"Why EDA is Becoming Exciting Againr"
Why EDA is Becoming Exciting Again
- This year’s Design Automation Conference (DAC) was a hard one to classify. There was
nothing that stuck in my mind. Last year it was “Threads are Dead,” but this year there was nothing. It took me a while but it finally dawned on me that the most important thing to come out of DAC was what wasn’t said.
If you look back at the twelve months between DAC 2007 and this DAC, you will see quite a few panels with titles like “What is the real definition of ESL?” These panels either questioned the meaning of electronic system level (ESL) design or the existence of it, and sometimes both. Unless I missed something, there was nothing along these lines at DAC 2008.
Somehow it had been replaced with an acceptance, sometimes grudgingly, that like it or not we had entered the ESL era. Actually we are four years into the switchover, which is about right. As a comparison, it was in 1991 that most engineers finally accepted that RTL design was here to stay, four years after the introduction of Synopsys’ Design Compiler.
I remember the excitement that surrounded the delivery of the first Calma workstations
to Signetics back in the 1970s. These workstations were looked upon with wonder by the layout engineers. The chance that you wouldn’t have to fool with rubylith anymore would get anyone excited.
Later in my career I worked at a Silicon Valley start-up called Telmos. Right around the
corner from us was another start-up called Daisy. If you thought there was excitement over the Calma workstation, it was nothing like the excitement over Daisy’s introduction of copy command and rubber-banding. The improvement over manually selecting each instance of a memory, or the ability to move your components around the schematic without having to reconnect them after each move, was a design engineer’s dream.
As we were moving into the RTL era, I was the design methodologist in Jen-sen Huang’s legendary LSI Logic Design center. If you thought the last two jumps in design complexity were exciting, this was a full scale revolution and I was in the middle of it. It was the most exciting time of my career, or so I thought.
SO WHAT’S GOING ON?
Calma changed the world of the semiconductor layout engineer. The gate level methodology changed the world of the design engineer. RTL changed the fortunes of entire companies. (If you didn’t make the shift, and your competitors did, you literally went out of business.) Design methodologies and CAD groups provided a major competitive advantage.
Today, the move to ESL design is changing the whole electronics industry. The ESL
methodology that allows the development of the large gate count systems-on-chip (SoCs), and the software goes with them, has become a driving force for the consumer
We walked away from DAC 2008 with all of the uncertainty, fear, doubt and general
uneasiness that seems to have permeated the EDA world recently into the chaotic
atmosphere created by Cadence’s attempted takeover of Mentor. Then I got it! EDA is finally getting exciting again. In fact, the whole design world is getting exciting! We are entering that magic time of change when an old design methodology is being replaced by a new one.
And this time it is having a huge impact on the entire electronics industry.
With that switch comes opportunity – opportunity like we’ve never seen before. This
inflection point will make the switch to RTL look like a party. So put on your seat belts and get ready for the ride of your life. This will be the most exciting, earth shattering event that you will ever see. That is unless the next inflection point, System Design Automation (SDA), tops this one.