The opening keynote to this year's Semicon West was by Ajit Manocha, the CEO of GlobalFoundries entitled Foundry-driven Innovation In the Mobility Era. It is no secret that mobile applications, especially smartphones and tablets, are the most significant semiconductor market today. It is not just large, it is disruptive. In relatively short periods, companies like Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm have grown enormously, and the PC market, in particular Intel, is suffering and trying to create a successful mobile strategy (or perhaps foundry strategy). The cell-phone market is now bigger than the PC market and in three years should be bigger than the entire PC and tablet markets together at nearly $120B.
Mobile is characterized by short design cycles, a fanatical attention to low power. But the changing features such as bigger screens, higher data rates and thinner form factors make each generation an increasing challenge.
One of the ten minute visionary presentations before they main keynotes as Wally Rhines, CEO of Mentor. In fact the first photo on the montage on the front page of the DAC website is Wally giving his presentation. He titled his talk Changing the World Through EDA. Since EDA as we know it started in the late 1970s, the number of transistors on a design has increased by over 5 orders of magnitude in an environment where the number of designers has only grown a few percent per year over the period. We had manual design well into the 1970s and since then we have created at $6B industry.
Moore's law is not ending yet. If anything the slope of adoption of new technologies (28nm, 20nm...) has accelerated and not slowed. However, there are big problems to solve: FinFETs, reliability, thermal and stress, extreme low power.
The attendance numbers for DAC in Austin Texas a couple of weeks ago are now out. Attendance was:full conference passes: 1589exhibits-only passes: 2364booth staff: 1998
The registration is slightly lower than last year when DAC was in San Francisco (as it will be again for the next two years). However, there was an increase in technical session attendance. The combined keynote attendance was way up from 2012 but I think that probably is mostly due to having more keynotes this year. The numbers were also higher than 2011 numbers in San Diego, the last time DAC was held outside the bay area.
On Monday, walking around the exhibit hall, DAC felt just as busy as usual. As always, later in the week it felt less busy but talking to several companies, everyone seemed very happy with attendance, with no shortage of people from the Austin area itself and no shortage of people who had come from the bay area. International attendance did seem to be down, however.
On the Tuesday of DAC I moderated a panel session on Hardware Assisted Verification in 10 Years: More Need, More Speed. Although this topic obviously could include FPGA-based prototyping, in fact we spent pretty much the whole time talking about emulation. Gary Smith, on Sunday night, actually set up things by pointing out that emulation is the heart of how EDA is going to take over more and more of embedded software development, in his view. And Wally, at DVcon (I think), pointed out that emulation is now the cheapest verification on a cycles per $ basis compared to plain old simulation. Of course with Synopsys's acquisition of Eve, all 3 major EDA vendors now have an emulation solution. The panel was organized by Frank Schirrmeister of Cadence.
The panelists were:Dave Bural, of Texas Instruments in DallasAlex Starr of AMD in BostonMehran Ramezani of Broadcom, standing in at the last minute for Vahid Ordoubadian who had an urgent meeting and couldn't make it.
I listened to Dan Niles's quarterly report that he does for GSA. He had a lot of the usual background data on savings rates and GDP growth, but the big story is that everything changed on May 22nd and that this will turn out to be a very significant moment. That was the day that the Fed basically announced that it would start to "taper" its bond buying. It would still be printing money to stimulate the economy but it would gradually start to print less.
I haven't seen anyone who expected what happened next. Interest rates leapt up. Dan's view is that the economy in the US (and in some other countries) is addicted to pain killers (stimulus) and you only find out just how addicted when you start to try and cut back and the medicine is "tapered".
Kathryn Kranen, CEO of Jasper Design Automation, got to give her view of the future of EDA on the Thursday of DAC. For many years she has been on the EDAC board and is currently chair. When she first was on the board she talked to many of the stakeholders in the EDA ecosystem: EDA companies, IP companies, semiconductor companies, academics, consultants, everyone who is involved in getting semiconductors designed and manufactured.