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Archive for June, 2016

DAC Official Results Are In

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

Have already covered DAC in a previous blog, but a couple of days ago I received an email from Michelle Clancy, 53rd DAC PR/Marketing Chair, reporting on the conference attendance.  I have additional observations on the Austin conference as a result of the release.

As far as I am concerned the structure of the release was poor.  Readers were guided to consider the overall attendance numbers which was quite small. The increment in overall badges between the 2013 Austin DAC and this year is an increase of 125 badges.  That is an increase of 2.1% significantly less that the increase in the revenue of the EDA industry in the same span of time.  And in addition we have witnessed the growth of related industries who have a presence in and around Austin such as embedded systems and IoT.

What should be underlined is the difference between conference attendees badges from 2013 and 2016.  There were 719 more conference badge this year, while the free “I LOVE DAC” passes were down 564 for the same comparison.  To me this are the important data.  It means that there were fewer “tire kickers” who collect souvenirs and more technical program or tutorial attendees than in 2013.  These are the numbers that indicate success, but the press release did not dwell on them.

I also find it telling that the quote in the release from Howard Pakosh, managing partner of TEKSTART, which provides interim sales, marketing and business development capital to high-tech entrepreneurs, observes “The people we’ve been talking to in Austin are actually looking for information and solutions; they’re not just here because it’s an easy commute from Silicon Valley.”  Obviously Mr. Pakosh finds it a waste of time to exhibit in San Francisco.

My experience on the exhibit floor was different.  The fact that Synopsys chose to send fewer PR and marketing persons to Austin was a negative point for me.  It was difficult to find the right person to discuss business with.  The company also did not have their usual press/analysts dinner and this is unfortunate since their new message “silicon to software” was not well presented on the floor.  I left the conference without understanding the message, especially since I was told in my meeting with corporate marketing that their effort was to promote products from Coventry and Codenomicon to markets outside the electronics business.  Are those products the “software” they are talking about?  What about embedded software for all sort of applications, including those who use their ARC processors?

Cadence and Mentor booths were better staffed, at least I met all the professionals I needed to meet. It is of course time that Cadence realizes that “The Denali Party” does not take the place of a serious dinner with press and analysts.  The Heart of Technology party is a better choice if one wants music and drinks and it supports a good cause.  I go to DAC to do business, not to drink cheap drinks and fight for food in a crowded buffet line.

It is of course expected that the technical program offered by DAC covers leading edge issues and opportunities.  This part of DAC was well organized and run.

If the DAC committee sees the need to defend the choice of Austin as the venue for the conference, then why use the venue next year?  Clearly the have determined that Austin is a viable location.  I for one, did enjoy Austin as a host city and found the convention hall pleasant and well equipped.  Of course the distance between both sessions and exhibits to the press room was not at all convenient, but I do understand that the press room location was chosen because it allowed the building of the necessary temporary meeting rooms.

DAC: The Day After

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

The Design Automation Conference is over.  Much has already been written but there are a few items I found interesting that were not covered, or at least not extensively enough in my opinion.

The Fire.

Wednesday morning, shortly before 11:00 the fire alarm went off in the exhibit floor.  It took a few minutes for anyone to realize that it was not a test, and then evacuation proceedings started.  No panic, no running, no screaming.  Exhibitors and visitors proceeded orderly out of the building and had to wait only about 20 minutes before they were allowed back on the exhibit floor.  It smelled like an electrical wire had caught fire, but no official details were given.

Here is the Answer to the mystery.   OneSpin Solutions booth had, like many other booths, a sign hung from above its booth.  The difference was that, given the name of the company, the round sign was spinning slowly.  After the fire, the sign was no longer spinning: the electrical motor providing the motion had burned out.

Open Source

One of the topic of discussion this year was Open Source and how it could be used by our industry.  Many were those who did not see a fit.  One exception is OneSpin which is in fact offering an Open Source package.  If you are interested in formal verification issues, get in touch with them.  It may be the beginning of a business opportunity for you (and them, as a derivative market).

Most Improved Company

One of the things I do at DAC is gauge the difference from one year to the next of the profile and capabilities of a company.  This year I was impressed by S2C.  Last year, this FPGA prototyping company was present at CAD but still looked as the Chinese headquartered company that in fact it is.  But this year they were fully Americanized.  One of the issues that most non-American companies suffer from is the lack of good marketing.  In the space of one year S2C has solved that and its presence at DAC was as professional and as well approachable as any.  Product quality and support is good.  It merits your attention.

Notable Acquisition

Attendees going to visit the Gold Standard Simulator booth found a little note pinned on the back of the booth announcing that they had been acquired by Synopsys.  Gold Standard Simulator or GSS as Chi-Foon prefers to call it, had in fact been acquired by Synopsys about two weeks prior to the opening of DAC.  The Company, based in Scotland, may not have had the best of corporate names, but it did have a very good TCAD solution.  I first saw it at DAC 2014 and told Aart about them.  Last year they could provide me with an impressive list of customers.  It was a good acquisition on both aspects: now we will see how Synopsys can manage and leverage this very good simulator.\

Unique Business Approach

Verific may not be one of the most well-known EDA companies, but it sure is successful and has a unique business model.  For DAC attendees, Verific is the giraffe company.  Every year large number of attendees walk around DAC with a giraffe of various sizes.  This year was no difference.  The symbol was chosen for two reasons: the founders are all above six feet tall and the company wants to present itself as being above all.  Anyway, back to the business model.  Verific looks for startups that need parsers and have a business model that looks promising.  Then it licenses its products to those companies for free to help them through the incubation process.  In fact it may do even more than that and assume functions that are typically performed by VC’s.  Verific may find a marketing professional to act either as a consultant or a full time employee for the startup.  It may even find early stage investors.  So what does Verific gain from all this?  It gains market presence and license fees flow once the company is successful.  For those who may still question the efficacy of the approach, 26 companies so far that received free licenses early in their development have been not only successful, but have all been acquired by well established corporate entities.  The last one in chronological order is Altera.  Synopsys acquired nine such companies, and both Mentor and Cadence five each.


Is Austin a good place for DAC?

Final attendance numbers are not in yet.  The attendance profile was typical: very good free Monday that started with an impressive long line of on-site registrants, and reasonable amount of visitors on the exhibit floor both Tuesday and Wednesday.  The hit of the show was the tee shirt stating: “Keep Austin Nerdy”.

Good food, steaks and Tex-Mex within walking distance of the Convention center, and good music downtown.  As with almost all large American cities Austin suffer from traffic congestion and from homelessness.  It is hot and humid during the day, and humid in the evening, so next year dress appropriately, we are going back to Austin, and who know how many new restaurants and music joints we will be discovering.

GarySmith EDA without Gary

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

This was the first DAC without Gary in many years.  His usual welcome presentation was delivered by Laurie Balch a long time collaborator of Gary’s.  Many of those in the audience left thinking that the presentation was negative as far as the EDA industry was concerned.  I disagree.  What was missing was Gary’s enthusiasm for the industry and his belief that we can overcome. Come what may.

Laurie delivered a fact based view of the industry.  It is true that the industry has yet to grow away from its preoccupation about “big silicon” as the number of companies that will require state of the art process technology is shrinking every year.  Costs are just growing to the point that a company needs a very large production run to amortize the investment.

What I found remarkable is that people in the audience were disappointed by the type of growth presented.  According to Laurie the industry grew by 4.7% last year, will grow by 5.1% this year and show significant positive growth to reach $11,232 million in revenue by 2020.

It is also true that the industry needs to widen its market or become stagnant.  Truth is difficult to digest, and people prefer sugar coated analysis.  Laurie indicated a couple of directions the industry can take to widen its market, but all require work and creativity.  An industry whose existence is based on creativity seems to have grown lazy.  I do not believe this is the fact.  I believe that we have difficult decisions in front of us, and choosing the best one is challenging.

Certainly we can make software a part of EDA.  After all software, firmware in fact, is used to tailor a piece of hardware into a special purpose hardware device.  The software development tools are different, they have different price points and must be marketed and sold differently than hardware development tools, but so what.  We market and sell PCB tools differently than IC tools today.

To be recognized by the financial markets we must expand our available market size.  This is obvious.  So Laurie is correct: the EDA industry must become something more than what it is: intrinsic growth means only survival.  We need creativity, something we have always had so far.  Let’s let go of what is comfortable and explore new markets: we know how to do it if we stop being afraid.

Garage sale at UBM

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

A couple of the most iconic titles in the EDA industry, both Us and Asia EE Times and EDN, have been sold together with ESM, Embedded, EBN, TechOnline and for a mere $23.5 million to Arrow Electronics.  The publications and portals generated a total income of $19 million in 2015.  This means that Arrow paid just $4.5 million more than one-year revenue for the package.

That UBM, an otherwise successful British company, had lost interest in the publications was obvious to me as early as 2003 when I was a full time employee of EDN.  UBM was not interested in new creative ways to grow, insisting on bottom line results instead.  The publications have tried new things while forced to stay on an unrealistic budget, but the publishing revolution required investments, not profits at all costs.

So staff left, slowly but surely, with just a few good and brave professionals, dedicated to the brand left to save the fort.  And those who left, became the competition, contributing to make things even more difficult.

I suppose that can contribute almost immediately to Arrows income, but what of the publication? Last year, Arrow acquired the United Technical Publishing arm of Hearst Media.  The company official press release states that: With this agreement with UBM, Arrow strengthens its position as a foremost thought leader and trusted advisor in IoT and technology design trends.”   Clearly the strategy is that the publishing arm will convince the readers to purchase from Arrow.  But those publications cover a lot of material that you cannot purchase from Arrow, like EDA tools and IP products.

Will the present staff stay?  Aside for a continuing salary what are the prospects?  If Arrow fails it will be too late to leave, so how long do they have to create a new publishing strategy?  Is there one that has yet to be tried?  The problem, as I see it, is that they are competing with a number of publications that have a very low overhead.  Does that mean significant numbers of layoffs?

Arrow’s strategy is new, and thus unproven.  What remains to be seen is what contents these publications will carry in order to fulfill the plan.