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June 16, 2008
DAC 2008 – Trepidation to Triumph
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on EDACafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
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!

This past week in Anaheim, the 45th annual Design Automation Conference was a true proof-of-concept event for the EDA industry. For the first time in recent memory, long-time anchor tenant Cadence Design Systems was not there as an exhibitor. Neither was ARM, another stalwart exhibitor of recent years. Above and beyond the financial implications to the conference of these two huge exhibitors pulling out in 2008, a more fundamental question floated around the Anaheim Convention Center this past week: Can DAC survive without these guys?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

Last year at DAC’07 in San Diego, where both ARM and Cadence had booths, there were 8700 attendees (including all categories of exhibitors, registrants, workshop attendees, and general hangers-on). This year at DAC’08 in Anaheim, where neither ARM nor Cadence was exhibiting, the number was closer to 8400, a 3.5-percent drop in attendance year-to-year.

Considering the price of oil (ergo the price of travel), the recession in the semiconductor industry (and the economy in general), and the employees from Cadence and ARM who did not come this year, a 3.5-percent drop in attendance is actually a helluva triumph, not a tragedy, and something to brag on.

DAC 2008 General Chair Limor Fix, in a press release dated June 11th, was defiantly exuberant: “The biggest challenges and opportunities of our industry ─ in the wireless market, analog design, software/hardware co-design, verification and manufacturing – were the topics of many of DAC’s well-attended sessions and events this year. Once again, DAC is the place where electronic design meets!”


I had a lot on my plate at Anaheim this past week. I was chair of the Workshop for Women in Design Automation on Monday. I moderated a panel at the end of the all-day Management Track program on Tuesday. I moderated a Pavilion Panel in the Exhibition Hall on Thursday. I served as a first-time member of the DAC Exhibitor Liaison Committee, wrote several DAC-related articles for the DACeZine, and made a small contribution to the Marie R. Pistilli Award presentation at the General Session on opening day.

It was a busy week, a stimulating week, and a week where I saw fewer companies than in years past and attended fewer sessions. Nonetheless, I scurried frenetically hither and yon, dashed in and out of panels, workshops, sessions, keynotes, and in and out of the Exhibition Hall, rudely interrupted a lot of people mid-sentence or mid-conversation, and captured my own impressions of the conference. I also managed to come away from Anaheim with lots of questions and a few answers. You’ll find them below, categorized roughly by topic.

Next year, DAC is in San Francisco at the end of July. That’s bad news for the Europeans, good news for those of us based in Northern California, and important news for those who are starting to gear up for 2009. I suspect between now and then, additional answers will emerge for some of the questions below. I also suspect that for every question answered, another 10 or 100 will crop up to take its place. I did a lot of thinking this past week in Anaheim. I suspect you did, too.

(Please click on “print article” up there on the right to see all of this on one page.)


Anaheim …

It’s fun to get mushy about the venue where DAC takes place every year, but Anaheim is a tough row to hoe in that category of literary musings. Because although Anaheim is something esoteric and unique in its excesses, it’s definitely not to everybody’s tastes. It’s a place that’s offensive to some, but a delight to others.

Anaheim is either quintessential California, or it’s the antithesis of everything that’s great and good about California. It’s either a grotesque FantasyLand, or a place of robust innovation and economic vigor. It’s either Orange County, where business reigns supreme, or it’s tantamount to Death by the Dullness of Endless Homogeneous Grid Pattern Franchise Sensory Overload.

If you don’t have kids, or can’t or won’t take them to conferences, Anaheim is just a dot on the map and a business destination. If you’re a sophisticate, an intellectual, or a skeptical observer of human nature, Anaheim has little to offer other than the mindless, dumbed-down commercial pabulum that serves as a modern opiate of the people – a place Marx and Sartre would have loved to hate.

If, however, you have young children and you combined a trip to Disneyland for them with a week at DAC for you, you probably don’t get the anathema thing when it comes to Anaheim. In fact, you might even celebrate the co-locating of DAC with Disneyland.


Bodies, Booze, Babes & Beefcake …

Q – How many people came to DAC?

The numbers from the DAC folks are official: 8400+ in total, including 2400+ session attendees, 2400+ exhibits-only attendees, 215 exhibiting companies, 3500 exhibiting personnel, 59 members of the press, and 10 analysts.

Meanwhile, I heard tell of at least one blog posted early on during DAC week that claimed there was nobody at the EDAC reception at the Hilton from 5 PM to 7 PM on Sunday night. Not sure where that individual was, because there were so many people gabbing near the bar, a portion of the entertainment was not audible over the din.

Q – Are technologists natural performers or natural barflies?

The EDAC Game Show included participants from ARM (John Goodenough), Synopsys (Kevin Kranen), TSMC (Tom Quan), Virage Logic (Brani Buric), Analog Bits (Mahesh Tirupattur), and Magma (Yatin Trivedi), and was hosted by EDN’s Ron Wilson, MC’d by OEM-wannabe (Mentor’s) Wally Rhines, featured cameo appearances by Gary Smith and John Cooley (voted out of the industry and dragged off-stage by Mentor’s Dennis “Don’t Mess with Me” Brophy),
and premiered one instantiation of Beefcake and one instantiation of Babe in Bordello Burgundy. That ARM’s John Goodenuff was unable to get anybody to come forward and claim his particular raffle prize was a comment on the quantity of camaraderie and booze swirling around at the back of the room.

It was all great theater, but sitting in the front row I made a note that most technologists should hold onto their day jobs rather than contemplate a career in stand-up comedy. Exclusive of Goodenuff and Rhines, the beefcake and the babe, the guys who were on stage really need to restrict themselves to technical sales and marketing.

Following the Game Show, the crowd of barflies at the EDAC party moved en masse across the mezzanine at the Hilton Hotel and imbibed even more and gabbed even louder at the General Chair’s Reception from 7 PM to 9 PM.

Ohmygosh! Nvidia’s Chris Malachowsky, EDA Analysts Gary Smith and Mary Olson, and Gartner’s Bryan Lewis could not be heard over the din from the back! Really too bad, because they had lots of informative stuff to say.

So, let’s think this through together. If you open the bar at 4:45 PM at the first of two back-to-back events on Sunday night at DAC, do you really think anybody’s going to be listening by the time the deadly serious stuff – ala Malachowsky, Smith, Olsen, and Lewis – gets underway at 8 PM? Back to the drawing board for everybody involved in the timing for these Sunday evening events!

Q – What if you weren’t drinking?

I was among the minority who listened to the speakers at the General Chair’s Reception Sunday. Malachowsky predicted
heterogeneous computing on massively parallel compute platforms capable of “scaling transparently” would become a way of life, spearheaded by developments in graphics chips. Olsen declared 2008 to be the Year of Living Analog-ly. Lewis said the industry’s going through transformations, consolidations, collaborations, new global alignments, and a quickening of interest in all things reconfigurable. Smith rounded out the hour.

Per Smith, it’s true there’s a semiconductor recession, but mini-fabs will make a comeback. And RTL is maturing, but EDA is not, because ESL is emerging. Smith pointed to his compass and said look for more design start-ups in India and more semi vendors in China. He also issued this (paraphrased) warning: “The Semi and Electronics world follow the ITRS forecast. EDA R&D groups had better start following the forecast, as well!”

Finally, Smith read a controversial message from his crystal ball: “Threads are dead. Library or model-based concurrency is the best midterm approach. Long term computing will use a language other than C.”


Exhibitors …

Q – Did the exhibitors get an adequate ROI on the money spent coming to Anaheim?

It may be impossible to get an answer to this question at DAC, or any conference. What is probable, however, is that those companies who carefully set up customer meetings in advance of DAC and filled their schedules adequately, were not disappointed with the perceived ROI of exhibiting. Per anecdotal evidence, however, for many who just showed up and waited for the assembled masses to beat a path to their booth, the rewards were not great.

Meanwhile, if you were at DAC, you shared a first-time experience of waving your badge in front of a sensing station, so the nice security folks in blazers could welcome you by name as you passed in and out of the Exhibition Hall. Rumors were false that Cadence had somehow hacked into the system and harvested the names of attendees. Rumors were also false that a secret database was assembled indicating how many times folks left the hall to use the restrooms and then return.

It was true, however, that I several times ‘waved’ myself out of the Exhibit Hall only to be told that I had apparently never entered in the first place. How is this possible? Moral of the story: Technology is not always as reliable as one might hope.

Q – Should the Exhibition only be 3 days?

Several exhibitors pointed out that it’s always the second-to-last day that’s the biggest at any conference, from an attendance and booth traffic point of view. If there are two days of exhibitions, Day 1 is the biggie. If there are three days, Day 2 is the biggie. Therefore, if there’s no Day 3.5 at DAC (that half-day on Thursday), will Day 3 on Wednesday be a dud? Might not be good news as many companies told me their biggest day in Anaheim was Day 3.

Meanwhile, it was welcome news this year that the Exhibition Hall was free to all, every day, all week long.

Q – Are chotzkies dead?

It would appear not. I saw oodles of people wandering around carrying some species of stuffed animal, plus there was a sought-after rocket launcher that also caused a stir. Whether those launchers made it onto anybody’s flight back home is another question of little import.

Q – Who won the Best of DAC contest?

There were 6 categories in this new-for-2008 contest, including best new product, best booth demo, best first-time exhibitor, best veteran exhibitor, best booth, and best giveaway. As much as I believe in the power of democracy, it seems a bit out of whack that Apache won in two categories and Synopsys won in three. Nice that Doulog won a nod, as well, but I’m wondering how many people voted (how many times?) from an authentically neutral point of view.

Q – Did the show seem lively?

Yes and no. There was certainly lots of traffic in some of the booths as I went dashing by. Plus, the Pavilion Panels I attended were quite full and complete with lots of folks milling about in the periphery. But at other points during the week, I’d found myself dashing from Point A and Point B only to discover I’d entered some sort of Twilight Zone behind and between booths – stretches of bare concrete where booths might have been in other years? Best if the booths could somehow be consolidated to eliminate those Twilight Zones. Just an idea…


No Shows …

Q – If Cadence was a no-show, why were there Cadence guys everywhere?

Everytime I turned around at DAC, there was somebody from Cadence at a microphone. Ted Vucurevich was one of several senior technologists presenting at the Accellera breakfast on Wednesday morning at DAC. He and the others – IBM’s John LaVere, Altera’s Robert Black, Denali’s Bob Pierce, and Tabula’s Karen Pieper – managed to tramp over some very well-trampled ground about how hard it is to integrate IP and how nice it would be if everybody worked harder at standards, so there’d be easy access to good, quality IP.

Arrggg was my only reaction to all of this content, having gotten up early to attend this nothing-new-under-the-IP-sun Accellera breakfast. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to see Vucurevich up on stage at a conference where Cadence was ostensibly a “no-show.”

Alternatively, one of the most dynamic panels I attended all week was the 2-hour session on Verification chaired by Cadence’s Andreas Kuhlmann on Wednesday afternoon. Since I complained here in EDA Weekly last month that the Happiest Place on Earth would be sadder because Kuhlmann wasn’t coming to DAC, it was pretty ironic to see him in Anaheim, after all. Better do my homework next time before making such erroneous predictions!

Kuhlmann’s session was fabulous, with presentations from paradigms as diverse as DreamWorks (Anna Newman), NASA (Robert Manning), Boeing (David Corman), and Washington State University (Anjan Bose). Newman was riveting, describing the DreamWorks “Render Wranglers” who manage the Massively Parallel compute farms needed to churn out complex animated feature-length movies. She could have been describing EDA when she said the design and verification process includes “a large toolset with legacy code developed over 20 years … where 100 percent coverage is not even a dream.”

She was probably also channeling EDA when she said that tracking down a bug amidst millions of lines of code was about as much fun “as gouging your eye out with a spoon.”

The take-away from all of the speakers on the panel was simple: Perfect verification is impossible in a complex world where mega-computing and immense amounts of data slosh about. And, guestimation and cunning application of verification tools is an art, not a science. Kudos to Kuhlmann et al for a really stimulating conversation attended by an SRO crowd of 200+.

Meanwhile, there was also a visible Cadence presence at the Tuesday morning General Session, where Intel CTO Justin Ratner delivered the keynote and bragged on his company’s latest uber-concept: Carry Small Live Large, CSLL.

Speaking to an audience of 800+, Ratner said it’s all about getting gimungous amounts of analog married on-chip to bazillions of bits of digital, with low power, small form factors, tiny process geometries, little leakage, and endless feature sets (the usual suspects being data, cameras, radios, ubiquitous connectivity, etc.).

Ratner expressed great confidence that Intel R&D can deliver on the vision, and even greater confidence that end-to-end platform modeling will be the ultimate road to reality for CSLL. Tellingly, he didn’t issue a wish list to the EDA vendors about how they could help. Probably not intentional, but my take away was: “Don’t call us. We’ll call you on a as-needed basis.”

Following Ratner’s talk, the Cadence guy sitting next to me at the keynote boldly walked up to the mike at the front of the room and asked a question during Q&A. After the General Session ended, I asked the lad whether Cadence regretted not attending DAC. Not at all, he told me. We have other ways of learning what we need to know to meet the needs of our customers.

Really? Then why was he there? Even more to the point: Why was he asking questions of Ratner in such a forum, if Cadence has its own custom channels for info?

Q – If ARM was a no-show, why were John Goodenough and Rob Aitken everywhere, as well?

ARM has been working so hard in recent years on their presence at DAC, some were starting to believe DAC really stood for Design with ARM Conference. Hence, it was a mystery when they pulled out as an exhibitor this year. Maybe they figured they’ve got so much market share at this point, there’s no need to exhibit at DAC any more; they’re already so well known to the designers. Besides, they’ve got their own Developer’s Conference in Silicon Valley, so why spend dollars on DAC?

Nonetheless, John Goodenough appeared on the EDAC Game Show and Rob Aitken appeared on the Thursday afternoon panel on DFM chaired by Andrew Kahng. Along with panelists Luigi Capodieci from AMD, Cliff Hou from TSMC, Vivek Singh from Intel, Lars Liebmann from IBM, and Riko Radojcic from Qualcomm, the discussion was well underway when I arrived.

Rob Aitken had generated a lot of agitated back-and-forth with his slide listing the “Most Flagrant DFM Hypes” of the recent past: The Yield Disaster Curve; Yield-Driven Synthesis; and Secret Sauce DFM (this last, only useful as an engine for generating VC funding). Meanwhile, Radojcic said all of the stuff described as DFM today is part of a magic soup developed to make things manufacturable; Hou hinted more DFM tools are coming; and Liebmann said grad students should work on models for stressed silicon now that good models for etch and litho have been produced.

At session’s end, I asked Kahng about my impression that EDA didn’t appear to play a role in DFM as laid out by his panelists. He disagreed: “Point tools are not DFM, but EDA does have a role.” Aitken responded to the same question: Consolidation in the EDA industry will increase the opportunity for the tool vendors to contribute to DFM.


Upstairs, Downstairs at DAC …

Q – Is DAC a technical conference or a commercial conference?

Depending on your point of view, DAC may be only one or only the other. And it’s this overt schizophrenia that oftentimes leads to
controversy and confusion about DAC.

If the population that’s Downstairs on the Exhibition Hall never attends the technical sessions upstairs, and those at the technical sessions Upstairs rarely make it down to the show floor Downstairs, there really are two different events going on. To add to the schism, there’s a certain ethereal cerebralism that characterizes the crowds mingling at the technical sessions Upstairs, while there’s a certain Cooley-esque grittiness to the “We’re the real engineers in EDA” that characterizes the crowds in and around the booths Downstairs.

Of course, you’re welcome to yell at me for pointing this out, but that would simply be shooting the messenger. We all pretty much know this is the case at DAC, even though some are reluctant to talk about it. Others, however, have offered some solutions, which is where the Pavilion Panels come in.

Q – What is a Pavilion Panel?

I attended 4 Pavilion Panels (out of 20) over the course of the week at DAC. One was about the pending crisis in 22-nanometer design, a conversation moderated by Mentor Graphics Joe Sawicki, that included PFD Solutions’ John Kibarian, TSMC’s S.T. Juang, and IBM’s Lars Liebmann. This was a technical discussion, with spillovers into the business of manufacturing. Per Kibarian, “At the end of the day, it’s about variability.” End of discussion.

The second panel was about “the view from Sand Hill Road,” which presumed you knew the VCs of Silicon Valley aren’t very innovative about where they reside, all living side-by-side in Palo Alto. This conversation was moderated by EDA VC legend, Lucio Lanza, and included Argon Venture’s Juan Antonio Carballo, Nollenburger’s Kent Shimasaki, and IRC’s Erach Desai. These panelists talked business and explored the blame game about why there’s not more VC money available in EDA. Carballo also predicted Open Source software will knock the EDA industry on its keister. Others were not so convinced.

The third panel I attended was about behavioral synthesis, moderated by another VC guru, Vista Venture’s Jim Hogan, and included UCLA’s Jason Cong, TI’s Loic Le Toumelin, and Calibra’s Jan Willis. When I arrived, it had devolved into a discussion with members of the audience as to what (and who) defines behavioral synthesis – a technical conversation that also has huge economic implications for the industry.

The fourth panel was my one-on-one conversation on Thursday morning with DAC Chair Limor Fix about career development. This topic was a book-end discussion to the keynote given on Monday at the Women’s Workshop by Magma’s Mar Hershenson about the intricacies of networking and negotiation, and their impact on sales, hiring, and garnering venture capital for your next start-up.

My conversation with Fix was about PhD versus no PhD, and how to stay positive, professional, and pro-active about advancement throughout a technical career. It also was about how to manage your manager. Again, a conversation with an overtly business-slant.

So, the answer to the question of what defines a Pavilion Panel is, there is no answer. Any topic fits the venue, in my opinion, which may or may not help to resolve the controversy of what constitutes the fundamental motivation for DAC.

Q – Aren’t there panels Upstairs that could be Downstairs?

Absolutely! For instance, Upstairs on Tuesday you could have attended a panel entitled “What the industry needs from the incoming U.S. Administration.”

Moderated by Chapman University’s Pete Weitzner – EVE’s Luc Burgun, Agilent’s Todd Cutler, SEMI’s Vicki Hadfield, IEEE’s Russell Lefevre, Magma’s Clayton Parker, and Tensilica’s Chris Rowen attempted to make heads or tails of a confused Federal policy on immigration, H-1B visas, R&D funding for science and engineering, and a bucket of other concerns about energy and environmental issues that seem obvious to the technology sector and not so obvious to the political sector. This group of panelists, highly educated and thoughtful, is clearly holding out
hope for new policies, come next January. Only time will tell if their optimism is warranted. Meanwhile, if they had frustrations, those concerns were not so obviously showcased on the panel.

While this superb panel was underway in one room, another session was going on down the hall that definitely belonged Upstairs – if you think Upstairs is the provenance of technology.

U.C. Berkeley’s Kurt Keutzer was giving a talk on “Parallelizing CAD” to an enraptured crowd of 200+ technology folks. He described the problems in CAD, and attempted to defend narrowing the problem set for research purposes to (somewhat) accessible graphing algorithms which might lend themselves to first-pass attempts at parallelization (try saying that 10 times fast).

After much detail (see the DAC Proceedings for additional info on many of the presentations this past week in Anaheim), Keutzer concluded: “The key to [all of this] is to find a way to partition [the CAD algorithms] into highly independent modules.” He added a disclaimer, saying his work in this area is only in its preliminary stages, so come back next year to hear more.

Keutzer’s talk was a segue to a panel later in the day in that same track about ManyCore processors. The panel included Magma’s Anirudh Devgan, Intel’s Desmond Kirkpatrick, Synopsys’ Steve Meier, Mentor’s Duaine Pryor, and Cadence’s Tom Spyrou, and was moderated by Keutzer. It’s difficult to do justice to the complex conversation here, but please note at this juncture that you’re out of step if you don’t know there’s a fork in the road developing over terminology.

Q – What’s the difference between MultiCore and ManyCore?

MultiCore is anything from 2 cores up to 8 cores on-chip, while ManyCore ranges from 16 to 64 cores on-chip.

(Not to take sides, but the effort going into refining these definitions seem likes a lot of who-ya over nada.)

At the panel that followed Keutzer’s earlier afternoon panel – an event moderated by Georgia Tech’s Wayne Wolf, that included Renesas’ Toshihiro Hattori, STMicro’s Pierre Paulin, ARM’s Mike Muller, CoWare’s Achim Nohl, and Sonics’ Drew Wingard – Paulin said that beyond 64 cores, you’ve potentially got a CoreEmporium, then a Core-zilla, and finally a Holy Core!

Paulin’s humor struck a cord with a room filled to the overflow with several hundred technology folks, and the place erupted in laughter. Meanwhile, all you Core-zilla fans out there, get on with it! Find a way to take advantage of all of this hardware by introducing better concurrency into your software. And hurry!

Q – So was Management Day strictly business and did it, therefore, belong Downstairs?

Are you kidding? Again, a giant Argggg!

Although I was running around elsewhere in the Anaheim Convention Center for the bulk of the day on Tuesday, Management Day, I eventually found my way to Room 204 at 3 PM in time to catch the last hour of the early afternoon session.

Thanks to Virage Logic’s Yervant Zorian, I was given access to all of the slides from all 7 presenters that had comprised the day’s program. The content was overwhelming!

Each of the speakers over the course of Management Day at DAC had given a highly detailed, 30-minute tutorial on some particular aspect of the design and manufacturing of an advanced-node SoC.

From studying those slides (which will be available online shortly, plus the talks will be featured in an upcoming issue of IEEE’s Design and Test), it was patently clear that if you want to manage the business of making high-volume SoCs at small geometries, you better have your technical skills and your business skills equally up to snuff. This is definitely an Upstairs and a Downstairs kind of a thing.

Qualcomm’s Charles Matar spoke about wireless SoC designs. TI’s Bob Pitts spoke about 45-nanometer power optimized SoCs. Microsoft’s Srinivas Nori addressed issues related to the XBOX 360 processor. SanDisk’s Manuel D’Abreu emphasized the need for complex, accurate specifications. Intel’s Elinora Yoeli talked about the 45-nanometer Atom Processor. MediaTek’s Andrew Chang presented a case study on a 65-nanometer 5-million transistor chip. STMicro’s Philippe Magarshack narrated the development of a 45/40-nanometer low power wireless multi-media SoC.

Obviously, these were dense, highly technical presentations that had consumed the entire day. I only took the podium at the end of the afternoon to try to bring some comic relief to the gravitas of the day’s hard work, and managed to get each presenter to tell me why I should hire them for my new semiconductor start-up.

Most of the job candidates did a good job of articulating their unique skillsets. Magarshack, however, got the nod because he said he not only brought great technical management skills to the table, but also a wide knowledge of French wines, as well. Appropriately, Yervant Zorian waved a wand at that point and the bar in the back opened early.

The crowd relaxed into a lively Q&A with the presenters, now arrayed across the stage at a table. One particular question lobbed at the panelists got pretty much the same answer. With few qualifications, they would each choose cost reduction as a goal for a project over time-to-market. They also all offered that no more than 10 percent of their current toolsets are internally grown – and we’re talking here about players as diverse as STMicro, Intel, Qualcomm, TI, Microsoft, and SanDisk. These companies say upwards of 90 percent of their CAD tools come from 3rd-party tool vendors.

Before you crack open the champagne, however, all of the speakers also said they need “extremely heavy scripting” to knit the flow together and those scripts are definitely their secret sauce.

Hmmm. Not such good news there, in my opinion, for the EDA vendor community.


Drawing some quick conclusions …

Q – What was the main focus of DAC’08?

As a journalist, I’m often asked what I think is the “main focus” of something like DAC. I usually chuckle and ask the same question in response. After 5 days spent in Anaheim, attending a host of different sessions on a plethora of topics, it’s clear that nothing is clear about what the “main focus” is for DAC. Even given that it was a wireless theme this year.

Q – Instead, what were the Best Sessions at DAC?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Wild and Crazy Ideas Session, new to DAC last year and full of equally compelling content this year. A special stand-out presenter at the WACI session was IMEC’s Min Li. It’s still surprising to me when someone can be an accomplished technologist and and an entertaining public speaker, as well. In fact, I heard presentations from EPFL, IBM, and U.C. San Diego at the WACI session, which were all great.

I was also particularly partial to the all-day Biochips Workshop that took place on Sunday, organized by University of Pittsburgh’s Steve Levitan. The morning keynote was an excellent hour-long talk given by U.C. Berkeley’s Jan Rabaey – an overview of the various and diverse research initiatives into invasive and non-invasive devices, gadgets and sensors that are being developed to mitigate physical conditions and improve quality of life. Rabaey ended with a suggestion that our brain waves will soon be accessible to the Internet, and hence will facilitate human-to-human interconnect. A question from the floor got a big laugh. The speaker asked
Rabaey why we don’t just interconnect brain-to-brain. Why do it through the Internet?

There were other workshops on Sunday I would like to have attended, as well, but ran out of time. In particular, the 5th Annual UML for SoC Design Workshop and the High-level Synthesis Workshop. I also didn’t get to the IP-XACT User Group meeting on Tuesday, but Peter Flake did and told me it was “dynamic and well attended.” Flake said the fact that the 30+ people in the room argued so vociferously among themselves about the standard means that it’s being used actively, and is well on its way to becoming an established tool for the IP industry.

Although I missed that session on Tuesday, I did not miss the SIGDA PhD Forum on Tuesday evening. Wow. That was very cool. I’m guessing there were well over 200 people there, looking at dozens of posters from promising young grad students, discussing the future of the technology, and networking in a way that bodes great things for the future of the EDA industry. It was without a doubt among the most dynamic of sessions at DAC, to be among all of those bright young researchers and their advisors as they shared details of their research and technical visions for their future careers in the industry. Congratulations to Carnegie Mellon’s Diana Marculescu for her
committee’s effort that has brought such distinction to this annual Poster Session.


Best of Show …

What fun is coming to DAC if you don’t look back over the week and single out a couple of absolute favorite events and/or moments?

* Number 1

Of course for me, the first would be the 2008 Workshop for Women in Design Automation. As chair of the event, I would have to feel that way!

Mar Hershenson’s speech was spot-on superb, as was the panel that followed moderated by IBM/AMI veteran CAD tool manager Karla Reynolds. Reynold’s panel included Virage Logic’s Sabina Burns, Carbon Design’s Elizabeth Abraham, Intel’s Gila Kamhi, and On Semiconductor’s Ann Rincon. For a candid, freewheeling discussion of the trepidations and triumphs of a career in technology, you couldn’t have found a better group or a more compelling conversation.

SRC’s Bill Joyner came to the Women’s Workshop this year to present the 2008 Marie Pistilli Award to IBM’s Louise Trevillyan. Trevillyan could not be in Anaheim to accept her award, but sent a brief and sincere taped address thanking the many people she has worked with over the years during her long and distinguished career at IBM. It was a great and poignant moment.

* Number 2

Speaking of Bill Joyner, if you didn’t stick around Thursday afternoon for the final DAC panel from 4:30 to 6:00, you might as well have not come to Anaheim at all. It was simply perfect. Joyner launched into a roast of the topic – “Custom is from Mars and Synthesis is from Venus” – and went on to position his four panelists ala candidates in a Presidential Debate. It was a riot, excellent theater, and played to a packed house. Did you know that Custom and Synthesis, like Mars and Venus, are actually in love but just don’t know it?

Intel’s Shekhar Borkar, TI’s Ty Garibay, ADM’s Jonathan Lotz, and IBM’s Bob Montoye clearly were empowered by Joyner to play the topic to the hilt. And they did. You think technology is dull? Boy, have you been missing out! Bravo to Joyner et al for a marvelous wrap at DAC.

* Number 3

For dynamic, over-the-top keynote energy, Qualcomm COO Sanjay Jha delivered one of the best I’ve ever heard. You know you’re in the presence of superior public speaking when you completely forget to look at the PowerPoint and listen directly instead to the individual at the podium. Talking about the future of all things electronic, and all that needs to happen across the technical and geo-economic landscape to make it a reality, Jha gave us yet another acronym: PCD, Pocket Computing Device.

Those of us who have been around for a while, wondered if this was just a re-packaged and re-positioned IA, Intelligent Appliance (darling of high-tech in the late 90’s). No matter, really, because Jha says we’re well on our way at last, through the magic of better design, hardware/software co-design, better materials, and massive collaborations to have a PCD in every pocket, and a docking station in every home. Great news.


What’s left …

Actually, there’s a whole bunch of stuff not covered in this column that happened at DAC. Wally Rhines conducted another panel on ESL, and to my astonishment, we still have define ESL, decide which is better, C++ or System C, and need to get the tools in shape to move up to the next level of abstraction.

Thursday’s keynote from The MathWorks Co-founder, Jack Little, was factual and waxed poetic about the Golden Equations in engineering. He also emphasized an issue that’s gaining huge traction in design, MBD. Model-based design ties in with the OSCI work on TLM, which also reminds me that the 7th annual Symposium on ESL Design with SystemC took place on Sunday and Monday in Anaheim, co-located with DAC. Unfortunately, I missed it. I know it’s great that a lotta stuff is being co-located with DAC, but it does make it somewhat harder to get to things.

Meanwhile, I had a chance to meet in Anaheim with just a handful of companies: Xyalis, Critical Blue, Forte, CoFluent, and SpringSoft about a host of different topics in the industry.

Beyond all this, however, there was tons of conversations all over everywhere about publishing and who's going to cover EDA in this Brave New World of Brave New Media. SpringSoft's Scott Sandler moderated a panel on the topic on Thursday morning, which served as a complex, highly-charged counterpoint to the Bloggers Birds of a Feather get-together the previous evening, which was MC'd by JL Gray from Verilab, with presentations from David Lin from Denali and Steve Leibson of Tensilica. I think there was probably lots of ill-will generated at both of these meetings (not the least being by me), so it will be interesting to follow the fall-out going forward.

Q – What constitutes the Press?

This is a tough one. For now, my answer would be: a) anyone who likes to write; b) anyone who’s been laid off at one point or another since 2000; c) anyone who gets access to the Press Room; and d) anyone who thinks they’ve seen everything and thinks they know everyone who’s anyone.

Q – What is a Blogger?

Again, a tough one, but for now I’d say it’s: a) anyone who likes to write; b) someone who probably has a day job that’s not exclusively about blogging; c) someone who didn’t get access to the DAC’08 Press Room; and d) anyone who doesn’t think they’ve seen everything or think they know everyone who’s anyone.

Meanwhile, did you know that
Sean Murphy
has got a list of 60 (that’s six-oh) people who are currently blogging about EDA?

Q – Are Bloggers members of the Press?

This is a great and glorious question, for which I have no answer whatsoever. The only real way we’ll all discover the answer, in fact, is to wait for DAC’09 in San Francisco. At that point, we’ll find out who’s in the Press Room, and who isn’t.

Or even more amusingly, if there’s a Press Room at all.

Stay tuned!


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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.

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