Friday, December 28, 2007

Financial Perspective on EDA Companies

Update: Added Magma link.

Ms. Sramana Mitra has posted a series of articles with her commentary on how EDA vendors look financially. Take a look at her posts on

May you all have a restful year in and wishing all peace and prosperity in 2008.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

EDN Hot 100 Products of 2007: EDA

Whoever said EDA is boring? From a technical innovation standpoint, it is pretty exciting. From a financial standpoint, not so much. :-)

EDN Hot 100 Products of 2007: EDA - 12/14/2007 - EDN: "EDN's editors offer up their annual list of the year's 100 most significant ICs, components, buses, boards, EDA tools, power devices, test instruments, and more."

I've worked with a couple of these, and plan to learn more about the others.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Mr. Transistor

It has aged very well, and is helping pay a lot of our paychecks. We truly stand on the shoulders of the giants who invented and advanced such a seemingly simple yet amazingly versatile and powerful device: The transistor turns 60 | Between the Lines |

Along the same lines, Fairchild, the first big semiconductor company and training ground for countless startup founders, recently celebrated its 50th birthday.

I've often thought that if you really, really grokked the transistor, you'd be all set to contribute to large swaths of electrical engineering. I'm certainly not as facile with all its behaviors as I'd like. How long would it take to really understand, thoroughly and intuitively? A year? Four years? A career?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What a Motley Crew

I just had to share The Programmer Dress Code for the fine pictures therein. These guys are the giants of Computer Science! I recognize most all the names, though not many faces. I guess they're not too photogenic. :-) I recognized Knuth, Stallman, and Wozniak.

What I especially love is that as I write this, I am sporting a beard and am wearing a red plaid flannel shirt! If I just would let my hair go wild, perhaps my scripting will improve.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cadence Cutting

Sounds like some cutbacks are happening at Cadence. There's this post on the Yahoo! message board, and also rumors of cancellation of a "high-profile" project. I don't follow the stock closely, but it dropped over 20% in the past six weeks, much worse than its EDA peers. The stock price drop coincides with their last quarterly earnings report. These are always hard for me as an engineer to decipher. It says nothing about Cadence's technology, and is all about a "new licensing model". I just know that if I had a nickel for every time an EDA vendor changed their licensing model, my kid might be getting a PlayStation 3 for Christmas. ;-)

Anyone know details of what's happening at Cadence? I wonder how other EDA vendors faring with projects and hiring?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bubble 2.0 Video

This funny well-done Bubble 2.0 video has just surfaced: Too bad all the hype is about Web 2.0 instead of EDA and Semiconductors. :-( Hey, at least we produce something tangible.

This video itself is inspired by this excellent video of Billy Joel's song.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

China Envy

"Everyone knows" that China may be the economic powerhouse of the 21st century. This columnist, writing China: A Tech Powerhouse? - Columns by PC Magazine, sums up the case in the most ebullient terms. So, maybe it's time to start that long intended plan to learn Mandarin?

But this may not be the best moment to invest financially in China, as their stock market looks like a bubble waiting to pop: China: First BRIC To Crumble?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Aart de Geus, Renaissance Man

Congratulations are in order for Aart de Geus, Synopsys' CEO. Last week, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group honored him with its Spirit of Silicon Valley Lifetime Achievement Award. Read all about it in San Jose Mercury News - Takahashi: Synopsys leader's quiet impact.

I had the pleasure of attending the awards banquet, since my company purchased a table.

The keynote speaker for the luncheon was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's the first time I've seen and heard "Ahnold" live, and he is quite impressive. He is very charismatic and his answers to audience questions made a great deal of sense. Of course, sound bites are easy and the devil is in the details when enacting policies and making hard choices. Voters are not easy to please. (We'll have our cake and eat it too, please.)

But enough of the Governator. For Aart, there was a fine tribute video shown with testimonials from business and community leaders. Aart was gracious and humble in his acceptance, noting all the contributions from his family, the Synopsys Foundation, and his colleagues in the Leadership Group.

Aart has been a true leader in the local community and Synopsys has been especially strong supporting Education and Science Fairs. Congratulations on a well deserved honor!

Friday, November 02, 2007

You Know You're an Engineer When...

I'm sure you've seen such engineering humor before, but this list has some clever points and is written by a software engineer at Google: Niniane's Blog: You Know You're an Engineer When...

Check out the rest of Niniane's Blog, too. She writes with great openness and gives insight into life at Silicon Valley->Web 2.0->Google.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Penryn Arrives: Intel at 45 nm

Is this the first production 45 nm chip? Penryn Arrives: Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Review It kind of snuck up on me. Intel is firing on all cylinders for the last year or two. Nice architecture, and a full process node ahead of AMD.

The secret sauce in their 45 nm recipe is "HK+MG", for High-K dielectric and Metal Gate. Cool stuff, this High-K addresses the huge problem of gate leakage as the process scales down. The power reduction claims are very impressive.

One nit that's always bothered me is that we all design in CMOS, and the "M" in CMOS stands for Metal. But the gate hasn't been metal in ages! Now it is metal again and it's a novelty. What is old is now new again.

Also, take a look at the die shot. That's two duplicate cores and a huge cache. Hey come on Intel, design some real gates, like the Graphics companies do! :-)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Fun with "Steve Jobs"

One of the funniest blogs going right now is The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Lots of unfiltered opinions about the Electronics and Entertainment (media) industries. It's a parody, but some of the posts are scathingly spot-on.

Oh, and it's rated PG-13 for language. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Maybe Sun is onto something

Jonathan Schwartz could have been paraphrasing me when mentioning those unimpressed by Sun's latest CPU announcements.

Those who love desktop computers thought we were daft. Here we had what looked like a slow chip, optimized for something no home user really cared about (lowering power bills, running multiple OS's and minimizing space). And to make matters worse, we removed support for floating point precision math on the chip - to save more power and space. Desktop users (who play games that often feast on floating point processes) thought we were loons, but most datacenters didn't notice (very few datacenters use floating point).

But his blog posting Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog: Hugging Customers (Not Trees) shows that there's a method in Sun's madness. Might Sun be able to compete with Intel after all? Let's hope so, as competition is good for the industry, and AMD has been struggling against Intel recently.

Monday, October 15, 2007


If you love chip design and/or are curious to look into one of the most successful semiconductor companies, you'll enjoy looking at nSide NVIDIA.

The Failure Analysis equipment is super-high tech. I learned a few things about how chips are made to tell their secrets. Also see the campus, compute farm, cafeteria, and even the beloved high-tech coffee machine!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Even Gerald Hsu has a blog

Even EDA ex-Avanti CEO Gerald Hsu has a blog brings back the memory of perhaps the most colorful and crooked character in EDA history.

I couldn't find his blog. The link is to an audio interview puff piece. I've always wanted someone to write the whole story of Avant!'s theft of source code from Cadence: how they did it, and most incredibly, what were they thinking? It would be a business thriller, no doubt.

It's sad that one conspirator (an EE PhD) ended up going to prison at San Quentin while the CEO walked free and is doing business in Asia.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Looking for Good Training

I wanted to poll blog readers for their experiences and recommendations on technical training. Specifically, I'm looking for a System Verilog for Design class. Have you taken one of these and what did you think? In general, what has been your experience with HDL or EDA training?

For the class I'm looking for, I found these providers

Thursday, September 20, 2007

AMD Salvages Phenom

My first reaction to AMD announcing a three-core processor was that it sounded weird. Why design a three-core CPU? And one of the explanations I heard was even more contrived, something like "you could be running a demanding video application using two cores and have another core running virus scan". Ah yes, the price we pay for security.

But upon a little more reflection, I have to agree with Larry Dignan of ZDNet that AMD’s triple core chip is a nice intersection where engineering meets business savvy.

Of course! It's not a three chip design. It's the four-core Phenom chip with one defective core disabled. AMD gets to salvage a "non-prime" part, and the consumer should get a good deal on a CPU that's better than dual-core.

This is a nice side benefit of highly-parallel designs, as long as they're designed to degrade gracefully.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Vast EDA Conspiracy

several folks noted that one of the saving graces—one of the things that will seemingly prevent EDA from getting hit too hard by Piracy--is that EDA software tends to be extremely buggy
-- Websites offering a Synopsys tool for $20? EDA pirates or legit? - Between The Lines - Blog on EDN

I've been banging my head against the wall the past few days trying to debug EDA software that the AE hasn't been able to figure out, and now this! Do EDA vendors intentionally let software quality wane to ensure maintenance revenues and prevent piracy? I always love a good conspiracy theory ...

Monday, September 10, 2007

EE Times Emerging Startups - EE Times updates list of emerging startups proves that the innovation and money is still flowing in our industry.


  • Fabless Wireless
  • Asynch logic IP
  • Multi-core programming


With respect to EDA, here's what caught my eye:

  • Athena Design Systems Inc.
  • Blaze DFM Inc.
  • Calypto Design Systems Inc.
  • Dafca Inc.
  • Imperas Inc.

Friday, August 31, 2007

We will use no software before its time

Reading about the reluctance of IT departments to move to Vista in the articles Still missing from Vista SP1 fix list: a really good reason to leave XP : Good Morning Silicon Valley and here makes me think of how we treat major new releases of EDA tools. Would you bet your chip on a new tool release named like "7.0"? I sure wouldn't. You gotta wait until -SP1 or later. What's that called? Letting the other guy find the bugs?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to Be ...

... Engineers?

Former EE Times editor Brian Fuller recaps a spontaneous debate between semiconductor panelists regarding what field your children are studying.

It's a touchy subject among engineers. Most of us still love engineering. But, we may have seen career frustrations, especially in the aftershocks of the .com bubble bursting. In America, there's the sense that some small percentage of engineers do fantastically well if they join the right start-up, but most enjoy an above-average though not large lifestyle. It seems like the folks doing really well and making it look easy are the lawyers and MBAs.

Brian presents the two points of view in Greeley's Ghost: Panel dispatches. Peggy the EDA analyst has kids studing hard sciences -- good for her. Jack Harding, former Cadence CEO, has kids studying Liberal Arts. Fair enough (as long as it's a "respectable" Liberal Art ;-). But what I found interesting was his justification:

It's where you sit in the value chain that makes the difference." IBM, he argues, doesn't make money on its technology development. It makes money taking other people's technology and finding ways to make profit on it. It's hiring not engineers but liberal arts and business people. In housing, he added, the contractor takes the risk and gets the margin. The plumbers, framers and electricians he hires (you can't build the house without 'em!) get an hourly wage.

Grudgingly, I'd have to admit there's truth to this. But it's really more of a justification of the value of an executive over an individual contributor. And who says that executives can't be engineers?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is EE Times Outsourcing Journalism?

From reading earlier posts in this blog, you know that I regularly read EE Times. It's my main publication covering the business and technology of Electronics, Semiconductors, and EDA. I find it more relevant than my IEEE publications!

But, lately I've become concerned about cutbacks.

  • First they downsized the size of the papers (physically), and eliminated that funky old favorite "Immortal Works".
  • Next, they made substantial staff cutbacks, including axing Richard Goering and their Editor in Chief.

Maybe this is the inevitable consequence, but lately I've noticed that many of their features are written by industry sources rather than full-time journalists. In moderation, this isn't a bad thing. Practicing engineers can give a valuable real-world perspective on problems we're seeing and how to solve them. But in excess, I'm worried that EE Times will become a collection of "advertorials". Indeed, some of the articles I read from "industry voices" proceed to describe some very specific, not widely recognized problem, and then lay out a solution: which, coincidentally, happens to be exactly the problem the author's company addresses! This can be self-serving and less than objective.

Let's hope that industry publications will strike a healthy balance between problems encountered by in-the-trenches engineers and objective analysis of the major issues and trends. There is significant value in traditional journalism. What else are you gonna do, get all your news and opinions from blogs??? :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Intel Uber Alles?

Intel and the Power of Having a Monopoly - Seeking Alpha is an analysis of Intel's long-term business prospects from an investment advisor's perspective. The author concludes that Intel has a very bright future.

Reading it, it makes it sound as though AMD might was well raise the white flag right now. Intel is the Borg.

I think this analysis is mostly right, but AMD has surprised us once in the past. It will be interesting to watch if they can come back to fight another day.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cooley Does Gary Smith?

Cooley Does Gary Smith is a webcast with a cheesy title but a nice discussion of emerging EDA tools from DAC this year. It's worth a watch to get ideas for companies to keep an eye on.

I like Gary Smith's perspective, even though I don't agree with all of his picks. His picks I'm not familiar with are interesting, and for the tools that I use or am interested in, I know that his take is pretty good.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Great article on Statistical STA - Practical Applications of Statistical Static Timing Analysis is a great article on statistical timing analysis! Quite in-depth and comprehensive for a two-page article.

Interesting that the authors are from Cadence. I didn't know they were big players in the STA arena. I know they have an "Encounter" timing system, but I'm not familiar with how advanced or accepted it is.

The article reinforces my view that statistical STA is "not ready for PrimeTime". That pun is not a slam against Synopsys! I mean that there needs to be a lot more support from the foundries and understanding by the design community before there's much adoption of SSTA for production chip timing.

Another good article, which was just published and is written by Extreme DA's founder, is Statistical static timing analysis: A view from the future.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The EDA Dozen (Startups to Watch)

We need more excitement in the EDA industry after the layoffs of analysts and journalists following the field. Here's a start. The EDA Dozen lists that the top start-ups as anointed by EE Times.

For some of these, I'm very familiar and interested in what they're doing. For others, I can hardly understand how their technology works and how likely it is to catch on. I'll let you determine the What's Hot and What's Not for yourselves, but this list can get it started.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fare Ye Well, Richard Goering

I had to do a double-take when I read Gabe Moretti's column The Week after DAC: some lingering thoughts | EDA DesignLine. Buried therein was the comment about "where the industry is going, a clear indication came this week with the layoff of Richard Goering, the deacon of the EDA journalists core". At first I skimmed over this, thinking that he was talking about Gary Smith, whose departure from Dataquest has been previously lamented. But no, Richard Goering, the main EDA journalist at EE Times forever, has been laid off!

This is a sad development, both for what it may say about the EDA and Journalism industries (I love both), and personally for Mr. Goering, whose writing I have long admired. Let's hope he lands on his feet and happily applies his skills elsewhere.

Other mentions of the news:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Q: Whither EDA? A: Private Equity?

Welcome to DAC week! I'm not there, but I expect to see a flurry of announcements and will be looking to keep up with things in EE Times.

This morning's paper has a story about "private equity" firms being interested in investing in Cadence: Cadence would offer buyer steady cash flow. And, an investing blog has Cadence Design Negotiates With Buyout Firms.

This is all at the rumor stage, but it's interesting in what it says about EDA. Rather than being a high-growth industry where one might make several times investment by picking the right hot technology, this is more about lucrative cash flows coming from software maintenance agreements.

If private equity firms become players in our industry, how will this change them? Will it lead to "slash and burn" of R&D, just trying to milk the recurring revenue from existing products? But how could such an approach fund the R&D to keep pace with the changes and challenges following from Moore's Law?

Update: An EE Times blog posting on dynamics of the EDA business. And, a YouTube interview with Gary Smith and his DAC preview. EDA gets hip!

More Updates: Richard Goering weighs in.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

DAC Linkfest

Last year, I went to DAC in San Francisco, and I made a number of posts to my blog both before and after the 2006 conference:

This year, I'm not going to DAC in San Diego, but I thought I'd at least "phone it in" for my blog. With due credit to the EE Times' Richard Goering and other professional journalists, here's your one-stop 2007 DAC blog nexus:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Existentialist EDA

I'm getting tired (so tired! --Bauhaus) of waiting on vendors who promise that all our problems with their product will be fixed in the next release!

I told an EDA vendor that waiting for their tool to improve reminded me of the play Waiting for Godot. I thought this quite clever, but they didn't seem to. Maybe they didn't have to read it in college?

It might be fun to cast EDA persons into the play. Who would play the roles?

The tramp who struts about stiff-legged due to a painful bladder condition.
The tramp who complains of his ill-fitting boots
cruel but lyrically gifted man
The Boy

Here's my literary interpretation:

  • Clearly, Vladimir and Estragon are the afflicted customers.
  • Pozzo is either the sales or marketing guy (I often forget the difference).
  • Lucky is the poor FAE.
  • The Boy is post-sales support.
  • Godot is ??? Hey, I don't have all the answers, use your imagination!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Something Completely Different (but Worthy)

Dear readers,

Off topic, though perhaps a reason for the decline in my posting frequency since the beginning of the year. For the past several months, I've been supporting a program that raises awareness and funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This charity funds blood cancer research and patient services.

The program I'm part of is called Team in Training. Every season of every year, hundreds of runners, cyclists, and triathletes come together to train for a signature endurance event (e.g., marathon, century ride, or triathlon). More importantly, we collectively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help find a cure for cancer and to help those currently afflicted. We do this by getting sponsorship donations to the Society from our friends, families, and colleagues. Why not give blog readers a chance to help, too? That's where you come in. If your curiosity is piqued, and you'd like to read the rest of the story and perhaps make a donation to a very worth charity, please take a look at my Team in Training page. There you will find a link to another blog I've been keeping, "New Rider on the Purple Stage", which describes my cycling season in pictures and words. Please note that my season culminates in a few weeks, and the last day for donations for this season is May 21, 2007.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Executive Blogging

As seen on

Pretty funny, but hopefully not prevalent in our industry. For example, I recently started reading Jonathan's Blog by the CEO of Sun Microsystems, and it's pretty substantive and useful.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What's Special About This Number?

What's Special About This Number? was featured in IEEE Spectrum. It's an interesting list of factoids for past, present and future fans of mathematics.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

"How-to" SPICE Book

It's been several years since I've run SPICE myself, but I'm finding it increasingly needed even for a RTL/gate-level engineer. Could anyone recommend some really good SPICE books, which aren't just a reference but show you how to do things? You can post your recommendations and advice here as comments. The "things" I'd be most interested in doing would be characterizing digital standard cells and analyzing IC interconnect.

I looked at and didn't find a lot of books like this (no "SPICE for Dummies"?), but these two look interesting. Before I or my company spends a chunk of change, do you know these titles and how useful they are?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Legend of Test

Peggy Aycinena did a fine interview with Tom Williams, truly one of the giants in the field of Test. The guy invented full-scan DFT in the 1970s! Can you believe that? It's remarkable that his career spans 40 years, and he's been productive throughout. He's published many seminal Test papers, and has received the "Best Paper" award at DAC.

Be sure to go to the last page and see a list of his self-selected most important papers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hither ASIC

q.v. my earlier posting Whither ASIC, EE Times just ran a story on the declining activity in the ASIC business.

It's a thorough survey of what's happening in the business. I agree that designs need to see more IP reuse -- the extreme case is to use an ASSP. And I'm skeptical of Structured ASIC, and it seems the market has also given that idea the thumbs down. But the article didn't mention the trend of more fabless companies finding ways to do COT rather than ASIC design, possibly through "virtual ASIC vendors" like eSilicon or Open Silicon.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Intel to Build Fab in China

"Our goal in China is to support a transition from 'manufactured in China' to 'innovated in China'"
--Intel CEO Paul Otellini

Ah, globalization!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Whither ASIC

I'm surprised by how bad of shape the traditional ASIC business is in. Are any companies making money? Only IBM Microelectronics?

Several of the Japanese semiconductor powerhouses are cutting way back (or closing) their US ASIC engineering. Today a friend told me that LSI Logic isn't doing ASICs any more! Is that right?

The vendors that are doing the best have attractive IP portfolios, like IBM or TI. Those that historically relied on manufacturing process (e.g., Japanese) and left IP entirely up to the customer aren't faring well.

I'm especially surprised that even fabless chip startups aren't using ASIC vendors! They invest in the COT model or the "virtual ASIC" model, contracting with a number of service providers. I would have thought that the integration value-add of ASIC vendors would be even more attractive in these days of worrying about signal integrity, variability and DFM. Don't chip designers want "one throat to choke" when things going wrong?

We may not have ASIC vendors to kick around for long.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Britney Spears guide to Semiconductor Physics

Here's some fun on a Friday. EE Times gave me the link to this crucial technical reference, Britney Spears guide to Semiconductor Physics - The physics of optoelectronic technology . The material is technically sound and more accessible than a textbook.

Check it out if you don't mind gratuitous pictures of Ms. Spears. What's next, Paris Hilton's analysis of the Traveling Salesman Problem? (a Hilton ought to help with that ;-)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Immortal, Indeed

Those of you who read the print edition of EE Times may recall a funky little contest/feature that ran at the back of the paper, "Immortal Works". I think I can remember this *always* being part of the paper, even going back to the 1980s. Here's the latest version I could find.

Last month, EE Times went through a redesign. There are many changes to the organization and layout of the paper. It's actually printed on smaller (shorter and narrower) paper than before, in line with several major mainstream papers. More cost reductions from the ink and paper crowd, probably. I actually like the smaller format -- it's easier to carry around and peruse at opportune moments.

But I won't like if Immortal Works has been canned! It's missing from the redesigned print edition! According to the editors' explanation The new EE Times: more than a redesign:

Taking a hiatus will be Immortal Works, our longtime caption-writing contest of which many of you are devoted fans. We're moving the feature online, where the audience interaction is fast, efficient and easy.

Like I said, it was a sort of goofy feature. And even though I never had the time (or more likely, the wit) to submit an entry, I miss this quirky part of EE history! Immortal Works, where art thou?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Standards? EDA has lots of 'em!

While I'm pleased that the UPF power standard plans to converge with the rival Common Power Format (CPF), it begs the larger question: why should we have multiple standards organizations, anyway? I'm referring to Accelera, Si2, and the IEEE. It seems just the IEEE should be enough.

It's like professional boxing, where there are now so many sanctioning organizations (WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF, ...) that the average person has no idea who the real champions are, and no longer really cares, either.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

CAD Engineer's Bookshelf

Inspired by the DFT Bookcase over at the DFT Digest blog, I decided to create pointers to the technical books I use every day in my work. (Yes, I looked the ones strewn about my desk and next to the computer, rather than those arranged neatly (and less used) on my bookshelf. Perhaps you'll discover a title or two that will help you.

Great book for learning Perl -- it's how I learned, going through it from cover to cover. And I still use it for a basic reference.
A surprisingly useful book. I can't count the number of times that I needed to solve some puzzle in Perl, and found it already grokked in this book.
Lots of good ideas here. When you are going to pick a coding style, why not follow what they've already figured out?
My newest addition. I'm enjoying working through it to learn about references, packages, and object-oriented Perl.
Programming Perl is the "bible", though personally it's not my favorite. And I find Larry Wall's humour distracting.
My go-to book for Tcl.
Because, sometimes, a good ol' shell script is enough.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ambric Multi-Core Design Wins Award

I like this press release: Ambric Wins In-Stat's 2006 Microprocessor Report Analysts' Choice Award for Innovation because of two eye-catching features:
  • the claim that this multi-core design was first architected for easy programming, before creating the hardware architecture. I agree with the claim that "most massively-parallel chip companies started with the hardware, leaving the programming model almost as an afterthought".
  • the implementation is globally asynchronous, locally synchronous (GALS). Man, that is sexy! ;-) I've been interested of commercial implementations of this more-efficient clocking approach.

I'm going to watch for Ambric and try to learn more about their designs. By the way, interesting caveat in the quotes: "If Ambric's tools work as well as the company promises, ..." Ain't that always the challenge?

Monday, February 12, 2007

That’s OK, the Corporate Raider took my backpack

Jonathan David is an active IEEE volunteer and he's the local chair of PACE, the career-oriented part of IEEE. He's written a nice post on career planning, Professions of a Silicon Valley Double-E: That’s OK, the Corporate Raider took my backpack. [on keeping your parachute ready].

It's a nice short read. One of the "takeaways" from his advice is that he highly recommends this book, which is surely a classic in career planning:

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Taste of DesignCon

I didn't go to DesignCon, but Gabe did, so let's sample his DesignCon Morsels.

What's nice is the variety of topics he touches on:

  • The lack of interest in ESL vs. design implementation, and why engineers are being short-sighted by not getting into architecture.
  • Thermal performance, an interdisciplinary problem. When I've been involved in thermal analysis, the biggest problem is coming up with a credible power consumption figure. It's back to the "vectors" problem, and what's a representative (or worst-case) simulation?
  • Is DFM for Designers?
  • Fewer students are going into Engineering. And engineers "get no respect", as Rodney Dangerfield would say.

Thanks Gabe, for the synopsis!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dr. Thomas W. Williams to Receive EDAA Lifetime Achievement Award

Saw this over at DFT Digest: Synopsys Fellow Dr. Thomas W. Williams to Receive EDAA Lifetime Achievement Award

Look at all Dr. Williams' achievements, stretching back to the 1970s. This is (one of) the father of LSSD, which begat the full scan DFT methodology that we all use today. He's truly a giant in DFT one of the legendary early figures in EDA.

Congratulations on a well-deserved honor!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chips Grab Mainstream Headlines

I was surprised and excited to see a chip-process development featured on the front page, above the fold, in the San Jose Mercury News. This is "the newspaper of silicon valley", as they say. The headline gushed Chip advance biggest in 40 years.

It's about successes announced by Intel and IBM to fabricate metal-gate transistors with "high-K" dielectric. This is good news, which hopefully will enable us to continue to follow Moore's Law.

But it doesn't hit me that this is the biggest development in 40 years. Is this triumph over materials significantly different from figuring out how to to use Copper interconnect, or "low-K" interconnect isolation? Those were both hard manufacturing problems that the process wizards solved in the last decade. Maybe it was a slow news day. ;-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Is Texas Instruments Exiting the Semiconductor Technology Rat Race?

SeekingAlpha is a financial web site that I just discovered. It's unique in that it focuses on analysis rather than news. And I've started following semiconductor company analyses, such as Is Texas Instruments Exiting the Semiconductor Technology Rat Race?
Technologists live for working on leading edge technology. TI killing off 32nm development is a major change in how it views itself and whether it will be able to attract the best and the brightest scientists in the future -- not to mention how the ones who do this there today must feel.

Now that is significant! Another IDM "throws in the towel" on doing all their own process and fab development. Will we be catching our breath at 45nm for awhile?

Yahoo! EDA!

Does Yahoo! understand the EDA industry? I have the headlines from their EDA News News Archive - Yahoo! Finance in "My Yahoo!". But most of the time, even a very liberal definition of "EDA" doesn't explain why these articles are here. I can understand including foundries, IP vendors, and even programmable logic companies. But how to understand the inclusion of U.S. Department Of Commerce Makes Annual Adjustments to Seasonal Factors for ISM Manufacturing PMI and Diffusion Indexes and ISM Non-Manufacturing Diffusion Indexes or Roche Diagnostics and Protedyne Sign Global Agreement?

I thought these industry news groupings have a human editor, but it makes you wonder ...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Intel Builds 80-Core Chip

This Intel 80-Core Chip is pretty far off in Research-land, but it does pose intriguing concepts, such as
  • Better performance/power ratio
  • Finer granularity of compute power and power consumption. If you need more performance, it wakes up more cores, and when you're done, they go back to sleep.
  • "Core hopping". If one part of the chip gets hot, the work that those particular cores are doing is moved to other cores on another part of the chip.
  • On-chip communications network. Of course, all multi-core chips have some sort of network. I'd like to see how sophisticated the Intel one is.

Prof. Richard Newton's Influence on the EDA Industry

Lamentation & Loss is a enlightening eulogy for Professor Richard Newton. By interviewing several EDA industry legends, Peggy Aycinena succeeds in recognizing Prof. Newton's profound impact on EDA, and reveals interesting history about Cadence and Synopsys, among others.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hewlett-Packard's FPGA research, and replacing transistors

You may have seen the story earlier this week about a "breakthrough" announced by HP researchers, which involved applying nano technology to semiconductors.

I was intrigued, and Googled around to find this analysis at the "ars technica" web site: Hewlett-Packard's FPGA research, and replacing transistors. This excellent article explains that the HP announcement is for a very specific (and limited) application: FPGA interconnect. And it points out that the more promising HP announcement actually came out in 2005, which pointed to use of nanotechnology for circuit switching, not just interconnection.

Gotta love this web site's tag line: Serving the PC enthusiast for over 6x10-2 centuries!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Best Companies to Work For ASIC & EDA?

In the news today is the much-talked-about list of 100 Best Companies to Work For 2007 in Fortune magazine.

Hmmm, the companies that we typically work at didn't fare too well. I only see a couple that would typically have ASIC or EDA engineers:

Cisco Systems
Texas Instruments

As far as high-tech, there are a lot more software companies listed, and many related to health care.

It would great if EE Times did an industry-specific version -- Best Places for an EE to Work For!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

DAAMIT vs. ChipZilla, Past, Present and Future

I've mentioned this tech enthusiast web site before. Geek News - Is AMD's vision enough? is a great summary of the multi-core strategies being pursued by AMD and Intel. Be sure to check out the User Comments, which are one of the best resources of this site. "GoatGuy" is the real deal, always good for expert commentary. And this lexington_steele guy is pretty provocative, too. I wonder where he got that name?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

R.I.P. Dean Newton

The EDA industry and the University of California lost an influential leader with the passing of the College of Engineering Dean, Richard Newton: EDA icon Richard Newton dies.

I was fortunate to hear Dean Newton speak at a "Berkeley in Silicon Valley" lecture last April. My notes from that lecture note that "synthetic biology", the application of engineering to living organisms (on a nano scale), was one of Dr. Newton's current passions, and his family requested donations in his name to the Berkeley Center for Synthetic Biology.

Update: John Cooley's Memories of Professor Richard Newton.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year in ASIC & EDA

I thought about writing a forward-looking article, making some predictions about our industry. But, so far, I am too lazy. ;-) Besides, that's what Gabe & Gary get paid the big bucks to do. So, here are links to their New Year columns with a bit of color from me.
  • Gabe's column, Last minute deals open opportunities for 2007 and beyond, is focused and sounds plausible. His DFM story sounds good -- it needs to get more into the design phase, as a proactive guide to help people laying out the circuits. And I like his call for "Locality Sensitive Cells" that would be DFM-correct by construction. His other point, about Mentor's moves in the ESL and C-synthesis space, discusses alternatives to SystemC, and where C may be lacking as the perfect system-level language.
  • Gary's "column" isn't really written by Gary. He has Richard Goering as his ghost writer! I have more problems with Gary's predictions that Gabe's. Gary is still predicting the ascendancy of ESL, FPGA, and embedded software. I still see plenty of challenge and opportunity in plain old RTL-based standard cell design! Gary does have 10 predictions, and it's worth looking over the rest of them for thought-provoking variety.