Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Mac on DAC: IP is critical, and so is everything else
May 12th, 2016 by Peggy Aycinena
Mac and I spoke by phone recently. He’d read a blog a posted here in April expressing skepticism about IP coverage at DAC. Therein, I suggested the content set for Austin in June was inadequate, given the important role IP plays in chip design today.
A thoughtful McNamara wanted to respond to this critique; he wanted to evangelize for the quality of the content at DAC – particularly as he is Vice Chair of the conference this year and will be General Chair in 2017. [Cadence’s Chuck Alpert is General Chair here in 2016.]
“I was the one who started the IP track 3 years ago,” Mac told me.
“Anne Cirkel [DAC 2015 General Chair] asked me if I would run the track, because IP is the next level of EDA. Remember, we started with place-and-route, and then verification, and now you can buy components already placed-and-routed and verified, and it’s a great thing. That’s IP.
“But DAC is only one week long, and now we have to [showcase] important IP content along with everything else – 7 nanometers, system verification, etc. The question has increasingly been, how to strike a balance between the old content and the new content. It’s a huge, huge balancing act.”
That balancing act, per Mac, is accomplished with the help of a matrix, an enormous spreadsheet: “We balance the content throughout the week and see what levels fit where.
“We may, for instance, put the same topic in two different areas – one on the academic side and one on the designer track. Plus, there may be content related to the topic on the exhibit floor.
“In all of this, we may have organized a particular flow or track that makes sense to us for the important topics, but to those specifically interested in IP – well, we want them to understand that IP-related content is everywhere throughout the week.”
Mac referenced my April 14th blog: “What you did was click on the IP Track in the search area on the DAC website, and there you found content related to IP. But this [may have been misleading] and is related to the historical fault of the way we designed the web page.
“We have had an Auto Track, an EDA Track, a Design Track, etc. – and we’ve used these words to describe content. But we should not have had just tracks, but the ability to look for a tag as well.”
Then Mac offered something very interesting: “To help you re-visit the DAC website and comprehend the complex nature of the content, I’ve sent you an email with instructions on how to explore the website. This way, you will see more clearly the great content that we have built around IP.”
[You can see that email/tutorial below.]
Mac’s helpful instructions, notwithstanding, I had a few more questions for him. One superseded just the IP content at DAC.
“Sometimes DAC panels aren’t very adversarial,” I noted. “You just hear a bunch of people who agree on everything. I certainly noticed that in looking at the IP panels scheduled for Austin.”
Mac replied, “Yes, sometimes it’s just about everybody having a group hug. But sometimes there is controversy, and that’s when panels are really interesting.
“Nonetheless, this isn’t the presidential election – most people at DAC agree on lots of things. And that’s actually why the poster sessions are important. There you can talk with people one-on-one about things you might agree or disagree with them.”
“Okay,” I said, “still I’m sensing an orthogonal set of needs in assembling the IP content at DAC: business issues related to using IP, technology issues around building quality IP, and issues of integrating IP into a system. This is all very complex stuff and probably deserves an entire conference all on its own.”
Mac again replied, “Yes, there’s the whole business aspect of IP. If I buy it now, and don’t verify it, I’ll get my product to market that much more quickly than my competitors.
“And, if we’re all using the same IP – a Qualcomm cellphone chip, for instance – my product is not differentiated from the competition, it’s not unique. This is also an important discussion that should happen at DAC, and [additional motivation] for having a separate IP Track.
“The first couple of years building the IP Track, I worked closely with Warren Savage [CEO of IPextreme]. At that time, a number of companies would pitch in and split the costs of the IP Constellations booth.
“Now, however, the DAC EC understands the importance of IP; we have a booth for the IP companies. Some of these IP companies are really big – ARM, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics – but everyone gets a turnkey setup on the exhibit hall at DAC.
“All of this [attention to IP] has clearly had to evolve over the years. We’ve come to understand that DAC has to address these emerging [technology issues], while still supporting the traditional parts of EDA in building the conference content.”
Mac waxed philosophical: “Looks, it’s very hard. Every conference has a different mission.
“ICCAD, for instance, has a very clear mission, most of it being academic. If you go to something like DesignCon, however, it’s pretty much the guys with the oscilloscopes and test equipment, but they don’t have academic presentations or designers. Just a lot of: ‘Look at our shiny lab equipment!’
“Meanwhile, DVCon is a little like DAC. There are some exhibits and some tutorials, and a lot of technical sessions.
“But DAC now has this whole tutorial day on Thursday – something the EC is pretty excited about bringing to Austin this year, there are so many designers in the area.
“The DAC EC sees our work as a mission – to help designers keep in touch. And, we’re trying to take the things that work best face-to-face and present it so that people, and their companies, feel good about taking 3 days out of the office [and incurring the costs] of hotels and flights.
“To do that, we’re focusing on the academic side, the design side, and the exhibit side all at the same time. Assembling the DAC content is about building a platform for complex cross-pollination between different parts of the [ecosystem].
“The Design Automation Conference is a great convention, and one that’s been going on for a long time. This June in Austin will be the 53rd DAC and I believe it will be the best one yet!”
DAC is a large conference addressing a wide range of topics, and a given presentation will have one item as its central focus, while also addressing related areas to a greater or lesser degree. To help people navigate the many offerings at DAC and find a set that are interesting to them, we tag each event with one or more topic areas, which confusingly are displayed on the web site as ‘Track’
So for example, if you visit events and open the Tracks area, you see:
Selecting one or more of these items will perform a search for content that has been tagged with the keywords you selected. So if you select EDA, you will see content that includes general EDA as one of its themes.
Selecting IP does NOT focus the search on things that are just a part of the IP Track. Instead, it brings you to any content that has the IP tag on it, which would include all of the IP Track items, but also a keynote or a pavilion topic which is tagged as being related to IP.
The IP Track itself consists of 8 sessions, which you can see by visiting here.
When you click on the link, you will see that I have selected the word “IP” from the Track menu area, and selected the Event types:
Five of the eight sessions include a set of presentations focused on a particular area of IP. One of these is made up of invited content, and has three presentations. The other four consist of submitted content, which you can see here. And these include 12 presentation in total.
Meanwhile, three of the eight sessions are panels, which consist of invited panelists from the industry with a moderator, and are set up to debate a question.
So the IP Track paid content [attendees must pay the DAC registration] consists of twelve submitted papers, three invited papers, and three panels.
In addition, there are three poster sessions where you can question the twelve paper authors in-depth, as well as talk with the authors of the seven IP presentations which were accepted as poster-only.
The poster session is open to all, and is held on the DAC floor each day that the exhibit floor is open.