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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Finally: IP now an Anchor Tenant at DAC!

March 20th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena

Thanks to a lot of hard work and perseverance on the part of various thought leaders in the IP industry – folks like Mike McNamara, Warren Savage, McKenzie Mortensen, Clark Chen, Devin Persaud, Tiffany Sparks, Yervant Zorian, and Farzad Zarrinfar – at last, IP has become an anchor tenant at DAC.

A situation that’s been far too long in coming, given that these days there are approximately 30 companies in the EDA industry, but upwards of 500 in IP.  The fact is, if DAC didn’t make itself available to showcase an industry with 10x more possible exhibitors than EDA, where’s the future of the conference anyway?

I had a chance to speak with ‘Mac’ McNamara on Tuesday of this week about the IP Initiative he’s heading up for DAC 2014. [The others on the list above are on the committee.] Mac’s a legend in the EDA community based on his expertise and leadership roles at Chronologic, SureFire, Verisity and Cadence, where he headed up the company’s C-to-Silicon Compiler and Virtual Systems Platform. Mac left Cadence in 2012, and has served since then as CEO of Adapt IP, an IP startup that boasts both John Sanguinetti and Lucio Lanza on its board.

During our conversation, Mac said that anyone planning on attending the Design Automation Conference this June in San Francisco will want to be there on Monday, June 2nd. That is, anyone who’s interested in the IP industry.

Per Mac, “DAC has been the place for IP for many years although not recognized as such. Instead IP has just been seen as a footnote at DAC for these past many years. There have been previous initiatives to change that, but this time we’re serious about it, really serious about making IP a focus of the conference.

“[Our goal] is to better serve our target customers by bringing them the information they need to make decisions about IP, along with other folks in the industry. Through sessions and tracks, we hope to really deliver on the promise that DAC is a great place for IP.

“Previously, conferences like Mobile World Congress [have showcased] IP for cell phones, but there’s never been one place where top-level IP, the verification of IP, the assemblage of IP, and considerations of the embedded guys have all [been covered] in one show.”

I asked Mac how he came to be spearheading all of this.

He said, “I have been on the DAC EC [Executive Committee] as Education Tutorial Chair for the past couple of years, so I was positioned to be involved with the IP initiative.

“Also, I have been in the chip design industry for a long time. As a computer architect in the last century building super computers, I realized there could be better tools, so I got involved at Chronologic, a startup with John Sanguinetti; then founded SureFire Verification that became a part of Verisity, and then was merged into Cadence with the Verisity acquisition where I led a group that built tools including C-to-Silicon. Now I’ve actually gone back to my beginnings as a designer at Adapt IP; we build standards compliant IP which can be adapted to the needs of each company.”

Mac acknowledged that the IP ecosystem is a complex one today: “An SoC today is an assemblage of purchased pieces of IP [from a variety of suppliers], plus internally developed IP which differentiate the product. Selling IP has gone from a few providing proprietary IP, to a rich ecosystem of IP suppliers and management companies who provide tools, services and IPs and IP subsystems that can be connected into the SoC.

“The thing about assembling IP, however, is that you have to make everything fit. You need to coerce hundreds of pieces of IP to talk to each other. It’s never cookie cutter, so at Adapt IP we realized that IP that can be adapted to your needs gets the best performance, power and area.”

Linking that to his leadership role at this year’s DAC, Mac said, “We are not one of the huge IP companies. If I was from, say, ARM or Imagination, it might be hard to separate my company’s brand from the focus of the DAC IP Initiative at the show. By being from a small IP company, it’s a more open field for me. I’m not biased towards any one of the big suppliers, so the day’s program will focus on everyone in IP.”

I noted that these days, the IP industry is dominated by a small handful of big players, so “where at DAC would I be able to discuss taking on ARM, Imagination, or other entrenched IP vendors?”

Mac said, “That’s a great question. Clearly we do better as an industry when there is competition [driving] higher levels of innovation, which is why we have developed six different sessions at DAC, [some related to the technology and some to the business of IP].

“There will be two parallel tracks, six sessions in total, all taking place on Monday, right off of the exhibit hall, and covering a broad set of topics.

“First session, the never-ending need for IP quality: How do you know if it’s any good? There will be three papers in that area. The second session will provide a space to look at the business issues.

“[Consider that recently] MIPS, Tensilica and Virage were bought by Imagination, Cadence and Synopsys, respectively, so along with ARM, the big companies all have processor offerings. There are quite a few little IP companies starting up as well. Those companies also need a place to show their wares, to present their IP. Maybe your little processor here is better than [other offerings in the market].

“At DAC, that conversation will be possible. We see the IP Initiative as a forum for the small companies and their ecosystem. And, there will be a panel where these folks can talk about raising money and getting companies.

“Part of the conversation at DAC, however, will also be about what the large IP companies want. What are they looking for, and how are they putting together subsystem IP? For instance, having a memory controller, a graphics processor, and CPU all interconnected by a bus. ARM tried to grow into that space 10 years ago, but it didn’t stick. Now we are all trying to deliver better value in this area.

“A third session will be about the simulation of IP; with purchased IP that’s hard as you can’t see the [internal] details.

“A fourth session will be about Hot IP and will include a set of IP folks presenting. I see this session as growing into something like the Hot Chips Conference. I would love to have people waiting for DAC to introduce their next IP. It may have already been announced 6 months earlier, but the information will be new to others hearing about it for the first time at DAC – the notion that DAC provides a shining spotlight on a product release.

“A fifth session will be about low power, and a sixth session will be about new techniques for generating IP.”

Beyond this content, Mac was also clearly excited about the lynchpin of the Monday schedule for IP at DAC: “The day will kick off with a keynote from the CEO of Imagination Technologies, Sir Houssein Yassaie. An excellent way to start the day!”

I asked the age-old question: What about the hybrid business model of service and product that companies perpetually struggle with in the IP industry?

Mac said, “It’s one of the central irritants in the IP business. Customers want to buy turnkey stuff, but they need help making it work. Warren is putting together the content at DAC that will address these issues.”

Mac addressed another age-old theme: “DAC has always been an alliance between exhibitors, providers, tools, academics and users – all playful animals who enjoy a bit of competition now a then, a little bit of old-fashioned fun. This year, to encourage attendees to visit the booths of IP exhibitors at the show, DAC will provide an SoC game card to every DAC attendee.

“Every DAC exhibitor is getting a questionnaire: What IP do they produce, including VIP or IP-assembly tools? We will gather the data from all the exhibitors, and make a game card; then issue to each IP company exhibitng a stamp – processor, memory controller, graphics, radio, etc. Designers will go to the booths of the IP companies looking to complete their SoC, for the stamps, and the exhibitors as they stamp the card, can then help those people understand what they are providing.

“The attendees will turn in their game card at a special booth, get a t-shirt, and be entered in a drawing for the usual iPad and PlayStation. It will be fun for the designers, and will help the exhibitors sponsoring the game to generate a list of [potential customers].”

Mac looked back and then ahead: “Last year, people who didn’t attend DAC told me it didn’t meet their needs. We are changing that, so now companies will say: If I’m not at DAC, I will miss out on connecting with customers [and colleagues].

“This is my first year heading up the IP Initiative. I see this year’s effort as a beginning, a very exciting beginning, which is why I expect to be involved next year as well. We really are serious about making IP a central focus of DAC!”


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