EDA Confidential ...
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Patrick Groeneveld's Good Cheer

by Peggy Aycinena
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September 28, 2011  


Twice this year, I've had the chance to talk at length with Dr. Patrick Groeneveld. Once in Grenoble in March at DATE 2011, where Patrick was promoting the Design Automation Conference which was set to take place 3 months later in San Diego. [“DAC 2011: from Woz to Wonderful”]

And once over coffee at Il Fornio in Palo Alto in July, when both DATE 2011 and DAC 2011 were history. By that point, Groeneveld's sights were squarely set on next year's DAC, slated to take place in June 2012 in San Francisco, where he'll be serving as General Chair.

Being General Chair of DAC, by my observation over the past dozen years, is a heavy responsibility. It entails coordinating dozens of committees, hundreds of volunteers, a multimillion dollar budget, thorny convention venue issues, and a host of other problemas – foreseen and unforeseen – that crop up over the 12 months that rotate through from one year's DAC to the next. Let's not forget, along with all of this, that being General Chair does not mean you can give up your day job. It just means that you'll be carrying both jobs simultaneously, for a full grueling year.

However, having now chatted with Patrick Groeneveld twice in these last 6 months, I'm totally struck by how lightly he seems to be carrying his mantle[s] of responsibility. Chalk it up to his innate good cheer, or his long tenure in the industry, or the quality of the folks who are backing him up on the various committees.

Whatever the explanation, it's my distinct impression that Dr. Groeneveld is not suffering for his art, the art of chairing DAC. Instead, he seems to be reveling in the opportunity to interface with other like-minded optimists in the industry, people who are similarly inclined to see the cup half full – and the potential spilling over the top – when it comes to DAC being All That it Can Be.

Meanwhile, just in case you've never met him – which would be nigh-on impossible given that Groeneveld's been at Magma for over 14 years – his Ph.D. is from Delft University, where he developed the OCEAN system and was on the faculty. He was then on the faculty at Eindhoven University of Technology, and worked at Compass before coming to Magma. Once at Magma, he was lead developer on the company's Blast Fusion physical design system, and so, not surprisingly, has the title, Chief Architect, inked on his business card.

Groeneveld has also served as Honorary Editor [read: "Gave a lot of time to the task, but earned only kudos, not coins"] of the IEE Proceedings in Circuits, Devices and Systems, was chair of ISPD, is a pilot, a runner, an avid world traveler, and has enough counter-intuitive anti-hubris to acknowledge that he likes “absorbing lots of mostly useless information.” In other words, Patrick Groeneveld's a man of many interests, and a great guy to interview.

So, back to DAC. Per Patrick in July over coffee: “I feel very good about DAC, both this year and next. We've had a lot of positive feedback about this year's conference in San Diego, especially the inclusion of more content related to high-level synthesis, and we feel totally energized about the prospects for DAC 2012.

“Also, we're starting to see [the payback] of our several years' worth of effort to increase the embedded systems focus, and the sessions around both cloud computing and security are [helping to bridge] the gap between hardware and software that we've been working to address over these last several years.

“Of course,” he added, “The people involved have been absolutely great. Everyone from Leon Stok [IBM] and Raul Camposano [Nimbic], to Rich Goldman [Synopsys], Donatella Scuito [Politecnico di Milano], Soha Hassoun [Tufts], and Mac McNamera [Cadence], among many, many others, have really pitched in and contributed ideas and energy.”

Groeneveld reiterated that it's a team – and always has been – that puts DAC together every year. In fact, although I've heard that same sentiment put forth many times over the years, Patrick brings such fresh authenticity to this claim of astonishing levels of cooperation, that when he says it, it's just impossible not to believe.

Naturally, as you know, over the next year there will be lots of ink, and interviews, devoted to covering [read; “promoting”] the unfolding story of DAC 2012. I mention this, because despite all of the happy talk that will be forthcoming in anticipation of next June in San Francisco, I don't want you to lose track of the fact that Patrick Groeneveld also has the wisdom and experience to see the more complex [dare I say, negative] aspects that also characterize the ever-roiling EDA industry.

Both during our conversation in March in Grenoble, and our conversation in July in Palo Alto, Patrick was more than capable of articulating a host of intelligent comments on the plethora of industry-related topics that I threw at him: the shortage of new graduate students entering the field; the sorry lack of women in leadership roles within EDA; the pros and cons, the necessity or lack thereof, of pursuing patent litigation as a business strategy; the evolution of the analog designer as artist versus engineer; the market dynamics of FPGAs versus ASICs; the role of government funding in high-tech R&D; and the impact of cell phones on sustaining growth and profitability across the semiconductor supply chain.

In other words, don't misunderstand me here: Patrick Groeneveld isn't some sort of clogging, happy-go-lucky Dutchman who's incapable of formulating strong opinions on a wide range of subjects. He is indeed full of strong opinions, he's quite the observer, he knows everyone, and he knows how things work. But, he's also just as press-savvy as other senior leaders in the EDA industry, and perhaps even more than some. He knows that I know that you know that there are things that he's free to comment on, on the record, and things he's not permitted to comment on, on the record.

To be succinct, Patrick Groeneveld is wise, witty and just plain-long wonderful. He's also energetic, positive, and a tremendous asset to the whole DAC ecosystem. Ergo, we should all be grateful that he's willing and able to carry both of his 'full time' jobs over this coming year – the one at Magma, and the one around DAC – and he will apparently do so with grace and ease.

Expect great things to happen next year at DAC 2012 in San Francisco, in no small part because there's a great guy leading the team.

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Peggy Aycinena owns and operates EDA Confidential:
www.aycinena.com

Copyright (c) 2011, Peggy Aycinena. All rights reserved.