Editor's Notebook ...

DAC 2009: Make mine a 10 x 10

by Peggy Aycinena

Montreal 2009

The Starship EDA Enterprise touched down in the middle of San Francisco on July 25th and magically transformed Moscone Center into the 46th Design Automation Conference – a noisy, seething community of colleagues, adversaries, and bon vivants all linked together by a common interest in electrical engineering, computer science, optimization algorithms, semiconducting devices, intellectual challenge & property, entrepreneurial dynamics, and the politics of power and profitability – not necessarily in that order.

For those who thought DAC would die, they were wrong. Attendance in San Francisco was up 12% over Anaheim DAC 2008 and 3% over San Diego DAC 2007, which means the champagne was flowing by week’s end for those who celebrate all that the conference means to the industry.

In that spirit, below you’ll find my pick of the 10 Best Buzz Builders @ DAC 2009.

There was lots to choose from, given all that was going on in parallel during the conference, so my list is far from perfect and probably wouldn’t map 1-to-1 with yours. Oh well. As my mother would say: “Isn’t it great that we don’t all agree. That would be so boring!”

Of course, it would also be boring to just concentrate on Happy Talk, so below the list of 10 Best, you’ll find my pick for the 10 Biggest Buzz Killers @ DAC. Also a list that you might not agree with, but again, oh well.

That’s life in EDA, the industry Where Electronics Begins, Where Everybody’s got an Opinion, and Where Everybody Agrees to Disagree about So Many Things. Yet, we love to be together because “We Love DAC!”


The 10 Best Buzz Builders @ DAC …


* The 2009 Diogenes Award

Diogenes needs to have looked no farther than San Francisco during the week of July 26th to find, at last, an honorable man. General Chair Andrew Kahng stands heads and shoulders about all others in this category. A disciplined academic, an intellectual, an entrepreneur, and most importantly, a man who stands up for the honor of an industry and all who stand around him, without a doubt Dr. Kahng deserves the 2009 Diogenes Award at DAC.

He also deserves a great deal of credit for leading the DAC Executive Committee as they pulled out all the stops to get people to come to DAC.

* Apache’s Gift to the Industry

Apache Design Solutions deserves the very highest praise for having agreed to sponsor ubiquitous on-line access for everyone in Moscone Center during DAC 2009. It goes without saying that Free WiFi brought the conference to life. So much more interesting, so much more cohesive, so much more sense of immediacy and community, and most importantly, so much more fun! Thank you, Apache!

* High School Panel

If you missed this one, you missed the most sparkling conversation at DAC. With Jasper CEO Kathryn Kranen moderating in the Pavilion Panel Theater, 3 Silicon Valley high school seniors – Ritik Malhotra, Tony Ho, and Michael Chang – shared their thoughts on technology (Yes!), social networking (Facebook, yes! Twitter, no!), issues of online privacy (We all need to self-regulate what we post!), and their own futures (Engineering at Stanford, please!)

These panelists could not have been more captivating. Meanwhile, big kudos to Rich Goldman and Synopsys for awarding each of the students a $250 Scholarship Check at the end of the Thursday morning event. (Next year, maybe a female high school student could be on the panel as well. Last year also, this panel only had boys.)

* The Twitter Tower

Speaking of Synopsys, how cool was it that they had a Twitter Tower running in their booth in South Hall? Anybody’s tweets, if tagged #46DAC, were streamed along with those from other like-minded tweeters and displayed for all to see on the Twitter Tower.

From minute to minute, you could hear from people attending various sessions, noting interesting articles, commenting on events as they unfolded. What a fabulous way to enjoy and contribute to the chitter-chatter going on all over Moscone Center.

Meanwhile, congrats to Synopsys’ Karen Bartleson for winning The Next EDA Top Blogger award at the Denali Party on Tuesday night. However, if Karen’s the next top blogger, who’s the current top blogger? My vote goes to JL Gray, who’s not just a blogger (check out his interview with Pat Pistilli), but a fine photographer as well. Check out his photos from the Denali Party.

By the way, Denali’s David Lin also deserves high praise for his enthusiasm, blogging, and ubiquitous good cheer at DAC and within the EDA community. Hope both Verilab and Denali appreciate their good luck in having JL and David on board, respectively.

* The WACI Session

If you were looking for Buzz @ DAC, you should have been in Room 133 on Wednesday morning. The Special Session on Emerging Technologies was totally packed, with the several hundred people completely outnumbering the chairs. The talks addressed nanotechnology (IBM), single-electron devices (Tokyo Institute of Technology), carbon nanotube FETs (Stanford), and CMOS scaling below 32 nanometers (Intel).

For sheer star power alone, Stanford’s Philip Wong was on hand to give the CNT talk, and started by announcing to his ginormous audience: “As you all know, professors do nothing. Their students do everything!” He then proceeded to name the grad students whose work, among others, was showcased in his 30-minute presentation. Buzz & Future Buzz Builder indeed!

* The NVIDIA Keynote

NVIDIA SVP & Chief Dynamo Bill Dally gave a knock-their-sox-off keynote on Wednesday morning to a rapturous crowd: “The End of Denial Architecture & The Rise of Throughput Computing”

Note to anybody who’s ever planned or invited a keynote address. This is what your audience wants. Energy! Information! Dense Tech Talk! High-level Vision! Dally offered it all and DAC 2009 was a far better place for his contribution. Here are my Tweets, posted live during the talk while sitting on the floor up in the front of the Gateway Ballroom during Dally’s talk:

Keynt.B.Dally.NVIDIA - 1) Single thread processors in denial about parallelism & locality - 2) Throughput Computing now the thing

Keynt.B.Dally.NVIDIA - World may b flat, but memory should not b - locate onchp memory where need'd, even if up_or_down

Keynt.B.Dally.NVIDIA - Breaking News? – Large data sets include lots of parallelism --

Keynt.Dally.NVIDIA - Amdahl's Law dsn't apply to mst future apps - Moore's Law noth'n to do w/ parallelism - Then what laws to use?

Keynt.Dally.NVIDIA - Do U remembr JIT Inventory Control? It's back! But now on center stage/on chip at DAC

Keynt.Dally.NVIDIA - Did B.Dally just say Fortran?

NVIDIA.Keynt - Teaching CUDA - UIUC, MIT, Hrvrd, UCB, Cmbrdge, Oxfrd, IIT.Delhi, Tsinghua, Dortmndt, ETH Zrich, Moscw, NUT, et al

If U R devlp'n EDA tool that's not on a GPU, U R not offering max'm experience to your customrs - 'membr this is NVIDIA Keynt!

NVIDIA Keynt - By 2015, GPU w/b @ 11 nm tech - w/ 5k cores @ 3GHz - 20TFLOPS - 0 1.2 TB/s of memry bndwdth - R U ready?

Keynt.NVIDIA - EDA Indstry tasked to make tools for Low-power, High-bandwidth interconnect + High-level capture of design & intent

Keynt.NVIDIA - Quest'n from audience - "It's all the fault of the software guys - how do we get them to write parallel code?"

Keynt.NVIDIA - Ansr to SW guys not writing parallel code - B.Dally: Give SW guys a carrot - better performance if they do!

* CEDA’s Lunch & NSF Talk

It’s true, lunch was free on Tuesday to the first 200 people, but they would have come anyway to hear NSF Luminary Dr. Jeannette Wing’s wide-ranging talk outlining the full scope of NSF’s investments in Computer & Information Science & Engineering. I do believe every professor at DAC was in the audience, along with every grad student and 99% of the Press.

Dr. Wing is on leave from teaching CS at Carnegie Mellon, where she previously served as Department Head. She’s spent the last 2 years in Washington D.C. helping to guide NSF research funding into a host of CS and IT areas, and is set to serve 2 more years there before returning full time to CMU. If you are truly interested in the future of science and technology in this country, you need to seek out and read the transcripts of the Wing’s marvelous talk.

* Interoperable PDKs versus the Stodgy Analog Stuff

Boy, did the crowds show up for this Pavilion Panel on Tuesday afternoon, moderated by Xilinx’ Mike Santarina, that showcased lively discussion between panelists Tom Quan from TSMC, Bill Heiser from Cadence, and Ed Lechner from Synopsys.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t actually attend the bulk of this event as I had to dash off just as it got underway to moderate a panel at Management Day elsewhere in Moscone Center. However, I saw the crowds gathering at the PDK panel and heard afterwards that this was The Analog Event at DAC. If any one of you out there doubts that analog issues are front-and-center in the minds of the people who use CAD tools, or develop them, stop worrying now.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what happened on this panel, contact Mike at Xilinx. He’ll let you know if the analog guys are ever going to sign up for interoperable PDKs.

* User Track Poster Session

Where were you on Wednesday afternoon? If you weren’t wandering amidst the crowds in the Tunnel between North Hall and South Hall, you missed the first-ever User Track Poster Session & Ice Cream Social and you missed major Buzz @ DAC.

Tufts Professor Soha Hassoun and the Technical Committee deserve high praise for this brilliant event, set on a human scale and marketed in the most perfect of ways – with ice cream. Hundreds of people came from all over Moscone Center to get free food, look at the posters, and engage with various tool users, tool vendors, and grad students involved in pushing the technology that drives the industry forward. Well done!

By the way, the Best User Track Poster Award went to Cisco & Synopsys. Click here to read my conversation with the winners.

* Multicore Mania

Another absolutely SRO crowd gathered on Wednesday afternoon to hear MIT’s Charles Leiserson, LBNL’s David Bailey, and Pittsburgh’s Steve Levitan talk about multicore computing. After Leiserson finished his intense talk about Cilk++, someone standing next to me dismissed the language as being less than all it’s cracked up to be. Nonetheless, that guy and the 200+ other people in the room did not leave. Multicore defines Buzz in EDA!

* DAC Summer School & Bill Joyner & DAC Student Awards

Let’s wrap up the Buzz @ DAC list with a nod to the future of the industry. Between DAC Summer School, which played to a sold-out crowd of grad students in Moscone on DAC Saturday and Sunday, the DAC/ISSCC Student Design Awards on Monday in the Pavilion Theater, and Bill Joyner’s talk on Wednesday at the SIGDA University Booth, also delivered to a sold-out crowd of students and professors, rest assured the future of EDA is in dynamic and intelligent hands.

Prof. Yuan Xie from Penn State co-led DAC Summer School and told me when I stopped by on Saturday that 75 students were chosen to attend the 2-day course this year. Instructors and Career Panelists were from a range of different places: Northwestern, Penn State, University of Colorado, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, University of Southern California, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, and Mentor Graphics. Xie said they could have had more students, but there wasn’t enough money for all the lunches needed. Maybe next year the DAC EC could see to that!

Then on Monday, the Pavilion Panel was abuzz late in the afternoon with dozens of students and winners of the Design contest. The names of the winners are here and my photo of the group is here.

Montreal 2009

Finally, on Wednesday, the SRC’s Dr. Bill Joyner spoke to a huge crowd swirling around him adjacent to the University Booth, and talked about the Conway-Mead Revolution, Noble Prize winners, Tall Thin Designers, and Productivity gaps.

A wonderful talk, with gobs of students and professors leaning in to hear, Pittsburgh Professor Alex Jones assured us afterwards that Bill’s slides will be available soon on the SIGDA website. Go see them and celebrate the Past, Present & Future of EDA.

Final note to the 2010 DAC EC: This would make a wonderful keynote on the Big Stage at DAC 2010!


The 10 Biggest Buzz Killers @ DAC …


* Friends don’t make friends Drink & Listen at the same time

Can we all agree that the EDA Industry is a convivial crowd? We like to Talk. We like to Drink. We like to Talk & Drink. But we don’t like to Talk & Drink & Listen, all at the same time. I’m sorry, but that’s just the nature of the Human Condition, at least within EDA.

So, let’s please stop having presentations at the Sunday Night Opening Reception at DAC. As much as I’m aware that in this difficult, difficult economic year the 9 members of the EDAC Board and Gary Smith EDA together all deserve great applause for sponsoring this year’s event, let me repeat myself: We don’t like to Talk & Drink & Listen, all at the same time.

It’s just plain-long embarrassing to be in the room when people are up on stage making presentations – people like the Chair of EDAC, or the DAC General Chair, or Gary Smith himself – yet nobody in the room is listening. Can you hear me now?

* The kill-me-now CEO Softball Panel

Despite outcries to the contrary, the opening CEO Panel & Plenary Session on Monday is best eliminated from the program going forward in my opinion. I’ve already flamed out about it in both DeepChip and EDA Design Line, and you can find my comments there.

Meanwhile, 2009 DAC Chair Andrew Kahng has posted a rebuttal to industry criticism of the event on EDA Design Line

* How Green is My Silicon Valley Graveyard: Death by Boredom at DAC

If you think the CEO Softball panel was bad, you should have been at the Thursday How Green is My Silicon Valley panel. Imagine taking the most stimulating, most compelling topic in all of Silicon Valley – in all of the world, really – and making it boring as death. Is that even possible?

The panel consisted of 4 aging White Guys. Where were the young people, the young ideas, the energy, not to mention the women or people from other ethnicities? It was like being at a funeral with a bunch of 50’s-era gray flannel suits, who apparently got some kind of memo:

1) Check your personality, spark, and enthusiasm at the door. 2) Be sure your bio is at least 5000 words long, so panel moderator Wally Rhines can bore the audience into deep ZZZZZs by reading it aloud and anesthetizing everyone even before your begin your spiritless opening statements. 3) Don’t have any slides except the one with your resume. 4) Don’t speak too clearly and don’t enunciate into the mike. 5) And for heaven’s sake, don’t smile!

Well, here’s my memo to any victims out there who wasted valuable time at this panel:

Next time you think to spend 90 minutes at a Green Tech Plenary Session at DAC, don’t. Instead, carve out a couple of days to attend U.C. Berkeley’s Efficient Energy Symposium. Nobody dozes off there!

* Clowns at DAC

Thank goodness neither EDAC nor the DAC EC felt shackled by the Political Correctness Police, and allowed Clowns to be showcased under the guise of Booth Talent.

Of course, if I hired White Guy Booth Talent for my company at DAC, and put them out there in blackface or taped their eyes, so they’d be almond-shaped simply for the amusement of potential customers who wandered by, I’d be drummed off the Exhibition Hall floor by the PC Police faster than you can say, “Racists are not welcome here!”

Happily however, at DAC it’s still okay to mock fully one-half of the human race by showcasing Clown Booth Talent, because it’s only dumb clown engineers who might be offended or made to feel uncomfortable while visiting DAC. And really, there aren’t too many of those anyway.

By the way, if you think I’m over-reacting by castigating an entire industry for just one small Clown mis-step, trust me. The whole EDA ecosystem is tainted by it. Just as it would be if even one single booth at DAC had their Talent done up in blackface or faux almond-shaped eyes. Can you hear me now?

* Two Exhibition Halls & That Last Half-Day

Buzz is what conferences live and die by.

To maximize Buzz @ DAC this year in the Exhibition Hall, we badly needed to have all of the booths in one huge room and to not have that last half-day on Thursday. Clearly, such decisions cannot be made at the last minute, given the nature of Moscone Center and the plans laid down for the Exhibition Hall map & calendar many, many months ago.

Nonetheless for future reference, it’s my opinion that the Exhibition Hall should only be open for three days, not three and half, with all of the booths together in one Big Hall. Conference exhibitors love the energy that comes from crowds!

* I left my $$$$$$, not my Heart, in San Francisco

San Francisco is a union town and also one of the most expensive in the country. Labor is costly, booths that are set up on a Sunday rack up double-time hourly rates, and simply hanging a banner from the ceiling of the Exhibition Hall over your booth can run into the thousands of dollars.

A gallon of coffee for meetings at Moscone is astronomically expensive, box lunches cost more than dinner in the Rainbow Room, and the registration costs for most workshops is more about the cost of the meal than it is about the handouts.

Let’s move DAC to the San Jose Convention Center. It’s the correct location, it’s the correct size in this post-modern era of Tech Conferences, and a gallon of coffee in San Jose – say, for the Press Room – doesn’t cost $99. I know there are all kinds of reasons why DAC can’t be moved to San Jose anytime in this millennium, but gosh that’s a crying shame.

DAC should be in San Jose!

* Rust Belt or Relevance: is anybody listening?

The 8 panelists that discussed a range of topics at the close of Management Day included, in their comments, a laundry list of tools that they could use, or could use improved versions of, if and when the EDA industry produces the products.

However, the week after DAC over lunch, a high-profile EDA CEO suggested to me that such a laundry list from high-profile EDA customers is all well and good, but wondered if those customers are actually willing to pony up the money needed to develop and support those tools.

From the Business of EDA point of view, this really is at the core of what ails the industry. If EDA is a Rust Belt industry, bogged down by legacy technology and legacy customers, whose fault is it? The EDA industry, or their customers?

While you’re pondering the answer to that question, tune in and take this quiz, based on the Management Day panel: R U a Wizard of Management Warcraft

* The Press Badges

When the Press showed up at DAC on Sunday, July 26th, we were given Exhibits Only badges. Even though I understood the budget constraints that drove this decision, I was still disappointed. In fact, rather than try to fight my way into any of the sessions going on that afternoon around Moscone Center, I went off to see a movie at the Metreon instead. Happily, by Monday morning more senior members of the Press than I had raised such a ruckus that the whole thing was solved. We had Full Conference privileges once again.

I’m torn on this issue, but if I had not been given that Full Conference badge, which allowed me to run from this session to that and capture the full flavor of DAC, it would have been sad. Yeah, yeah – the day’s probably coming when the badges won’t be free at all. The Press will have to pay like all of the other working stiffs in the world to get into DAC.

* Redesigning the DAC website

I got fired from an interview at DAC by the guy who’s been hired apparently to redesign the DAC website. He objected to my objections to having our conversation taped, and he particularly objected to my asking him questions. He said he was the one who was supposed to be asking the questions.

Of course, I had already angered him at the outset of the interview because when he said I was an expert on EDA, I countered that I’m not an expert, just an observer. Anyway, he snapped off his tape recorder and fired me from the interview. And that’s a Buzz Killer @ DAC!


Next week: More Good Stuff @ DAC 2009 + News of the EDA Nation


Meanwhile, always remember to Dress for Success!

     Montreal 2009

August 17, 2009


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