44th Design Automation Conference, June 4-8, 2007
December 7, 2006

The Design Automation Conference (DAC) has announced the executive committee.

Gabe Moretti, editor

The committee will serve under the direction of Steven Levitan, Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, who was previously selected as General Chair for the 44th DAC. Levitan's research includes the design, modeling, simulation, and verification of mixed technology micro-systems, including sensing, computing, and communications functions. He has served as chair of the ACM Special Interest Group on Design Automation (SIGDA) and has been a member of the DAC executive committee since 1998 You can read an in-depth interview with Dr. Levitan in this issue.

The volunteer executive committee for DAC is responsible for planning the technical program, overseeing the exhibition, establishing new initiatives, and managing operations and publicity for the conference. Limor Fix, from Intel's Research in Pittsburgh, PA. is the Vice-Chair and will also handle the duties of the Finance Chair. The extremely demanding job of Technical Program Chair is divided among two professionals. Leon Stok of IBM Corporation will handle Design Methods, while Sachin Sapatnekar from the University of Minnesota will be responsible for Design Tools.

Tutorials will be the responsibility of Narenda Shenoy from Synopsys and Andrew Kahng, from the University of California in San Diego will manage the selection and handling of Panels. This year's Theme is Automotive Electronics and Dennis Brophy, from Mentor Graphics is responsible for this dimension of the conference.

Other members of the executive committee include: Yervant Zorian of Virage Logic, Ellen Sentovich from Cadence, Kaushik Roy Professor at Purdue University, Nanette Collins, Georges Gielen of the Katholieke University in Leuven Belgium, Yusuke Matsunaga from the Kyushu University Kagus in Fukuoka Japan, Diana Marculescu of Carnegie Mellon University, Alan Mantooth of the University of Arkansas, and Anne Cirkel from Mentor Graphics. As usual, DAC will be managed by MP Associates of Boulder, Colorado. Lee Wood will serve as the Exhibit Manager and Kevin Lepine as the Conference Manager.

In addition to the interview with Steve Levitan we plan to feature, in the coming months, interviews with Limor Fix, Leon Stok, and Sachin Sapatnekar.

DAC Chair Sees Magic at DAC 2007
By Peggy Aycinena

DAC 2007 General Chair Steve Levitan is no stranger to the mysteries behind the magic of the Design Automation Conference. He's been on the DAC Executive Committee for 9 years-4 years in his capacity as Chair of SIGDA [ACM's Special Interest Group for Design Automation], 3 years as Multi Media Chair, a year as the New Initiatives Chair, and a year as Vice Chair of the conference. Now entering his tenth year on the Executive Committee (EC), Levitan is General Chair of DAC and there are few mysteries left for him.

He knows the event requires careful coordination of hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of hours of effort, a delicate balancing act between the needs of academia and those of industry, and a constant vigilance to guarantee that the latest and greatest in technology are adequately showcased during the week. He is no stranger to the commitment, sacrifice, and tedious attention to detail needed to make the conference happen.

Nonetheless, if you have a chance to speak to Steve Levitan about DAC, you'll quickly see that he still firmly believes in the magic. He believes when thousands of people come together in a single venue to discuss everything EDA, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the industry and its technology take yet another tangible step forward to the benefit of all involved. Levitan says, "It's simply amazing to see the passion that people bring to the work of making the Design Automation Conference a reality. It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort, and it's an all-volunteer organization. There are 16 members on the EC, while the Technical Committee for DAC 2007 has over 80 members. Adding to that headcount, there's the Panels Subcommittee, the Tutorials Group & Subcommittees, the Exhibitor Liaison Committee, and the Strategic Planning Committee. And that doesn't even touch on the number of people from MP Associates, who manage the day to day operations. It's just a huge undertaking."

DAC 2006 in San Francisco logged over 10,000 attendees and DAC 2007, scheduled for early June in San Diego, could be even larger. Levitan says, "Both the total number of paper, panels,and tutorial submissions and the number of companies participating in 2007 should be up compared to 2006, which was already at the highest participation level in years. Early indicators suggest there are lots of new and interesting ideas to be explored at DAC. Although, of course, what the hottest topics at DAC 2007 will be is not yet settled, but you can certainly see some of them reflected in the various Special Sessions proposals being considered by the EC for the 2007 program. We'll know better in a couple of months, but it wouldn't be surprising to see topics of evolutionary advances in CAD, new ways of looking at the die, at fabrication technology, and DFM. Also, statistical modeling and robust, variation-tolerant design will undoubtedly be highlighted, as well."

Although Levitan is an academic, the John A. Jurenko Professor of Computer Engineering in the ECE Department at The University of Pittsburgh, he is fully aware that one of the biggest challenges at DAC is to maintain and support both the commercial and academic aspects of the conference.

He says, "Although the hot topics at DAC are often forward looking, it's also important to remember that many of the technologies are being commercialized right now. And that process adds to the fascinating dynamic at DAC. It's an extremely complex conference because it has such a diverse audience. There are a lot of people on the exhibit hall floor involved in industry who may not make it upstairs to the technical sessions, while there are also a lot of people upstairs from academia who don't appear to give a whit about what's going on downstairs. It can seem as if these two communities are disconnected, but in reality the best of each community is fully aware of the best of the other community. And that's where the magic of DAC resides."

"Every year, several of us who are academics make a point of walking the exhibit hall floor and looking at the new tools from each company. We ask ourselves, where did this work come from, was this a technology that was developed in-house, came from a company that was acquired, or was this so-and-so's work at a particular university? Those of us who participate in this exercise are really conscious of the whole food chain in EDA and the history of the companies, not to mention the Ph.D. theses driving this or that technology. By the same token, people from the companies-Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor, Magma, and so on-are often upstairs sitting in the technical sessions taking copious notes during the presentations. There's a synergy that takes place at DAC that definitely defines and defends the ongoing need for this conference."

Levitan says guaranteeing the quality of the technical program is crucial to the synergy and to maintaining the pre-eminence of DAC within the research community. "We are confronted with a challenging situation with regards to the technical portion of the program at the Design Automation Conference. Some academics believe that a paper published in a print journal is worth more than a paper presented at a conference, and that may be true for some conferences. But that's not true for DAC. The review process that goes into selecting the papers presented at DAC is equal to-or surpasses-the peer-review process involved for journal publication. The DAC quality selection process is directly linked to the caliber of our large technical review committee, and the amount of time they take to evaluate each submission."

Even more crucial than the technical program itself, however, is the research food chain that produces the submissions in the first place. Levitan says that the quality and quantity of that research hinges on the ability of the universities to attract bright, innovative graduate students and the funding to support them.

He notes, "There is an evolutionary nature to this process. People do interesting work in academia, which often becomes the basis for a startup, which then evolves into a full-blown company or an acquisition into an existing EDA company. So there's a path from the graduate students-funded by the SRC, NSF, DARPA, or the CAD companies themselves-into industry. The grants for these students are reviewed not just by academics, but by industry people as well, which means your work in academia is being evaluated by the industry year-round, not just at DAC. Also, many grad students do summer internships at the CAD companies, and often go on to work for those companies as developers after graduation, or as tool users in the customer companies. So from the very beginning, there's always been a tight relationship between academia and industry within the EDA world. It's quite unique."

"Unfortunately today," he adds, "that whole evolutionary process has gotten quite difficult. It's hard these days to get access from within the universities to the state-of-the-art technologies being developed-things like 90 nanometer and 45 nanometer production processes-either because of NDAs, or because the universities discourage research work that comes with restrictions; because this is the type of work that a company might fund, but might not want openly published. Many universities have found creative ways to get around these barriers, perhaps by taking their research farther afield than what the mainline companies are looking at right now."

Nonetheless, Levitan notes that many universities really want to be looking at the current, cutting-edge problems. They don't want to be working on esoteric technologies with minimal practical applications. He says, "We want to do real work on real-world problems, because that means our students can have access to practical examples and applications for their work. They spend a lot of time solving problems and want to see if the solutions they develop are useful.

"Basically, the real issue is that university professors just want to be successful. They can't work by themselves-they can't write 100,000 lines of code by themselves to solve a problem-so they need to have a research group. But to build that group they have to ask themselves, does the money come from Federal grants or from industry? There are differing opinions on all of this, but ultimately the ability to create and sustain a research group is important. It's important for the tenure of the professor, and it's important for the graduate students who need the funding to attend school in the first place. Ultimately, of course, it's important to industry that this process continues uninterrupted."

Levitan says that today many administrators are encouraging an entrepreneurial attitude within the university setting. Senior faculty members are encouraged to teach the junior faculty, who in turn need to teach the graduate students, that the university is not just an ivory tower. Faculty and students alike need to develop and market their ideas to secure the necessary funding to pursue them. Per Levitan, "The process that professors need to master is one of couching their research processes and their expected results in a way that people outside the university can really understand." And that, he insists, means the universities have an obligation to commercialize their technology.

Which brings us back to DAC. Levitan is excited when he says it's at DAC that the universities are able to efficiently showcase their nascent technologies and emerging research stars in close proximity to the bulk of the commercial players within the industry. It's at DAC that a company who might license or fund a technology coming out of a university has a great opportunity to hear about projects that have potential applicability to their own portfolio of tools or in-house research initiatives. It's also at DAC that researchers from industry who have worked side-by-side with researchers from academia enjoy the opportunity to showcase their joint efforts.

All of this, Steve Levitan says, is part of the dynamic-and the dynamism-that fuels a widespread commitment to DAC across the board, from industry and academia. Levitan is unequivocal in his belief that the magic of DAC resides in its impact on the evolution of the tools for electronic design automation. He believes that his efforts, and the efforts of the countless others who are working to make the next conference a success, are important and the results will be substantive.

There are no mysteries to the amount of work needing to be done between now and next June to make the Design Automation Conference in San Diego a success. No mysteries-but in the end, there will be magic. And starting on June 4th, 2007, DAC General Chair Steve Levitan will be waving the wand.

Peggy Aycinena is Editor of EDA Confidential and Contributing Editor to EDA Weekly.

Copyright 44th Design Automation Conference
5405 Spine Rd. Suite 102 - Boulder, CO 80301 USA

DAC is Seeking Submissions for the Following:
Tutorial Submissions - Dec. 15
Hands-on Tutorials - Jan. 10
DAC Workshops - Feb. 16

Details and the submission form are on the DAC web site

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View the 43rd DAC Proceedings