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 What Would Joe Do?
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.

DAC 2014: Algorithms, Adjacencies, Animosities, World Peace

June 5th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena

The June breezes were intense in San Francisco this week. The fog was swirling out at the Great Highway, and making itself known across town amidst the flags flying sharply over Moscone Center. The Electronic Design Automation and IP communities were out in force in and around South Hall, while thousands of edgy app developers were playing out their own dramas across the street and down the block in and around West Hall where Apple was holding court at the same time. Fourth and Howard was awash all week in hordes and gaggles of the people who are shaping the future of the world.

Algorithms – Perhaps as never before, algorithms were the number one topic at DAC this year, and in so many different shapes and sizes. Algorithms for high-level synthesis, algorithms for creating models, algorithms for translating physical data into guidelines for design, algorithms for translating assertions into verification metrics for more orderly validations, algorithms for encrypting and decoding, algorithms for compression and decompression, algorithms for converting approximate computational output into exactitude, algorithms for hearing, seeing, and even believing. In San Francisco this week at DAC, it was algorithms all the way down, everywhere you looked.

Adjacencies – The Design Automation Conference is all about ideas, and this year the principle idea was change. The Executive Committee re-shuffled the long-standing deck of cards that’s represented the most important topics at DAC over the last 50 years and came up instead with a whole new set of talking points.

As of 2014, DAC is officially no longer just about Design Automation. As of the 51st DAC, there are 6 areas of focus: Automobiles, EDA, IP, ESS, Security, and Design – each with its own set of sessions, panels, and keynoters. Kudos to the EC for making the effort to expand the focus of DAC, and to enrich its long tradition of excellence by expanding the conversation into this plethora of adjacencies. This is not change for change’s sake; this is change that revitalizes the cross-fertilization of ideas and technologies, the kind of change that makes a destination like DAC so vital to the growth of the industry it serves.

Animosities – Among the adjacencies that I paid particular attention to this week in San Francisco, IP was at the top. I’ve been interested for some months in several high-level (superficial?) questions about the vendors that provide third-party IP: Are they product companies or are they product and services companies?

I took that question to Lucio Lanza’s Monday morning session about the Business of IP and addressed it to panelists Martin Lund of Cadence and Navraj Nandra of Synopsys during the end-of-session audience Q&A. Apparently, I pushed too hard, took too much time, or wasn’t willing to accept the answers offered by Lund and Nandra. After several minutes, Lanza raised his fist in my direction and sent me away. “Enough,” he said. “You’re done.”

Thusly reprimanded, I returned to my chair and then heard from numerous people about this incident for the remainder of the week. One school of thought was that I didn’t push hard enough, that the EDA companies that also sell IP are guilty of a serious conflict of interest when they sell IP whose development and integration into a project are joined at the hip with the process of using that EDA vendor’s tools. The complaint put forth by that faction/school of thought is that EDA companies who also sell IP are very much product and services companies, and should be willing to address both the fact and fallout of that situation.

The other school of thought which came my way after my Lanza reprimand goes like this: Synopsys develops their IP using their tools, Cadence develops their IP using their tools, their tools are proprietary, their IP is proprietary, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Neither is there anything wrong with their requiring that customers, in the main, use Company A’s IP in conjunction with Company A’s tools. This school of thought says it isn’t shutting down opportunities for a diversified project solution space when the tools and IP come from the same vendor, but instead is guaranteeing better, more seamless integration of good-known IP into a project.

Buried in these last several, convoluted paragraphs are a host of ideas that swirl around the business of third-party IP. I know it, you know it, the many people I spoke to about it this week know it. So going forward, perhaps we can find a better, less-stressful setting than Room 103 with its ghastly acoustics and ghostly lighting to hash out the concepts and implications therein.

And by the way, when we have that conversation, let’s hope that Mentor Graphics is at the table as well. As much as I admire Adapt-IP’s Mac McNamara, Mentor was missed at Lucio Lanza’s event.

World Peace – In one of my favorite highlights of the Design Automation Conference this week in San Francisco, General Chair Soha Hassoun presented a gift from her homeland to each of the keynote speakers on every day of DAC, a Palestinian plate hand-painted in the Old City of Jerusalem. The speakers, representing a diverse range of ethnicities and nationalities, were all equally gracious in accepting the gift, and so in the simplest of ways reminded us all that World Peace just isn’t that hard.

Gifts proffered with joy, gifts accepted with gratitude, cultures shared, ideas communicated, friendships established and maintained. How hard can this really be? If the global community of technologists,  speaking across their multitudinous differences, can find common ground for addressing the most complex and challenging of problems in science and engineering, how can the rest of the world not be far behind?


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