Steve SchulzHaving just returned from my 25th Design Automation Conference, there were a number of insights on industry trends that were brought into clearer focus, and I would like to share these thoughts with you today. Most DAC-blogs cover new products or which give-aways were the best, but I think I can add better value with a perspective to think about (and then discuss under the comments section).

While none are brand new or a surprise, there were several major themes I noticed coming out of this year’s DAC:
   * Blurring of roles across the supply chain
   * Foundry inter-dependence with EDA and standards
   * Analog / custom design focus
   * 3D is really coming

Blurring of roles across the supply chain: We saw evidence that the lines continue to blur between supply chain segments (EDA, IP, Foundry, and User). Both Virage Logic and Denali have merged into EDA, creating new opportunities (as well as new threats, no doubt… time will tell how this will help EDA revenue and market strategies). Foundry reference flows continue their advance further up the food chain to incorporate higher-level EDA, more IP, and more design flow standards. In PDKs, EDA, IP, and user companies are all “producers” of PDKs to varying extent, not just foundries. These shifts change the competitive landscape at every turn, so as a result old partnerships and competitive positions will be re-assessed as the market adapts and realigns to a new reality.

Foundry inter-dependence with EDA and standards: It was hard to miss the fact that GLOBALFOUNDRIES made a big splash at DAC this year – the CEO DAC Keynote, numerous sponsored events, a Sr. VP speech at Si2’s Open Reception, and more. TSMC continues to expand it’s DAC presence as well, and continues to demonstrate the growing inter-dependence of foundries with EDA and EDA standards in reference flows. DAC even released a special press announcement specifically about GLOBALFOUNDRIES, TSMC, TowerJazz, and The Common Platform. At Si2, we see growing inter-dependence of these and more foundries with Si2 standards (with more press releases coming, of course). The message from foundries is clear: prevent “garbage in, garbage out”. In other words, a good silicon manufacturing business depends heavily upon a healthy stream of good designs that utilize the investments foundries make.

Analog / custom design focus: The recent rise in competitive choice in analog EDA seems to be settling into real business decisions now, with some significant market impact and a sense that we are on the cusp of a sort of Renaissance in growth and fresh approaches. In the standards arena, there is ample support for this premise with the strong commitments to PDK standardization, namely iPDK, IPL, and OpenPDK (note: these are all on a complementary path where each has its own value proposition and they all serve to reinforce this trend). OpenPDK is up to 14 members now and still growing… it’s twice the size of OpenAccess Coalition when it was started. Speaking of OpenAccess, it has a record-high membership of 41 companies as another sign of this trend.

3D is really coming: 3D stacked die is many things to many people (kind of like DFM in the early days), so it’s hard to judge when and exactly how 3D design takes off in a major way. Sure, some leading companies use through-silicon-vias today, but it is relatively awkward and risky for mainstream growth. However, this DAC convinced me that, while we aren’t certain when the broader market is ready to dive in, it will happen. The range of discussions on 3D at DAC, the good attendance at them all, and even the level of standardization interest shows it will be important and is coming into focus. I’ll share my insight on how I think the 3D market might actually take off in a later blog, but this DAC proved that it will be significant for our industry.

There is much more to DAC than the above themes, but these were some key over-arching themes that caught my attention. Feel free to share more views in the comments section.