DAC 2006: As the world turns, the pendulum swings
[ Back ]   [ More News ]   [ Home ]
DAC 2006: As the world turns, the pendulum swings

The world was in a muddle in the days leading up to the 2006 Design Automation Conference in San Francisco. The hostilities along the Israeli-Lebanese border intensified by the hour; the Israeli army appeared poised for an invasion. Factions across the Arab world seemed divided as to how to respond to developments; Washington did not. The temperatures across the length and breadth of California reached record levels; in particular, the mercury hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit just a few miles inland from way-too-sunny San Francisco. On Wall Street, Dell's stock tanked on news of severely reduced Q2 earnings. And, a grand jury investigating the baseball steroid scandal was extended, allegedly because there were some who still wanted to pursue an indictment of Giants' slugger Barry Bonds. Local, regional, national, and international news were all pretty agitating.

Strangely enough, the world was still in a muddle in the days after DAC 2006. You would think DAC might have shifted the tenor of the news from bad to good, but it did not. The horrific death count in Lebanon continued to rise - and in Israel, although at a slower pace. The Arab world seemed closer to consensus in their condemnation; the G8 did not. The deadly heat wave across California had subsided; the wind and fog had returned to The City, but over 120 deaths statewide were directly linked to the unprecedented temperatures. Dell's stock had rallied a bit, but the SEC appeared to be drawing closer to outright indictments of dozens of companies in Silicon Valley based on the backdated stock option scandal. Meanwhile, Tour de France champion, American Floyd Landis, faced the loss of his title should he fail the second of two mandatory drug tests, having failed the first for the presence of too much testosterone.

In the midst of the geo-political saber rattling and death, allegations of drug use, and increasingly alarming evidence of global warming, DAC was a blur - a cacophony of pre-dawn train rides, 20-hour days, a thousand handshakes, and few meals enjoyed to completion. I never saw anybody or anything from Cadence - they're were having an off-site, which I did not attend. I had a few EDAC hors douvres on Sunday night before the Dataquest slideshow; missed cocktails, but made dinner with Mentor Graphics at SF's MOMA on Monday where they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the company in style; briefly enjoyed Synopsys' hospitality over breakfast on Tuesday (before rushing off to the opening conference keynote) and drinks on Wednesday in the early evening. On Tuesday evening, I was a bit ill-mannered in walking out of the Magma/TSMC pre-dinner presentation at LuLu's because I had run out of attentiveness (in particular) and time (in general) for a presentation I had already seen; TSMC has integrated Magma's tools into its version 7.0 reference flow. My punishment - only a piece of bread and a glass of (sparkling) water for dinner.

I enjoyed Catalan cuisine with Fenix, Takumi, and ACE at Belden Place on Thursday, and had lunch courtesy of CoWare at the AMC Theater on Wednesday where I could only stay long enough to hear the first two customer presentations, so missed the punch line of the event; CoWare has released its SystemC Modeling Library source code and reuse methodology guidelines. I was there long enough, however, to hear a poor, exhausted engineer in the middle of the theater softly snoring over his half-eaten box lunch to the embarrassed amusement of those sitting nearby.

I made it to the Denali party Tuesday night and stood at the front of the dance floor in my business suit, holding my briefcase and marveling at the quality of musicianship from the likes of Gary Smith, Aart de Geus, Bob Gardner, Ted Vucurvich, and Jim Hogan. I managed to lob the harshest of criticisms at DeepChip at the Hacks & Flacks panel on Wednesday afternoon, only to find that Synopsys was celebrating Cooley's site at their elegant paté & champagne soiree in the Flood Mansion just 2 hours later. We all received a bumper sticker from Synopsys designed with Cooley in mind. It said, Synopsys - Chip Happens.

Meanwhile, ESL continued to press its case all week long, and although everybody at DAC seemed to have a DFM strategy, DFM continued to press its confusion. I managed to bungle appointments with DAFCA (first a no show, then late for the re-scheduled appointment), got appointments with Xyalis and OneSpin confused and was therefore late to both, got the location of the Critical Blue appointment wrong (missed it), arrived too early for ArchPro (missed that one, as well), and forgot Nano Solutions completely -- an astoundingly awful track record and my worst ever at DAC. I did, however, achieve a modicum of timeliness with CiraNova, Lynguant, TSMC, Tennison, BlueSpec, CEDA, SPIRIT, Synopysys, Forte, Sequence, and the SRC. Plus, I glanced in at the Tensilica booth to see the successes they'd achieved with their painting project, which raised money all week for the San Jose Ballet.

I moderated a panel on Tuesday in the DAC Pavilion with Cadence's Jan Willis, Penn State's Mary Jane Irwin, and IBM's Ellen Yoffa (winner of this year's Marie R. Pistilli Woman in EDA Achievement Award) that addressed the presence, or lack thereof, of Women in EDA; I moderated an Accelera panel on Wednesday, early in the morning at the Marriott, that gave five EDA user companies - ARM, Freescale, Intel, Sun, and TI - the opportunity to showcase their efforts-to-date evaluating and/or migrating to SystemVerilog as a verification language; I moderated a lunchtime panel on Thursday demonstrating an ESL flow from ARM to Mentor, facilitated by a SPIRIT wrapper-enabled IP handoff, but in the process completely missed a panel where the verification gods held court - Synopsys' Janick Bergeron, Cadence's Andy Piziali, and Mentor's Harry Foster.

I averaged 4 hours of sleep per night, passed on all alcohol on Sunday and Monday, had some on Tuesday, just a sip on Wednesday, and way too much on Thursday. Every other hour, night and day, was awash in caffeine; I sprinted at least 3 miles a day between conference venues, lost 5 pounds in the process, and ended the week by scrambling to assemble this copy.

But there's more: I was warned by Aart de Geus not to be naïve by publishing complaints that Cadence's earnings call was smack dab in the middle of DAC week; I avoided the Press Room as much as possible because the sight of editors sitting there rather than taking advantage of the host of sessions or panels offered every day at every hour seemed to rankle me more than usual; and with rare exception, I planned my week so badly that I was forced to arrive late and/or leave early to every single event on my dance card.

I allowed myself to be discouraged by the blatant lack of women technologists in the industry - with the notable exception of one technologist who is bravely enduring the transition to becoming a woman, although her contributions to the industry happened a long time ago, when she was still a man - and fought back on the battlefield of my own despair by engaging with as many academics as possible, particularly women academics, and concentrating on the talented women I met at the Workshop for Women in EDA. I actually dozed off during one of the panels I myself was moderating, managed to call a host of people by the wrong name over the course of the week, and repeatedly suggested to the Accellera breakfast audience that Yatin Trevedi worked for Denali, when I knew darn well he worked for Magma.

I found myself hating capitalism, loving academia, hating journalism, but loving journalists, hating snobs, but loving people with class, hating hubris, and loving humility, hating coffee, loving alcohol, and in the end - completely mystified as to how I could summarize the veritable jig-saw puzzle of impressions that comprised my week, and even further mystified as to why anyone would care what I thought or had to say about the whole jumble, jump, and jive.

Then, I came up with an idea. It's a cheap trick, but oh well. Why not post my Top Ten list of Top Ten lists? Embedded in there somewhere might be the truth about DAC. And what is that truth? You've probably got an answer, but here is mine: The truth is that DAC, like everything else, is about a pendulum that swings, from good to bad, from positive to negative, from here to there. To hell and back, the pendulum swings as the world slowly turns beneath it.

Back and forth, and back and forth. Peace prevails, and then there's war. Companies rise, and then they fall. Leaders climb to the top, and then are ousted, resign, or die. Technologies converge, only to diverge once again. Industries consolidate, only to disaggregate when everybody's forgotten why consolidation was critical. Publications dominate, then whither to a shadow of their former selves. Consumers clamor for that must-have device, then scoff & toss, and move their dollars to a different market sector. And in the midst of it all, abstractions rise, and sometimes fall, FPGAs duke it out with ASICs, self-assembling nanochips stare down CMOS, and pundits ponder whether the international language of business will still be English in a hundred years - or even 50.

I know I can't read the future, and I'm pretty sure you can't either. But we all continue to look back to see what's ahead, and look ahead to try to understand where we've come from. It's a pendulum of looking to the past, and then the future, believing in the future, and then growing wistful about the past. Hate to sound so philosophical, but when 11,000 people see fit to gather together at a conference center for 5 days, there better be something profound that can be concluded at the end of it all, something to show for all that energy and enthusiasm expended.

Otherwise, why did we bother to go?


Top 10 Reasons to be Jazzed at DAC 2006

10 - The industry numbers are up. Cadence reported 12-percent revenue growth, year over year, for Q2'06 versus Q2'05. They're a $1.4 billion enterprise nowadays, and that ain't too shabby. Mentor was aglow with their 24% year-over-year quarterly growth numbers, and although Synopsys was in a 'quite period' during DAC, they appeared to be feeling good about their numbers, as well. From the user community, it's true AMD took a bath on DAC Monday after announcing the $5.4 billion ATI acquisition, but ATI stock jumped farther than an athlete on steroids on that same day. Intel seemed unfazed by the potential of a beefed-up competitor, and TSMC and NVidia were also feeling their oats in the financial sector, although there are concerns over inventory gluts across the industry. Freescale merrily hosted its own developer conference at the same time as DAC, but on the opposite coast, and generated lots of buzz. TI posted impressive revenue numbers for Q2, and even Sun had an explanation that seemed reasonable, to account for their current circumstances.

9 - The Anniversary Waltz could be heard all over DAC. It's 25 years this year for Mentor, 20 years for Synopsys, 25 years for HSPICE, and 35 years for the granddaddy of them all - U.C. Berkeley's SPICE. Quiz Show at the Synopsys breakfast celebrating the event included: 1) What does the H in HSPICE stand for? 2) What year did Meta-Software go public? 3) What year did Avanti acquire Meta-Software?

8 - There were really a lot of people at Moscone Center in the Exhibition Halls, both North and South, on free-pass Monday. Companies told me there were less people on Tuesday and Wednesday, but though there was less quantity, there was better quality.

7 - Newly minted as an IEEE Fellow, University of British Columbia's Resve Saleh presented in the Xoomsys booth mid-afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday on the subject of dynamic coupling. I caught part of the Wednesday event, and was impressed with the quality of his talk, and the numbers of people who sat and stood to hear the presentation. It doesn't get any better than great technologists presenting robust ideas side-by-side with companies who offer competitive products that help to solve emerging problems.

6 - DAC Executive Committee member, Ingrid Verbauwhede, is newly named to the chair at Katholieke University in Leuven most recently held by Kaufman Award winner Hugo de Man. Dr. Verbauwhede, who originally hails from the KU/IMEC complex in Leuven, has been teaching at UCLA for the last 10 years. She'll be a dynamic addition to the faculty at KU, and an articulate spokesperson fully conversant on the differences and similarities between the European and North American technical mindsets.

5 - If you stepped into the back of the ballroom in the Marriott Hotel where the Monday evening SPIRIT Consortium General Meeting was being held, you would have seen the place packed to the gills. Absolutely standing room only. The organizers appear to have expected 100 people, but almost 200 showed up. Is there any doubt that people are willing to pitch in and make standards, interoperability, and IP work? There are lots of spots available on current and future working groups related to the SPIRIT standard. The organization's a non-profit now and can be reached at www.spiritconsortium.org

4 - Any time a researcher for whom English is a second language (or third, or fourth) steps up to the microphone to ask a question (in heavily-accented English) of a presenter during a technical session, and the presenter at the podium for whom English is also a second language (or third, or fourth) is able to understand the question and sincerely, courageously, and courteously frame an answer (also in heavily-accented English) and everyone in the room leans forward in their chairs to try to hear and understand the exchange, it's as illuminating and thoroughly human a moment as you will ever observe. I've seen it many times at DAC, and other conferences, and it never fails to inspire.

3 - The UML for SoC Design Workshop was well attended on Sunday afternoon. I stopped in around 4 PM, and although the workshop had been under way since 9 AM, there still looked to be 80+ people in the room, alert and engaged in the presentations. A question from the floor from an attendee: "UML is good for high-level design. When will it be ready for functional design and the drop down to RTL?" Stay tuned for the answer over the next several years. Or, tune out - but at your own risk!

2 - I caught a few minutes of Session 29 on Wednesday afternoon, "Design Challenges for Next-Generation Multimedia, Games, and Entertainment Platforms." The room was a zoo! People hanging from the rafters trying to hear what the panelists from NVidia, IBM, Pixelworks, Samsung, and Intel were saying. From what I could tell from the back, they were saying the technology's cool and the money's great. Come on over and join us if you're young and whimsical.

1 - The Student Design Award presentations were moderated by University of Arkansas' Alan Mantooth on Wednesday morning in the DAC Pavilion, and were a joy to behold. Somewhere in the group shot taken of all of those student winners, advisors, sponsors, and DAC committee members on the stage after the presentations, is the next generation of Best and Brightest who will lead this industry with dignity and creativity to even greater heights of innovation and inventiveness.

Top 10 Reasons to be Jaded at DAC 2006

10 - Export litigation controls are useless. Between piracy and the juggernaut that continues to rush towards an ever-more global economy, trying to protect national security and national boundaries by reigning in the sales of some technologies, but not others, is nigh on impossible. Is it even logical? Piracy is rampant, plus the customers of your customers may (or may not) be developing really nasty things with the things that your customers are designing (with your tools) and selling to them. How do you plan to stop that? Do you care? Or are you just paying lip service to export legislation by way of absolving yourself of any culpability in this mad, mad, mad rush to arms, more arms, and even more arms.

9 - (Yet again), rumors hits the fan that an anchor tenant is pulling out of DAC. Is this a death wish by some that the industry's Annual Fair under the Big Top should wither and die? Is it a move to consolidate power on the part of a mean-spirited industry player, or simply a logical step to redirect resources in other directions? Does it really matter at all? If so, to whom? Is it a crime against humanity, or not even a blip in the history of mankind? Does it have anything whatsoever to do with technical innovation?

8 - Litigation continues to haunt EDA such that the Party of the First Part can still not be seen in the same room as the Party of the Second Part. Could we get past this and on to the business of living?

7 - Way, way, way too many electronic gadgets are being designed, produced and marketed worldwide. Where on earth, or in the earth, are we going to put all of this junk when you and I, our kids, and their kids tire of our latest game boxes, set-top boxes, cell phones, MP3 players, DVD players, TVs, BlackBerrys, datasticks, watches, calculators, flashing champagne glasses, flashing beer glasses, clocks, talking pumpkins, talking bunnies, talking santas, singing fish, dancing robots, noise-canceling earphones, cameras of all sizes, software boxes, manuals, CDs, jewel cases, laptops, desktops, fat and flat monitors, GPS devices, chargers, batteries, chemical residuals, particulate pollution, and CO2? Could somebody, somewhere, at DAC someday, please address this issue? It's at least as important as SOX, piracy, export legislation, and maiming monsters that spew life-like blood.

6 - ASIC design starts are still declining, per Gartner/Dataquest's Bryan Lewis. And despite a million words, and a billion good intentions, 65 nanometers are nowhere near to topping the charts when it comes to design starts or design tape-outs. This per Gartner/Dataquest's Mary Ann Olsson. The confounding landscape of architectural and implementation choices - multiprocessing, multithreading, heterogeneous systems, etc. - are fostering confusion, per Garter/Dataquests' Daya Nadamuni. Finally, per G/DQ's Gary Smith, "Programmability has replaced power as the number one impediment to the continuation of Moore's Law." It's up to you, then, to decide if all of this information is a) old news, b) new news, c) daunting news, or d) just plain daunting.

5 - Good Night and Good Luck. Why is journalism such a hotly debated topic these days? Is it possible to seek out the truth, report the truth, and bear up with the consequences? Within the EDA Press Corps, the answers are looking to be, more and more - no, no, and no.

4 - You can't have your cake and eat it, too, yet the big EDA vendors talk as if they can. At one moment, they're celebrating the conviviality of EDAC and the next moment they're telling you that all customers really want is to have a single vendor supplying them with all of the tools they need to do design. I'm sure it's not my imagination that this mixed message continues to be served up with wine and cheese.

3 - The SEC will soon be announcing a number of additions to their alleged Rogues Gallery of The Indicted who have been naughty with regards to stock-option backdating. The rumor mill says some of our friends within the EDA industry may be on the list. Either spend time whispering about the rumors, or find other things to occupy yourself with in these brief moments we have on this earth. The SEC will let us know, in the fullness of time, what they've got on whom.

2 - Analog and mixed-signal design continue to be the toughest tasks in the industry, but at times seem to get the least amount of attention or buzz. Eventually, that's got to change, but how to make that happen still seems to elude the industry.

1 - Encyclopedic TI Keynote. On Tuesday morning, during the opening session at DAC, Senior Vice President and CTO at Texas Instruments, Hans Stork, presented a definitive talk on all of the technology behind the current generation of 65-nanometer single-chip cell phones. Why, you may ask, is this the Number One item on my DAC list of things to be jaded about? Well, Stork's talk was so encyclopedic, and involved so many aspects of the technology, it drove home the point that mastering it all, and solving the universe of complex design, manufacturing, and business issues related to this type of sophisticated product development, is almost beyond imagining.

Top 10 Reasons why traditional multi-vendor design, development, and verification flows are inefficient

10 - People can't agree on definitions. It used to be, what's an SOC? Now it's, what's ESL or DFM?

9 - Standard take forever, and that's not just a knock against IEEE or any other standards body. It just takes time, pure and simple.

8 - People can't agree on standards. It takes time and patience, with a heavy dollop of maturity, to build consensus. Blessed are the Peace Makers. Their work is the business of building standards.

7 - Companies think their technology should be the de-facto standard. Why not, if it's got dominant market share and gives the company a competitive edge?

6 - IP integration problems. From NIH, to NREs and ECOs, IP is the toughest solution you'll ever love to the quickest TTM. However, collecting, cataloging, updating, and verifying IP - not to mention establishing standardized wrappers - might consume a few minutes of your time here and there.

5 - Lack of interoperability across flows. All the nice words and efforts notwithstanding, this is still a thornier issue than anybody wants to acknowledge.

4 - Incompatible database configurations - with apologies to OpenAccess.

3 - Competition is often counter-productive to cooperation. This is not news. Trying to work together with customers who are also sometimes competitors is tough going. Whatever happened to co-opetition? Well, whatever happened to World Peace?

2 - People can't agree on what beer is best. Cultural differences across corporations, cultures, and time zones can be real buzz killers when it comes to multi-vendor flows.

1 - But ego remains the ultimate stumbling block in any attempt to work across vendors to provide methodologies and/or end products. It's up to management, and management's management, to resolve this most painful of human impediments.

Top 10 Reasons why ESL must succeed

10 - Chips are too big to not go at them from higher levels of abstraction.

9 - Teams are too small not to take advantage of the efficiencies offered by going after big designs from higher levels of abstraction.

8 - There's too much software in the mix in sophisticated systems, big or small, and ESL tools, technologies, and methodologies are a must if you're going to do hardware/software co-design efficiently and in a thoroughly modern/parallel way.

7 - FPGAs are overtaking the world. You don't agree? How about, boards are taking over the world. Still, don't agree? How about, chip & package co-design will be a must going forward. Don't like that one either? How about, complex multi-core, multi-chip, multi-package products are everywhere. Oh, come on. Surely, you can't argue with that. So, choose your battle and choose your weapon. I'll bet that weapon's got something to do with ESL.

6 - The compute power is there to make ESL happen. Meanwhile, abstraction, models, and virtual platforms require a helluva lot of computer power. Like the proverbial chicken and the egg, ESL will be providing the tools to design the platforms that are needed to design the tools that are needed to design the platforms, etc., etc., etc.

5 - You want to stay competitive in this global economy? Think ESL.

4 - Define ESL for me. Can't exactly do that? Then, it's still not commoditized and so there's still lots and lots of room for innovation, and even more room for commercialization.

3 - There were two absolutes expressed at DAC in various settings and by various parties. A) It's all moving toward software differentiation on a commoditized hardware platform. B) It's all about minimizing the software and capturing product intent/differentiation in the hardware. As convincing as these diametrically opposed visions can sound, and no matter who's ultimately right, both visions need to start out at the system level.

2 - Convergence of features, markets, and technologies are best facilitated at the system level.

1 - Configurability is cool; reconfigurability is really cool. For systems to be nimble and responsive to varying needs over the product lifecycle, you're going to need to understand the implications and inferences of change. Do that within the ESL paradigm. Pass Go. Collect $100. Possibly more.

Top 10 Reasons why SystemVerilog is, and isn't, a slam-dunk

10 - SystemVerilog promotes vendor neutrality.

9 - But, companies have millions of lines of verification code written in legacy languages.

8 - And, it takes time and corporate commitment to translate that code to SystemVerilog.

7 - SystemVerilog is attractive to the users because it helps to create a level playing field between the vendors, but,

6 - The major EDA vendors are not working in unison to implement the same subsets of SystemVerilog at the same time.

5 - So, the users still have to distinguish between the forms of SystemVerilog the various verification tool vendors support.

4 - The people driving the SystemVerilog effort are too courteous.

3 - The users implementing SystemVerilog are too prickly and difficult.

2 - If SystemVerilog were perceived to be fully available for implementation, as well as verification, people would be more enthused.

1 - But questions would still remain as to which language and level of abstraction is appropriate for writing models.

Top 10 Questions which remain unanswered with regards to DFM

10 - Is DFM a real market yet, or are people just looking for a trendy label for their tools?

9 - If DFM vendors succeed in solving the manufacturing problems, will they share their winnings with their customers?

8 - How can people judge which tools are best when evaluations are so expensive?

7 - True or False? There is lots of empirical data to prove the tools are useful.

6 - Is DFM about getting more mileage out of 90 and 65 nanometers, or about moving to even smaller geometries?

5 - Does Synopsys want or need to partner with some of the new players in the DFM space? If so, which companies would they be?

4 - Ditto for Mentor Graphics, Cadence, and Magma.

3 - Which of the Big 4 companies will buy which of the small companies among the plethora of DFM start-ups currently underway?

2 - Is DFM as old as the hills, or still wet behind the ears?

1 - Inserting DFM tools into the flow is potentially disruptive to an engineer's established design techniques. How do tool vendors overcome the inevitable resistance to change for the sake of increased yields?

Top 6 Worst Moments at DAC 2006

6 - The slides at the Dataquest event on Sunday night presented by the current EDAC Chairman indicated that there are 3 big water buffalo at the head of the industry, who stand shoulder to shoulder at the watering hole while everyone else waits in line. The emerging companies are indistinguishable from one another. Lifecycle management software vendors belong at a different conference, and the EDA Press are all wart hogs - presumably emitting not much more than noxious fumes. I'm not even going to talk about the old goat. It's not that I was offended by the slides; it's just that it was all so darn close to reality. A hoot and a holler for the In Crowd in attendance at the cocktail party/industry briefing, but a mind-numbingly negative vibe for anyone young and innovative who might be interested in entering the industry. When the message says loud and clear that EDA's made up of a lot of old farts, who in their right mind would want to come and work here?

5 - An EDA vendor on the panel in the Hacks & Flacks session pointing to a leading journalist sitting in the audience and loudly demanding to know, in response to a earlier statement from that journalist: "And who nominated you? Who elected you to be an advocate for the engineer? You don't have the right to be an advocate for anybody! You should only be an advocate for the truth!"

4 - Walking out of the DFM panel with Joe Sawicki after the end of that session during the last hour on the last day of DAC, Joe told me that nothing was learned on the panel, but that if he had had access to a system and at least 30 minutes, he could have fully demonstrated the error of many of the statements made during the panel. I asked Joe if I had just wasted 90 minutes of my life. He said panels are theater; they're meant as entertainment and as far as entertainment goes, that one was right at the top. He says he was blown away by the fact that there was standing room only for a panel on the last hour of the last day of DAC. I thought Joe undervalued the interplay between the panel participants: Clear Shape's Atul Sharan, Pyxis' Naeem Zafar, Aprio's Mike Gianfagna, Blaze's Andrew Kahng, Mentor's Sawicki, and Synopsys' Raul Camposano. I suspect one or more of those 4 small players won't be with us by next year, so the panel was historic if only for that.

3 - Ask the CTO Pavilion Panel. How 4 extremely bright intellects - Cadence's Ted Vucurevich, Synopsys' Raul Camposano, Applied Material's Mark Pinto, and U.C. Berkeley's Kurt Keutzer - could be dull, defies the imagination. But, there you have it. Maybe when corporate caution meets an unscripted public forum, creativity and spunk are the unintended victims. The folks on stage mumbled about DFM. They mumbled about ESL. They mumbled about SSTA. I learned nothing, and I doubt anyone else in attendance did either. Remarkably, several people around me were actually dozing. If the CTOs of the big players in EDA can't really shoot from the hip, then let's meet in the bar rather than in the DAC Pavilion 'living room.' The conversation may be off the record in the bar, but at least it'll be raucous and fun. Please!

2 - Not a woman in sight. At the DFM panel on Thursday afternoon, there were 6 men on the panel, one man moderating, and at least 20 men who stood up to ask questions from the floor - prompted to do so, not doubt, because the best question was going to win a prize. There was not a single woman's voice heard for the entire 90-minute session. Nobody up in front, and nobody from the floor. If you're a woman who's interested in a career in technology, let me suggest you pursue a different sector. Because the truth is, it just ain't happening in EDA.

1 - Knowing that DAC was ending, and there wouldn't be enough time to fully explore everything on the Exhibition Hall floor.

Top 10 Best Moments at DAC 2006

10 - The final song of the first set at the Denali party at the Fillmore, Gary Smith and Joanne Wegener on vocals singing, "I've got my Mojo Back." However truth be told, all 3 industry bands - Full Disclosure Blues, 3rd Street Coalition, and The All-Cadence Band - were fantastic!

9 - Joe Costello flopping around on the stage like a fish and demonstrating to the 1000+ people in the audience for his Monday afternoon keynote how to think like a fish if you want to catch a fish. Costello's keynote was unforgettable for three reasons. One, I was hoping there was a cardiologist somewhere nearby just in case Costello went into cardiac arrest during his breathless, barnstorming speech. Two, the audience was thrilled with his performance. And three, if you listen to what Costello said and really take it to heart - by definition, you can't be an old fart, and whatever industry you're involved in is guaranteed to be awash in zest and out-of-the box thinking. [A note: Costello said you should write the Press Release first, and then develop the product. For those who take issue with Press Releases in general, don't hold this against him.]

8 - A journalist in the audience at the Hacks & Flacks session countering a comment from the acerbic EDA vendor on the panel: "Well, I do in fact feel that I'm an advocate for my readers, who are the engineers! I also feel I'm an advocate for the truth, but who defines what the truth is? Meanwhile, you make my job all the more difficult because you try to hide the truth!"

7 - Reynette Au's keynote on career development at the Workshop for Women in EDA. Here's a person who started with a degree in Computer Science, succeeded in technical groups in AT&T, and AMD, prevailed as Vice President of Marketing at ARM, as President & CEO at Triscend (which was sold to Xilinx), and is now Vice President of Business Licensing at NVidia. What part of she really knows how to pick winners - or be part of the making of winners - do you not understand? Her main points about career development? 1) Know what you really value, and don't forget it. 2) Know your strengths and play to them. 3) Never, ever discount your skills, but instead make them matter to the organization and everyone around you.

6 - IBM's Bill Joyner and the SRC. Bill Joyner and I chatted briefly over coffee in the hallway, and I promised I'd go visit the SRC website to fully understand the organization: "Based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, SRC operates globally to provide competitive advantage to its member companies as the world's premier university research management consortium. SRC's focus is developing … educated technical talent and delivering early research results … Since it was established in 1982, [SRC] has funded more than $500 million in long-term semiconductor research contracts." Along with his role at IBM, and his credentials as past DAC Chair, Bill Joyner is also Director of the Computer Aided Design and Test group at SRC, serving as liaison between universities and companies doing work in CAD and Test. It was a delight to have him point out the wealth of opportunities available to young researchers interested in advanced work in the field.

5 - The CEDA Distinguished Speaker Reception. The event in Moscone Center late Monday afternoon just before dinner gave folks a chance to hear Mentor Graphic's Janus Rajski present the best paper from TCAD on behalf of all of the authors: Rajski, J. Tyszer, M. Kassab, and N. Mukherjee. The presentation was a comprehensive one covering many aspects of test, and will be available for further viewing as it was taped for archiving on the CEDA site. It was a delight to be in the audience, as the dignity of Dr. Rajski's presentation added to the calibre of the conference overall. It was particularly a treat, if you're interested in embedded test.

4 - Novas CEO Scott Sandler's spirited defense of the EDA industry during the Accellera breakfast, when he took the floor and said that it takes a heck of a long time, and a whole lot of resources, to implement things like SystemVerilog, and that it can't be done all at once. He said the users may have a right to complain about the speed of implementation, but they should understand that the EDA vendors are committed to working on it as fast as they can, and that it's particularly tough for small companies with limited resources to do it all.

3 - Richard Newton's telling of the early SPICE years at U.C. Berkeley when Don Pederson, et al, led the charge, innovating and implementing the algorithms and code. If you watched Newton, I think you saw for at least a minute of two that he was no longer sitting at the front of the room in a subterranean ballroom in the Marriott Hotel at 8 AM on DAC Tuesday in 2006. Instead, he was back in the lab at Berkeley, and it was the late 1970's, and he was engaged in SPICE research, involved with a lively, dynamic group of young researchers who all (appropriately) believed they were changing the world, and had his whole future ahead of him. If Newton's speech on Tuesday morning is what it means to look back to the past for inspiration for the future, let's have a whole lot more of that! Straightaway!

2 - Alex Orailoglu presenting work from Wenjing Rao and Ramesh Karri, "Topology Aware Mapping of Logic Functions onto Nanowire-based Crossbar Architectures." Orailoglu is an articulate, energetic academic from U.C. San Diego and although it would have been great to hear his student present the work, it was one of the outstanding moments in DAC week to hear Dr. Orailoglu present the work himself in the session on Nanotubes & Nanowires, with the style and panache that only comes from long hours of practice in front of a lecture hall. The thesis of the talk? "Highly regular, nanodevice-based architectures have been proposed to replace pure CMOS-based architectures in the emerging post-CMOS era. Since bottom-up self-assembly is used to build these architectures, regular nanowire crossbars are emerging as a promising candidate." I ask you, does it get any better than that - especially when you've got your early morning mocha in one hand, and the conference proceedings in the other hand to help navigate the topic as the speaker plunges through the slides.

1 - The interview with Alessandro Cremonesi, after he delivered the Thursday General Session keynote, addressing the challenges of convergence. A number of us stood adjacent to the stage as the bulk of the audience went on to their next stop of the afternoon, and we discussed at length how to prepare the students of today for the engineering and scientific opportunities of tomorrow. Should the current push to simultaneously educate students in computer science and electrical engineering be modified to include education in biochemistry and/or biophysics, as well, to guarantee the next generation fully embraces the concepts and emerging technologies of microfluidic biochips, labs on a chip, and everything BioX that lives at the intersection between these various disciplines? Cremonesi said he was one of those "strange" electrical engineers who did his PhD thesis 25 years ago on a topic that linked electrical engineering to biology, and was still very interested today, in his capacity as a senior executive at STMicroelectronics, in being able to hire like-minded researchers into the company. The group of academics and EDA leaders in this Thursday afternoon conversation were so engaged in the topic, I think we could have carried on for another hour or two, or even a day or two.

This, I thought, was the single, shining moment that illuminated why anyone comes to DAC. That moment when minds are racing, ideas are bandied about, and no concept is too wild or outside the box to be put out there, examined, and critiqued for its merits and demerits. This is the best of DAC - ideas, convergence, intellects, innovation, and innovators pushing the envelope and making that pendulum swing in a longer arc than has ever been seen before. I was, at that moment and continue to be, very grateful to Ellen Sentovich and the entire DAC committee for all of their efforts in bringing the conference together. They should be very proud of the incubator of ideas they successfully assembled for the 2006 Design Automation Conference in San Francisco.

Top 10 Reasons why you should be at DAC 2007 in San Diego

10 - To get the proceedings, the t-shirt, and the conference bag

9 - To see if new start-ups are finding yet more VC gold at the end of the rainbow

8 - To see if anyone is demonstrating how fish swim in a pond

7 - To see who's still swimming in the DFM pond, and if there are fewer big fish in a smaller pond, or additional smaller fish in a bigger pond

6 - To see if TSMC introduces Reference Flow 8.0 and which EDA vendors they'll be certifying on that flow

5 - To learn more about nanowires and microfluidic biochips

4 - To present at sessions and/or panels

3 - To meet and greet customers and competitors

2 - To be part and parcel of the conversation in the industry

1 - Because if you miss it, you'll miss seeing the pendulum swing - yet again.


For more discussions, follow this link …