conundrum: Where is the greater learning to be had? In sessions (that often detail technical accomplishments from the companies) or in company meetings (that often also detail technical accomplishments from companies, with just a bit more spit and polish). The answer is never quite clear.
Anyway, early Wednesday morning I met with OCP Chairman & President Ian Mackintosh. Ian’s quite committed to the mission of the organization: “We are trying hard to start an industry-wide discussion about benchmarking networks-on chip.
“We discovered many years ago the need to benchmark embedded processors. Now we have heterogeneous, multi-core SoCs and are not so interested in any one particular processor. [In fact], the network now is the system and, as a consequence, we need to have a standard way to look at the NoC. With OCP-IP, you have a way to look at a diverse set of IP, at different configuration techniques, and [new developments] in the NoC space. I feel that OCP is the only game in town looking out into the future of these types of multi-heterogeneous systems.”
At the other end of day, late Wednesday afternoon, I met with Rudy Lauwereins, DATE General Chair, and on the staff at IMEC and KU Leuven. He told me the DATE committee was very pleased with the way the conference was going. He noted that the vendors in booths on the downstairs Show Floor (there were two floors) felt they had had more traffic than those upstairs, while the vendors in the booths upstairs felt they had had more traffic. Sounded like a win-win situation to me.
Rudy and I also talked about various research initiatives underway at IMEC, including software-defined radio and compilers that would support multi-core parallelism. My conversation with Rudy emphasized an impression I had all week in Nice – that DATE is a more systems and software-centric conference than DAC. I could be wrong, but that was my impression.
So, Thursday was a Special Day on Aeronautics and Space. I was able to attend the morning sessions, a few minutes of the keynote, and ended the day by moderating a disastrous panel from 4:00 to 5:30 regarding Open Source in Aerospace.
The morning sessions were quite informative and included presentations from Airbus and EADS offering respective reviews of best practices, evolution, and future trends in embedded systems for Aeronautics and Space. I realized there, to my amazement, that the use of SoCs is not really common practice yet in either of these industries, because a system-on-a-chip is not quite a proven’ technology. Where fail-safe, mission-critical applications rule the day, discrete components – processors, memory, etc. – are still the norm.
That may be changing, however, per the Thursday morning presentations at DATE. The Aerospace industry may soon decide to start relying on the highly complex, highly proven, off-the-shelf type components that are currently driving the mad, mad, mad world of every-day electronics into the hands of billions of consumers. The world of Aerospace may begin to acknowledge and utilize the products that everybody else knows and loves.
The use of Open Source software may be a bit longer in coming, however. At least that was my impression from the panel I moderated late Thursday afternoon, “Towards Total Open Source in Aeronautics and Space?”
The participants on my panel included: Eric Bantegnie from Esterel Technologies, Gerard Ladier from Airbus, Erick Lansard from Thales Alenia Space, Ralph Mueller from Eclipse Europe, Franco Gasperoni from AdaCore, and Alex Wilson from Wind River.
There was great potential for this panel, a discussion of the intriguingly orthogonal topics of Aerospace, Open Source, and EDA. Unfortunately, the conversation devolved during the session into something scattered, agitated, and unorganized. I hold myself responsible for poor orchestration of the event (and have outlined the problems below for those who are interested), but learned quite a bit nonetheless during the discussion. I would summarize my impressions this way.
Aeronautics and Space are industries populated by large organizations, and include systems that are both mission-critical and characterized by long shelf life. As it is turning out, some aircraft may be in service for upwards of 75 years. In Space, interplanetary explorers must function reliably for decades on end in order to fulfill their missions. Layer on top of these circumstances, the dynamics of Open Source and you have an interesting situation developing.
The problem – and one that I believe was a sub-context for the panel discussion at DATE – is that many people do not understand what “Open Source” software is all about. Some people see Open Source software as “free” software, where there is no revenue stream to support a developer community and consequently there’s no accountability. If this were the case, Open Source clearly wouldn’t work in mission-critical Aerospace.
In fact, however, there have been numerous, large, long-running Open Source projects (e.g., Linux, Apache, and Eclipse) that have addressed these concerns – albeit, not necessarily in the same way – and that’s why they have been successful.
Still, large organizations tend to distrust Open Source, because they don’t see an accountable organization behind the software. They perceive that if there’s a problem, there’s nobody to go to. They may also have the perception that there is this amorphous population of nights-and-weekend hobbyist who are contributing to the Open Source code base on a haphazard, ad-hoc basis. There have, in fact, been many Open Source projects that were run this way, but nobody knows about them because they’ve disappeared. The successful Open Source software that is long standing and well known does not work this way.
There are substantial corporate entities behind successful Open Source projects that essentially fund the development community by paying their employees to contribute code. In addition, users of these products have a choice of support models, ranging from providing their own support by participating in the projects, to outsourcing support from a range of vendors (e.g., Red Hat for Linux).
For instance, if a particular feature or capability is needed in an Open Source application, there is no actual vendor to go to request its inclusion in a future release. A user, therefore, has two choices – implement the feature themselves and take on the ongoing maintenance responsibilities, or find an external party that is willing to do it and fund that party going forward. For each of these options there are also two choices – implement the feature as your own modification, or contribute the feature to the code base making it available to anyone else who wants to use it.
This is a process that is not well established as yet, however, nor does it make people comfortable if they are involved in industries where traditional documentation, RFPs, and vendor selection is the norm. Clearly the use of “Open Source” software is a process that many people in the Aerospace industry (and the EDA industry?) may be unfamiliar with.
Some 30 years ago, there was no Open Source. Nobody had thought about it. But now this new model is emerging over time and threatening to replace the traditional, proprietary software model – if not in all areas, at least in some areas.
All the details of how it could, or should, work have not yet been worked out in a universal way, but clearly Eclipse is pushing the model, Linux is pushing, etc. Some may say, as a result, the old proprietary model is doomed. But how we get to the final, complete, Open Source state in the software world is not clear. And, in fact, is not in itself the point.
The point is to get adequate compensation to the contributors who add value through a mechanism that is efficient and competitive, and that protects the users from vendor lock-in and monopolistic practices. The legal, contractual, and business practice issues have to be sorted out, and they are being sorted out slowly.
How all of this applies to Aeronautics and Space is a complex discussion, and the panel participants at the Open Source Panel at DATE were just getting into the conversation when our 90 minutes was up. That there was disagreement between the panelists was clear, particularly with regards to the “open” or “not open” nature of the Esterel software, in comparison to Eclipse and Ada and the mixed-model of Wind River.
I would wish for a time in the future when all of the gentlemen on the panel could reconvene and start up where we left off. We were just getting to a point where the context of the conversation had been framed. Further conversation was needed to push the envelope of understanding into new and productive territory.
And, perhaps that is the highest form of praise for a conference. That more discussion is needed. That some questions were addressed, while many more questions were raised.
If DATE was about EDA, then the discussion of a body of proprietary, closed, closely-licensed software that may (or may not) retard growth of an industry is an important one.
If DATE was about a specific end-application such as Aerospace, then my take-away is that a mixed-used model of some Open Source software and some proprietary software is what is needed to drive the industry forward.
Okay, enough! Have I proved that this last hour of the last day at DATE was a muddled, confused, agitating conversation? Have I proved that this last hour of the last day at DATE was perhaps the most fascinating of all?
A Morality Tale for Panel Moderators
The panel I moderated on the Special Day for Aeronautics and Space Panel was a logistical disaster for these reasons:
1) There were 6 panelists, far too many for fruitful dialog.
2) Panelists were restricted to 5 slides max, but one guy showed up with 13 – a poor choice, particularly as many were marketing slides for his company.
3) Slides were due to me by email no later than 10 days prior to DATE. Not all could oblige, but Mr. 13 delivered his slides to me on a data stick just 2 hours prior to the panel.
4) Due to DATE regulations, I had to deliver all 6 sets of slides to the Audio-Visual Room (which was far away) 90 minutes prior to the session. I was required to linger there to do Q&A on presentation functionality, time I was not able to spend attending sessions. It was only then I saw the 13 slides, whereby I should have eliminated 8.
5) The bios provided to me were too long. Reading six long bios aloud is perfect, if you want to put a late-afternoon panel audience to sleep before the panel has even started.
6) Mr. 13 was unfortunately first in the opening statement queue. His ponderous presentation ran so long and was so laden with marketing, one of the other panelists lashed out and told him to cut it short. A first in my experience.
7) The opening statements chewed up 60 minutes of the 90 minutes allotted for the panel session. Mr. 13 having had so much time, it was not possible to cut the others short.
8 ) Irritated and frustrated, I took the mic down into the front row of the audience to lob questions at the panelists after the 6 opening presentations were finally done. I did not see that there were hands raised in the audience behind me. Therefore, there was no Q&A between the panelists and the audience.
9) On the eve of the French elections (just 3 days later), the most controversial of the French candidates, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was due to arrive at the Acropolis Convention Center for a rally in the theater just 30 minutes after our panel was due to wrap up. We had been advised there might be a police cordon around the building and/or street demonstrations to wade through in order to leave DATE. That did not make the panelists happy, nor was I pleased with the news.
In short, a disaster. I was honored to have been asked to be part of the Special Day program, but the end result of months of effort was disheartening. Would that I could re-do this panel. So much more could have been accomplished.
Lest I appear to end my report on DATE 2007 on a negative note, let me emphasize – this is an important conference in the life of the design automation and test industries. There was substantive conversation taking place in many quarters at DATE, with a particular and elucidating emphasis on systems and software. The DATE Committee has a great deal to be proud of, in the organization, and depth and breadth of the content of the program.
Those who were able to attend in Nice learned a great deal. They should return for DATE 2008 – next year in March in Munich – and they should be joined there by anyone who is interested in pushing the envelope and furthering the conversation about the future of the technology and the industry.
See you all there!
More news from DATE and beyond
Altos Design Automation announced that Global Unichip Corp. has adopted Altos’ Liberate library characterization product. Global Unichip says it is using Liberate to re-characterize 90-nannometer low power standard cell library at a lower supply voltage. The re-characterized library is to be applied to portable applications.
Bluespec and EVE announced what the companies call “an integrated solution” of ESL synthesizable transactors and models that run directly on EVE’s hardware-assisted verification platforms. Per the Press Release: “The link between Bluespec’s ESL synthesis and EVE’s ZeBu hardware-assisted verification platform of accelerators, emulators and FPGA prototypes offers high simulation speed with hardware accuracy early in the development cycle for architectural exploration, virtual prototyping, modeling and verification. The result is a single development environment for models, transactors, implementations and synthesizable verification testbenches, and a rich foundation library of IP.”
Bluespec also announced new “system-level building blocks” in its AzureIP Foundation Library. New blocks include ARM AMBA AXI and AHB, and OCP-IP interface bus component libraries with parameterized bus structures, bus interface transactors, and data-type libraries. Per the Press Release: “Falling between low-level IP components such as adders and multipliers and large IP blocks including Ethernet, PCI, H.264 and processors, these blocks fill a void in the middle of the IP space At the heart of Bluespec’s’ bus fabric IP offering is a unique Transaction Level Modeling (TLM2) bus payload data structure and protocol. This generic representation supports multiple bus protocols and is based on the OSCI TLM 2.0 draft specification.”
Cadence Design Systems reported Q1 2007 revenue of $365 million, an increase of 11 percent over the $328 million reported for the same period in 2006.
Chip Estimate Corp. announced an online newsletter for designers using SIP in their chip designs. The newsletter contains information on the IP available from various supplies, plus a column on IP and design topics.
CoFluent Design announced that CoFluent Studio has been selected as part of the CIM PACA collaborative research platform. CIM PACA (Centre Integre de Microelectronique Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur) members include Atmel, NXP, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, the University of Nice, and other public research labs, and offers three collaborative research platforms for the development of microelectronics applications. CoFluent Studio is part of the Design platform as architecture exploration and performance analysis solution. The goal of the CIM PACA Design platform is to offer to the local industrial and academic community the tools and techniques allowing them to address the challenges of the design of integrated circuits for the next decade in the field of secured communicating solutions.
DATE conference organizers announce final attendance numbers: 1641 conference delegates, 2171 exhibition visitors, 30 members of the press, 1080 exhibitor personnel, 4922 total registrations. The geographic breakdown: European attendees, 76% (France at 27%, Germany at 14%, UK at 6%), North and South Americas at 16%, Middle East and Asia at 8%.
EVE announced its ZeBu-AX hardware accelerator, a result of the company’s acquisition of Tharas Systems Inc. earlier this year. EVE says a full product roadmap with details about its family of accelerators, fast emulators, and prototyping solutions will be unveiled in June 2007. Meanwhile, per the Press Release, “ZeBu-AX offers plug-and-play, event-accurate mixed-language simulation acceleration. A scalable capacity lets ZeBu-AX handle designs that can reach up to 512-million ASIC gates. Its one-pass compilation executes at a speed of 125-million ASIC gates per hours on a single workstation, mapping onto the accelerator for design-under-test, and a significant portion of the behavioral testbench. The process is fully automatic and does not require user intervention. Its single-kernel runtime environment works in co-simulation with Synopsys VCS, Mentor Graphics QuestaSim, Cadence NC-Sim.”
EVE also announced it ended its fiscal year March 30, 2007 with revenue growth of 115%, and has reached five consecutive quarters of profitability.
IC Manage announced its Global Design Platform (GDP), which the company says is “the first data management solution to offer design assembly, derivative management, and real-time worldwide delivery GDP enables companies to efficiently manage, locate, assemble and reuse design data and IP across the enterprise during all phases of the design process.”
Impinj, Inc. announced the company’s AEON/MTP Parallel Architecture memory core now meets TSMC quality standard and, per the Press Release, “achieved silicon validation in TSMC’s 0.18-micron process and is the first NVM multiple-time-programmable (MTP) IP product to meet the foundry’s reliability, performance and manufacturing standards. Used to store up to 128 bits of crucial on-chip data, such as encryption keys for digital media applications and electronic product code data in RFID tags, AEON/MTP is the world’s first MTP NVM product line manufactured in standard logic CMOS processes.”
Key Stream Corp. announced the company is using Sequence Design’s PowerTheater to reduce power early in the design cycle at RTL. Key Stream is designing 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN chipsets, primarily for emerging portable applications.
Kilopass Technology and Chip Estimate Corp. announced that Kilopass has joined the Chip Estimate Prime IP Partner program. Kilopass IP can now be searched for and used in chip plans for free at the Chip Estimate website.
Magma Design Automation reported revenue of $50.1 million, an increase of 13.9 percent over the $44.0 million reported for the year-ago fourth quarter, ended April 2, 2006. Magma reported revenue of $178.2 million for the fiscal year, an increase of 8.6 percent over the $164.0 million the company achieved in fiscal 2006, ended April 2, 2006.
Mentor Graphics and Anite announced a collaboration to deliver a “complete platform” for handheld wireless applications. Per the Press Release, “Anite’s single platform wireless test solution for W-CDMA and High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) applications when combined with Mentor Graphics Veloce family of hardware-assisted verification products provide an integrated, cost-efficient and efficient solution to verify baseband design with dynamic, accurate, bi-direction network simulation of embedded systems.”
Mentor Graphics also announced that Maria Pope has been named Vice President and CFO. Previously, Pope held various senior management positions at Pope & Talbot, Inc. She has also held financial management positions at Levi Strauss and Morgan Stanley, and serves on the board of directors of Premera Blue Cross and Portland General Electric Co. Pope has an MBA from Stanford and a BA degree from Georgetown.
Micro Magic, Inc. announced the MAX-View layout viewer. The company says it has demonstrated that MAX-View will load and display a chip design with 1 trillion transistors, including real-time redisplay instantaneous at any zoom level. MAX-View reads GDSII files and MAX files, and give users full control over how layers and hierarchy are displayed.
OSCI, the Open SystemC Initiative, has posted a new report online (available on the OSCI website) that the organization says confirms that the “worldwide adoption of SystemC is strong and continues to grow that SystemC user groups in all geographies are quickly adding members and taking an active role in promoting standardization efforts.” Titled SystemC Users Group Survey Data Trends Report, April 2007, the report analyzes user survey data from recent SystemC industry events to details both user familiarity and applications for SystemC since it adoption as an IEEE standard in late 2005.
Ponte Solutions announced its Building Bridges Partner Program, which the company says is “designed to foster cooperation among all groups within the semiconductor ecosystem, including semiconductor fabricators, EDA vendors, standards organizations, and academia.” The company also says initial supporters of the Building Bridges Partner Program include all the major foundries, Blaze DFM, and Taiwan's ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute).
Samsung Electronics announced that it has begun to mass produce 16 Gb NAND flash, which the company says is the highest capacity memory chip now available. The company also says it will fabricate the devices in 51-nanometer technology.
[Editor’s Note: Oh-Hyun Kwon, President of Samsung’s System LSI Division, will be giving the Tuesday morning keynote at DAC on June 5th in San Diego.]
VaST Systems Technology announced expanded standards support in CoMET6, the company’s virtual system prototyping product, through greater interoperability through Native IEEE 1666 SystemC and OCP-IP TL2. Per the Press Release, “With native support, SystemC functions are executed directly on the CoMET6 simulation kernel, resulting in full IEEE 1666 SystemC compliance and ultra-fast simulation speed. CoMET6 direct mapping of OCP-IP TL2 constructs improves bus communications performance by 4x for models using OCP-IP TL2. The CoMET6 Eclipse framework, with help from strategic developers like IBM, Intel, Nokia and Wind River, is quickly becoming the de facto industry standard development platform and framework for embedded system design tools. Through Eclipse, CoMET6 supports customer-developed and third-party Eclipse plug-ins, allowing tighter integrations with customer-specific design tools and flows. Together these improvements deliver high performance and standards-based interoperability.”
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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.