Monday, March 16, 2009

Notes from Silicon Valley SNUG-09

I attended the opening session of the Synopsys User Group Meeting this morning, then returned in the afternoon for two sessions related to Open Access and custom design. I hope to expand upon some of these topics later, but here is a quick dump of my notes:

  • Attendance in the morning session looked to be way down from previous years, but picked up quite a bit in the afternoon.
  • Aart gave another rendition of the "Techonomics" speech that he previously gave at DVCon last month. It's a (surprisingly) analog schematic of the economic mess we are in, complete with amplifiers and feedback loops. Apropos of credit default swaps and the cause of the meltdown; during the lunch break the AIG story was covered very well on the local NPR outlet KQED's Fresh Air.
  • The big "What's New" announcement was about the "Lynx" (digital) flow manager. You can't beat Harry.. the ASIC guy's coverage, but I do have a few thoughts on the subject.

    If you have read my blogs for a while, you know that I have called for more focus by the EDA companies on flows – but not as "products". In my opinion, EDA companies could better serve their customers if they structured their operations according to the flows that their customers must employ. No EDA company does this. Products are developed in separate silos. Regarding attempts to "productize" flows, I have some experience as an observer of similar attempts by Cadence which inform my thoughts on the Lynx announcement:

    • It's difficult to get people to pay for flows. The big customers have built their own and want a customized flow, and the small customers can't afford the price.
    • As was the case at Cadence, the Lynx flow was developed to drive a service offering, and is being launched as a product by the services and IP group. Rolling out a flow that is not "owned" by the business units that develop the constituent point tools can be a problem. The individual BUs have their own product roadmaps, and the interfaces between tools cross over to multiple BUs. Coordinating, synchronizing and influencing the roadmaps and release schedules to support a flow as product is a big challenge.
  • Though I see no mention of it in any Synopsys press releases, the "What's new?" in verification announcement was for "Custom Sim". Custom sim is the "unification" of the NanoSim, HSIM and XA Fast-SPICE products. I believe that this means there will be interchangeable licenses for the three generations of simulators, not that the engines are unified from a functional point of view. Each of the Fast-SPICE engines now supports the "direct-kernel interface" (DKI) for mixed-signal simulation with VCS.
  • Tom Quan of TSMC gave an interesting presentation of "What TSMC's Open Innovation Program (OIP) Means for Layout Designers". This relates to the session on Open Access which followed, with the key point being that TSMC is developing a system based on one technology file for all tools at any point in the flow, rather than the old system of qualifying multiple tools with unique tech files for each vendor. TSMC and customers both potentially benefit from reduced time to develop and qualify tool support, reduced maintenance and enhanced interoperability.
  • The "Advantages and Experiences with an Open Custom Design Environment" panel discussion was interesting. Panelists were:
    • Jim Wilmore – Intel
    • Jeff Berkman – Priva
    • Tom Quan – TSMC
    • Scott Chase – Synopsys

    The discussion provided an interesting counterpoint to a recent Cadence blog post, which criticized interoperable p-cells, claiming that they are "the lowest common denominator". Tom showed results from a recent 65nm RF-CMOS kit development, where Open Access PyCells were compared to Cadence p-cells. The feature comparison showed the two to be equivalent, and most interesting – PyCells were "plug compatible" with p-Cells. Hmm.. lowest common denominator? How ironic that Cadence is the sole development member of Open Access in Si2.

There's more, but that's all for now.



John said...

I think attendance was up! The keynote was more full, and the PrimeTime sessions I attended were standing room only.

I also heard that sign-ups were at a record level. Synopsys promoted this conference a lot.

John's Semi-Blog

Mike Demler said...

Hi John,

The crowd did build during the day, but the pre-registered number that I heard was less than I know of from recent years. It was a great turnout considering the economy.. but they did not get up early!


JL said...

My presentation at session MA4 was pretty full. Many more people than at the session after lunch. Perhaps attendance was simply topic dependent?