What Would Joe Do?
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.
Qualcomm’s Lu Dai: Energetic leadership for Accellera
February 23rd, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena
Although Intel’s Shishpal Rawat, recently retired from Intel, is a hard act to follow as Accellera Chair given his long, productive years leading the organization, if anyone can do it Lu Dai can. He’s enthusiastic, energetic, optimistic, and an engineer – and not necessarily in that order.
Before talking about Accellera in our phone call this week, Dai spoke about DVCon, anchor tenant of Accellera’s outreach to design and verification engineers around the world. This next week, the Silicon Valley version will unfold in San Jose, with DVCon India happening in September, DVCon Europe in October, and the first-ever DVCon China in April.
“DVCon has very good brand recognition,” Dai said, “and is one of the ways Accellera can expand [its influence] into new markets.”
“DVCon actually serves two purposes,” he added. “In well-developed markets like North America and Europe, it showcases the standards and teaches people good design tricks on how to us them to the best advantage.
“However, in places like Asia which are developing markets, designers there may or may not be using our standards. There DVCon is not only a vehicle to showcase the benefits of accepting our standards, but it is also a place to attract more companies to join into our work on developing and refining those standards.
“With attendees at the various DVCon’s often coming from companies we hope to become future members, the conference helps us reach new markets for our standards, and promotes more technical contributions from companies around the world.”
Dai referred to a map of the world to demonstrate ways Accellera is currently represented internationally. DVCon US, DVCon Europe, DVCon India, and DVCon China are augmented by DAC in North America, SystemC Evolution Day in Europe, Verification and ESL Forum in India, and SystemC in Japan.
“Even though we have good representation through these conferences, as an organization Accellera wants to expand our membership beyond the traditional European and North American companies. Currently, we do not have as many members in Asia yet there is a lot going on in those countries,” he said, noting the importance of bringing companies based in those areas into the organization.
“The goal of Accellera,” Dai noted, “is to establish and promote standards. We are developing the standards that are [critical] to designers, and we want people to join our development so they’ll be more successful.”
“Of course,” he added, “if I develop a standard and I’m a strong company, I can strong-arm my customers into accepting that standard.”
Accellera, however, offers an opportunity to develop standards with contributions from many companies, Dai emphasized. The results are standards that benefit from many points of view and a lot of cooperation and compromise between the major players.
Though his enthusiasm for this work is evident, I asked Dai if Qualcomm is supportive of the amount of time leading Accellera will require.
“My Accellera work is very related to my day job,” Dai said. “I’m a Senior Director of Engineering at Qualcomm, where I do pre-silicon design verification.”
“For most of my career, I have been an ASIC-verification lead, everything from the trench work of engineering all the way to project leadership.
“My latest involvement is the pre-silicon initiative developing methodology for both design and verification in the company, trying to forge a consistent flow and methodology for both IP use and SoC design.”
“In some sense,” Dai added, “Qualcomm is unique in this effort, but there are common [themes] with other companies. Big companies each have their own unique methodologies, but after a while there are a lot of issues between these methodologies.
“There are also issues at big companies between the tools from the three major vendors. There is not as much compatibility [as one would like] for the front-end designers and verification engineers who use a lot of CAD tools.
“Some companies, particularly smaller companies, may use a single-vendor solution for their tools, but the bigger companies usually use more than one vendor.”
“Accellera has helped,” Dai noted, “by working to make it easier to hand-off between different vendors, by helping the vendors see the advantages of being standards compliant.
“This is why Qualcomm will support me in my work with Accellera – because it benefits the company and the industry.”
I expressed my ongoing admiration for the people who have busy day jobs yet still pursue standards works, even if their employer supports that additional effort.
Dai responded, “I’ve been on the Board for several years now, and know how important the Accellera work is.
“So when this opportunity came up to be Chair, I knew that if I wanted to help improve standards and the workflow, I needed to be willing to put my own time in to get the work done.”
“Also,” Dai added with a chuckle, “engineers are somewhat predictable in their attitude to their work. We always think our own designs are the best – this is a very common theme. If somebody designs a car, for instance, the next engineer thinks their design will be even better.
“Accellera, however, allows engineers to work together, to group their talents under the umbrella of the ultimate goal – a common solution to shared problems.
“It is a group that encourages engineers to use their intelligence and skills to create standards that represent the best ideas of the entire group. The plus for those involved in this type of work – a lot of innovation comes out of it.”
“Of course,” he acknowledge, “the minus is that is does take up a lot of time.”
Clearly Lu Dai is very committed to the important, ongoing work of Accellera and feels quite energized by the opportunities available to the organization.
“There are working group with members from many different companies,” he said, “all pulling together to improve existing standards, and work on emerging standards.
“From the point of view of the Accellera Board, it is our responsibility to continue to attract talent to contribute to the working groups.
“There’s definitely a lot of work to be done, and perhaps never quite enough time, but for me the best way to deal with the challenges is just to get started as soon as possible!”
Lu Dai leads the SoC front-end design and verification initiatives within Qualcomm Technologies, overseeing the mobile SoC design and verification process and execution. Prior to Qualcomm, he was the Design Verification Lead for Cisco’s Gigabit Switching Business Unit. Mr. Dai holds a MSEE from Cornell and a BS in EECS from U.C. Berkeley.