Cal vs. Stanford: EDAC vs. Itself

There's no doubt in my mind that there's a certain level of acrimony that rattles around within the EDA establishment, particularly within EDAC. Having said that, let me be perfectly clear. I'm not a member of EDAC, I don't work for an EDA company, and I just enjoyed a sumptuous dinner courtesy of the Electronic Design Automation Consortium. So what I'm about to say is either in the category of "I don't know what I'm talking about," or in the category of "biting the hand that feeds me."

Tonight, the annual Kaufman Award Dinner played itself out at the Marriott Hotel in Santa Clara. Unfortunately, today we had the first rain of the season here in the Bay Area. The freeways were slick, the end of Daylight Savings meant it was dark by 6 PM, and the traffic everywhere was a mess. I ended up slogging through an endless river of brake lights and stop-and-go fellow travelers to get to the Marriott. By the time I finally reached the hotel, it was past 7 PM and I had missed cocktails. Folks were already halfway through their salads when I finally sat down in one of the few remaining seats at a table at the back of the ballroom. From that vantage point, there seemed to be at least 150 people there, maybe even 200.

Frequently members of the press are offered a special escort to the front of the room, even if they arrive late. But this evening, as is often the case, I actually preferred to be seated at the back of the bus - so much more fun to observe than to be observed - and hence I was quite delighted with my table.

I found myself seated next to a sophisticated young man and his wife who I had never met before. He told me he is an applications engineer at an EDA start-up, and that his CEO had given him the company's tickets to the event. It was lovely talking to this handsome couple - so professional, so poised.

I rushed through my salad, so as to catch up with my dinner companions, and then started to look around to see What was What and Who was Who at the tables in my vicinity. The tables were numbered, so it seemed pretty clear that there had been assigned seating. Hence, it was downright fascinating to figure out who was assigned to the tables at the back of the room.

I actually recognized most of them. They were the CEOs, etc., of the smaller EDA companies - the people who I am not alone in thinking bring most of the innovation and creativity to the industry. The folks who, perhaps, hope to hit it big in their own right - whether it be in DFM, verification, or ESL - but more likely hope to hit it big by being acquired by one of the Big Guys in EDA.

So I was looking around, conversing with my dinner companions, and starting to enjoy the fabulous filet mignon and halibut entree, when some ruckus started to emanate from the table just to my left. I glanced over and decided it was just a group of good friends enjoying a good meal and some hearty wine. However, I also noticed that although that table was just as much at the back of the room as my table, it wasn't occupied by acquaintances from the plucky world of EDA startups. The table was occupied, instead, by the senior players of the Numero Uno company in EDA, including the Head Honcho himself.

"What?" I thought. "What are they doing back here in the back of the bus with us regular folk? Qué pasa?"

Before I could figure out the answer, the after dinner program began and all eyes turned to front of the room. First, Dr. Aart de Geus, in his capacity as EDAC Chair, welcomed everyone and announced that EDAC Executive Director Pam Parrish was retiring after 10 years in her role. He described those 10 years as pivotal ones for the industry, because when Ms. Parrish came on board in 1996 industry revenues stood at $2.3 billion, while now in 2006 they stand at $4.6 billion. Hence, Dr. de Geus said, Ms. Parrish can lay claim to having overseen a 100% increase in EDA revenues under her watch.

The classy Ms. Parrish came up to the podium to accept a warm round of well-deserved applause and a gift from EDAC. No one in the room doubted that she will be missed. She is as persistently positive and persistently politic a person as anyone could ever hope to meet. How EDAC can replace Ms. Parrish is a mystery. As it turns out, some in the room had hoped the solution to that mystery would be the next slide in Dr. de Geus' PowerPoint presentation, but no such luck. Nobody asked and nobody answered the question of who's next at bat with regards to EDAC. At least, I didn't hear anything announced from the back of the room.

The next slide on Dr. de Geus' presentation was accolades for Dr. Walden Rhines, former EDAC Chair. Dr. Rhines has been Chair of the Consortium for the last four years. His work with regards to squelching EDA software piracy, while also orchestrating efforts to prevent the U.S. Government from imposing buzz-killing export bans on EDA software, were celebrated by Dr. de Geus, along with more hearty applause from the assembled guests.

Dr. Rhines came up to the front to wave to his fans and received an enormous bottle of wine as a token of gratitude from the EDAC Board. In handing over the bottle of wine, Dr. de Geus noted Dr. Rhines' proclivity for fine vintages, and said this particular bottle was a 2003 Chateau Cru de Vin Exquisité Landoc Brut Chandon Superieur - or at least that's what it sounded like from the back of the room. Dr. Rhines seemed totally overwhelmed by the quality of the wine, and the quality of Dr. de Geus' linguistic abilities.

Meanwhile, the ruckus continued unabated at the table near my table, which off and on made it a little hard to hear. No wonder I couldn't exactly hear which Cru or Chateau, but no matter.

Dr. de Geus continued from the podium. He had a number of slides to explain a new business model being proposed for the EDA industry. Let's put a dollar value on all the 1's, and leave the 0's to the also-rans, he suggested. This way, any software that generates 1's makes money for the EDA software vendors. Any that generates 0's, doesn't. Dr. de Geus hinted that some companies were already ahead of the game here - OneSpin, for instance. Where as other companies - 0-In Design, for instance - were not. The audience loved it, although the frat boys at the table near mine appeared not to be listening. They appeared, instead, to be negotiating with a nearby table to secure an additional bottle of the House Red.

After Dr. de Geus' complex presentation, Dr. Rhines took the stage. He spent a lengthy stretch of minutes introducing the 2006 Kaufman Award winner, Dr. Robert Dutton of Stanford, TCAD, SUPREM, PISCES, and TMA fame - not necessarily in that order. The bulk of Dr. Rhines' presentation centered on the age-old question: Is Bob Dutton Really a Stanford Man? (As opposed to a Cal Man.)

Dr. Rhines had a series of slides that weighed the evidence for and against the proposal. In the end, although Bob Dutton took his education at Cal, his last 35 years of professional accomplishment have all played themselves out at Stanford. So, Dr. Rhines concluded that Dr. Dutton is indeed a Stanford Man.

Dr. Rhines' presentation culminated with a slide showing a veritable Rogues Gallery of past Kaufman Award winners - 8 out of the 12 were labeled there as Cal Men. No wonder that Dr. Rhines, a Stanford Man himself, was relieved to announce that finally a Stanford Man was receiving recognition from the EDA community. Dr. Rhines welcomed Dr. Dutton to the stage, and there was even more warm and enthusiastic applause.

Then the evening got really tricky. Dr. Dutton is a distinguished technologist, professor, and all around gentleman and scholar. He spoke at length about his work, about TCAD, SPICE, SUPREM, and PISCES, and he congratulated his many colleagues on the success of their years of combined effort. He also pointed out that at least a third of his Ph.D. students were actually in attendance this evening to share in the glow of his award. It was, all told, a great 20 minutes and well worth the effort to be there. Dr. Dutton is obviously loved by his former students, and many of his friends in the industry, as well.

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Review Article
  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Pilar Echeverria'
    I thought this was a delightfully well-written article (though I tend to always think that about your articles). However, don't flatter yourself, Peggy, about your status as a schoolmarm-turned-engineer. You are really an engineer-turned-schoolmarm-turned-engineer (though under that category you probably still don't quite fit the mold of the typical attendee of the EDAC dinner). Hence, there may still be a bit of a difference between you and the proverbial schoolmarm. Even with your truly dignified manners, I believe I have observed once or twice the frat (or sorority?) table gene slip out of you. As far as loud and raucous behavior goes, I can even picture you as the occasional queen of that table. (I seem to recall an accordion... a piano singer... some Irish drinking songs). In spite of the fact that everyone seems to grumble about 'those people' at a party, sometimes it is just grand to let it go and be one of 'those people.'
    I loved your observations about the group dynamics in EDAC, and indeed the entire EDA industry. It is true that they are always the same... from today's EDA world (which clearly we all intimately experience from day to day), to tomorrow's EDA world... from the elementary school playground to the university social scene. However, most truly committed and successful groups of individuals exist by behaving as if they were the ones to invent group dynamics... which is always interesting to observe. The self-obsession you refer to is a survival technique, or at least a success trick. I can distinctly remember that some of the most successul science and engineering students I encountered in college were the ones who behaved with a confidence and immortality that belied their relatively insignificant role in today's world of over 6 billion and the grand scheme of yesterday, today, and tomorrow all added up.
    My, but college seems like ages ago. Frat parties in my time consisted of some tea cakes, a corset, and invariably some waltzing. Perhaps I'll play the schoolgreatgrandmarm, and leave the schoolmarm to you.

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  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Bruce Edmundson'
    Great article and undoubtedly true. However, Peggy got one fact unequivocally wrong: Cal is NOT going to beat Stanford on November 18. I hate to say it, as a (non-blueblood) Stanford grad myself, but Cal is going to beat Stanford on December 2 - they changed the schedule this year.

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  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Jim McKibben'
    Great article on the Kaufmann award Peggy. Enjoyed reading it!

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  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Ralph Zak'
    Hi Peggy,
    It has been a long time since we have gotten together. As a Cal grad, with a family of Cal grads, who went to Stanford B-school, I know exactly what you are saying about the differences in the personalities of the students, grads and faculty--the difference between kids of working/middle class families and the entitled few. Go Bears.
    On your serious note, I was out of EDA for a few years and just joined one of those companies outside of Norcal who is making great strides. It is an Israeli company of entrepreneurs with reconfigurable processors as tools which do what we were doing at Quickturn and Aptix for 1/10th the cost, and with 1/100th the pain level. There is a passion, scrappiness and focus in such a company, that is hard to deny. It is compelling. The drive is like our early days at Quickturn, in our death battle with PiE Design, and equally hungry and focused startup. Much of that gets lost when you go public, and then get acquired by one of the big three, or four.
    I think your points are right-on. For too many of our children, engineering, or biology, is just too much work. But if we don't put some fire in them, the exciting opportunities will all be overseas, across the dateline, or elsewhere.

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  • October 09, 2008
    Reviewed by 'Hemanth'
    Good report from the event. I enoiyed reading it but I couldnt help but see that your comparison of the events would be slightly different for the reason that many on this side of the date line dont have an equivalent for the frat boys corner at least during events like these. The culture abhors any oppurtunity of slackening during formal gatherings attended by respected delegates.

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