44th Design Automation Conference, June 4-8, 2007

June 27, 2007

Gabe Moretti, Editor


This was my twenty-ninth DAC.  It would have been my thirtieth but I did not attend in 1987, the year I started my IP company on a shoestring.  During that time I have seen many changes, and I hope to see more still.  Pat and Marie Pistilli started the Design Automation Conference in 1964 as a SHARE Workshop.  It was held in Atlantic City, June 24 - 26.  In 1968, the ACM and the IEEE assumed the sponsorship of the Workshop and they changed its designation to a Conference in 1975 when the first DAC was held in Boston, June 23 - 25.  So, strictly speaking, I only missed four DACs in my dual career in EDA.  I attended my first five conferences as a customer, and my last eight as an editor.  The time in between was spent as an EDA tool developer.  In short, I have belonged to all three major  attendee categories during this time span.


The purposes for attending DAC have not changed through the years.  Editors and analysts still search for news and trends, especially the implicit ones,  –– those that people are not quite ready to talk about.  Exhibitors want to reach out and talk to influential people, especially those they have not had an opportunity to see in their regular routine.  They want to enlarge their knowledge of requirements, they seek competitive information, and send their leading technologists to attend the technical sessions.  In general, they can gather important information in a few days that would have taken much more time and resources without DAC.  And then there are the paying attendees.  They are, of course, the most important segment: they want to see the latest tools and hear leading researchers describe their work and findings.  They also want to listen to panels and judge for themselves how representatives of various sectors of the industry address topics of contemporary importance.


While the nature of DAC has remained the same, new features have been added.  Free Monday, now taken for granted, was instituted as an experiment in 1991 when DAC was held in San Francisco.  How many of you remember DAC without demo suites?  A special area for private demos was first made available to exhibitors in 1993 when DAC was held in Dallas.  That was great because it alleviated the need to rent hotel suites within walking distance from the show, but it soon became obvious that exhibitors spent significant amount of time walking between the demo suites and the floor booth.  In addition, more staff was now required to staff both locations.  So in 2004, in San Diego, the combined booth/demo area made its debut.  There was much trepidation, mostly about noise control.  In the last four years, DAC has made a few improvements and today the new layout is not only accepted, but also praised by both exhibitors and attendees.  


I liked DAC this year.  As usual, it presented the true face of the industry.  Walking the wide aisles of the exhibit floor, I did not see many people weighted down with freebies and souvenirs.  Instead, in general, I encountered people busy with the business of DAC.  They were there for a purpose and professional about accomplishing it.  This fact is reflected by the feedback received by the Exhibitor Liaison Committee, of which I am a member.  Fewer leads, but of high quality.  So DAC is no longer just a place to satisfy engineering curiosity, it is about doing business within its rules.


I also learned things from all three keynotes.  As Steven Levitan describes in his article in this issue, the themes touched by Oh-Hyun Kwon from Samsung and Jan Rabaey from UC Berkeley looked at EDA from the perspective of an insider.  Larry Burns from GM provided a different look at what EDA may be like in the near future.  Dr. Burns emphasized the increasing role simulation is and will play in the development of future cars.  I was surprised to find out that I know more about the role of EDA in the automotive industry than most, including editors and other opinionated individuals who probably should have done more research before declaring that the automotive sector is not one of much interest to EDA.  I know that the automotive industry, especially its development groups throughout the world are increasing their dependence on computer modeling and simulation with every passing year.  And I also know that GM has one of the largest research facilities in the automotive world.   I also know that both Mentor and Synopsys find the automotive sector to be a profitable market, and I would not be surprised to be informed by someone at Cadence that they, too, make a profit in this market.


What I learned from Dr. Burns' keynote is that EDA must quickly come to grips with a new definition of System Level design.  The new definition is one that is multi-disciplinary that allows true system level simulation that includes electronics subsystems together with other types of blocks.  To restrict our view only to electronics is to limit the scope of a market that is growing rapidly.


The fact that a number of other organizations, research, educational, and standards-making choose to co-locate their meetings with DAC is another indication that the electronics industry acknowledges the importance of the conference to the industry.  If I had to choose one more example of the changing nature of EDA, I would look at the conclusion arrived by the panelists during Accellera's breakfast panel: "The Next Frontier for SystemVerilog".  The conclusion from users and vendor representatives on the panel, all of whom are professional engineers, not marketers, was that the language had seen good acceptance by the verification community but needed to penetrate the IC design market.


Technology used to sell itself.  As development gets more difficult and costlier, technology must be justified by business reasons.  DAC is bringing business and technology closer together.  It is no longer just entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that must share goals.  Customers and vendors must build partnerships solidly justified by both financial and technical opportunities.

So, what happened at DAC this year?  

Steve Levitan (Past Chair, 45th Design Automation Conference)


A lot, actually. We had three great keynotes that were well attended and enthusiastically received. Oh-Hyun Kwon from Samsung gave us a perspective on the future of the semiconductor industry. He focused on the growth of the market based on the diversification of applications in the "Ubiquitous Network Era" and the new "food chains" that will emerge as a result. He also challenged us with the need for advanced TCAD tools to model the new technologies that are emerging, as well as system modeling for applications that combine both leading and legacy technologies in SiP products. Larry Burns from GM gave an enlightening talk about developing a "new DNA" for automobiles, by which he means moving from petroleum powered, mechanically controlled cars to all electronic (drive by wire) cars powered by hydrogen. His message to us was that automakers can no longer afford the time and money necessary to develop multiple prototypes for every new project, but rather must depend on simulation and modeling to develop the next generation of state of the art cars. That means a growing need for advances in both mixed signal and system level EDA tools. And, Jan Rabaey from UC Berkeley delivered an inspiring talk, characterizing the reasons that the semiconductor industry has been so successful for the past five decades and then proposing that we use those same techniques to drive advances in biotechnology out of the laboratories and into production.  Videos of all three keynotes, with synchronized slides, are up on the web site (www.dac.com) and I encourage you to watch them.  


It was informative to see which sessions in the technical program received the greatest interest. It was no surprise that our Tuesday morning panel on "Mega Trends and EDA for 2017" was SRO (standing room only), as Greg Spirakis had Juan Antonio Carballo, Aart de Geus, Fu-Chieh Hsu, Kurt Keutzer, and Kazu Yamada reading the tea leaves on the future of our industry for the next decade.  After lunch, the session on "Leakage Power Analysis and Optimization" was most popular, with five out of six papers coming from outside the U.S. Our session on "Wild and Crazy Ideas" (WACI) received a lot of attention as it gave a glimpse into far-out technological possibilities for design and design automation. Based on its success, we plan to expand the WACI component of the technical program next year. Wednesday highlighted the automotive theme, and videos of all four of those sessions, together with many other sessions, are also on the web site. Besides automotive, the sessions on the new challenges in physical design were the most popular all day, along with the panel "Corezilla; Build and Tame the Multicore Beast."  Multicore was a big topic on Thursday as well, with our session on "Thousand Core Chips" being the most popular session of the week and was also captured on video. The other big topic on Thursday was our special session on "Synthetic Biology." It's evident that topics at both ends of the design flow were the biggest draw during the week, with emerging technologies, low power, and verification sessions close behind.  


Who came to DAC? As we have seen in the past, 30% of our attendees are Executives or Engineering Managers (tool buyers), 48% are Design Engineers (tool users) and about 12% are EDA Engineers (tool builders).  This year, Qualcomm tops the list of companies with the most attendees, followed by Intel, Broadcom, Texas Instruments, IBM, Toshiba, HP, Cisco, ARM and STMicroelectronics.  There were more than 900 attendees at DAC just from this list of "heavy hitters". Moreover, more than 1,000 different design companies and around 500 research organizations sent attendees to DAC this year.  Clearly, the design community comes to DAC to see what is new.  


And this year, we saw more than 40 new exhibitor companies at DAC representing a broad spectrum of capabilities and interests. Most addressed traditional EDA markets including physical design, verification, test, ESL, low power, and IP (including AMS and Memory). Six were focused on infrastructure including consortia, prototyping, and even a legal firm.    


DAC also hosted a variety of Electronic Design communities and activities besides our seven sponsored workshops on Sunday and Monday. We hosted meetings by the Gigascale Systems Research Center,  The International Workshop on Logic and Synthesis, the Design Automation Summer School, the International Conference on Microelectronic Systems Education and more than 30 smaller meetings, lunches and briefings. In fact, I was told several times during the week that "there is so much going on at DAC, I don't know where to go."  DAC has become the meeting place for everyone in the Electronic Design community.    


What's next for DAC? The short answer is: "Anaheim, June 9-13."  


For the next 11 months, the DAC Executive Committee, chaired by Limor Fix from Intel, will be working on crafting another exciting conference. Our Strategy Committee, chaired by Andrew Kahng from UCSD, will be doing long-term planning for DAC and, along with our Exhibitor Liaison Committee chaired by Yervant Zorian of Virage Logic, will be developing ways to bring more value to both our exhibitors and show attendees. The Technical Program, Panel, Tutorial, and New Initiatives committees will also be looking for ways to improve our technical program for authors, speakers, panelists and attendees. Feel free to contact any of the members of the Executive Committee with your comments or suggestions.


What can we expect to see next year? I predict an increase in the breadth of topics in the technical sessions – more on ESL, emerging technologies, packaging, nanoscale silicon, and uses of EDA methodologies in Biology, Chemistry, and Optics.  Also, I expect to see more on software – both using parallel processing to solve CAD problems and the emergence of new software design methodologies to effectively utilize our silicon real estate for both multicore and heterogeneous computing applications such as embedded systems.  On the exhibit floor, I predict we will see another 40-50 new companies with new solutions to our persistent problems, as well as creative solutions to the new problems that will be facing us just around the corner.  


See you there!  


Official attendance to the 44th DAC


More than 9,000 attended the 44th DAC at the San Diego Convention Center June 4-8 when the EDA industry gathered for its premier annual event. The total attendees were 4,701 general conference and exhibit attendees, and another 4,304 event participants, comprised of exhibitors, visitors and guests. The total figure of 9005 is slightly less than the previous year when the conference was held in San Francisco and it is due to the larger influx last year of local engineers to the Free Monday event.  The global design community of academics, researchers, developers, designers, managers and executives in EDA, chip, and electronics companies visited the busy exhibit floor where nearly 250 exhibitors displayed the latest design solutions, and a technical conference that offered more than 160 technical sessions.  


Successful Management Day

Gabe Moretti, Editor


Management day has become a well-received track that offers special activities aimed at satisfying needs specific to managers of electronics companies.  This year's event featured a notable seminar on Tuesday, June 5, titled “Innovation or Extinction -- the choice is yours!” with presentations by Dr. Geoffrey Moore, best selling author and the founder of The Chasm Group; Dr. Raul Camposano, Xoomsys, Inc.; and Rohit Sharma, Mohr Davidow Ventures.


Seminar participants also attended the FSA/EDAC Productivity Impact Luncheon -- Changing the Dialogue Between Engineers and Management. Kathryn Kranen, Jasper Design Automation, Inc, and EDA Consortium Vice Chairperson delivered the main presentation.  Engineers have been stereotyped as poor communicators and many engineering managers come from the ranks of engineers.  Ms. Kranen showed how small changes in communication content and behavior during the interactions can significantly increase the quality of communication both within a project team and with upper management.  Her talk was illustrated with a very good quality video produced by the EDA Consortium and FSA, featuring real engineers and managers.  Do you think Jasper is about to launch its own entertainment division?  (See the video on YouTube)


Brian Fuller, Editor-in-Chief of EE Times, and Lisa Tafoya of FSA also made short presentation during the lunch event reporting on the results of the EE Times poll of electronics engineers and the continuing effort by the FSA to establish measures of the quality of work environment within our industry.  Personally I think the food served during the lunch was the best I had during the many lunch events I attended at DAC this year: pork loin roast with wild rice!  Clearly engineering managers do understand quality of life issues. 


View the keynotes and highlighted session videos on the DAC web site:



Larry Burns

Oh-Hyun Kwon

Jan Rabaey


Check the Talk Index for other DAC videos.


44th DAC Proceedings


45th Call for Papers


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