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Grant Pierce Named BoD Chair of the ESD Alliance

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

The ESD Alliance (ESDA) has elected Grant Pierce (CEO of Sonics) as its Chairman of the Board a few weeks ago.  Grant is only the second Chair that is not a high level executive of one of the three big three EDA companies to hold the title, and the first since the organization, formerly EDAC renamed itself.  During the EDAC days it was customary for the CEOs of Cadence, Mentor and Synopsys to pass the title among themselves in an orderly manner.  The organization then reflected the mission of the EDA industry to support the development of hardware intensive silicon chips following Moore’s Law.

Things have changed since then, and the consortium responded by first appointing a new executive director, Bob Smith, then changing its name and its mission.  I talked with Grant to understand his view from the top.

Grant Pierce, Sonics CEO

Grant pointed out that: “We are trying to better reflect what has happened in the market place, both in terms of how our customers have developed further in the world of system on chip and what we have seen in the development of the EDA world where today the IP offerings in the market, both those from independent companies but also those from EDA companies are critical and integral to all the whole ecosystem for building today’s modern chips.”

Grant pointed out that ESDA has expanded its focus and has embraced not only hardware design and development but also software.  That does not mean, Grant pointed out, that the EDA companies are loosing importance but instead they are gaining a seat at the table with the software and the system design community in order to expand the scope of their businesses.

From my point of view, I interjected, I see the desired change implemented very slowly, still reacting to and not anticipating new demands.  So what do you think can happen in the next twelve months?

“From an ESDA point of view you are going to see us broadening the membership.” answered Grant.  ”We are looking to see how we can expand the focus of the organization through its working groups to zero-in on new topics that are broader than the ones that are currently there.  Like expanding beyond what is a common operating system to support for example.  I think you will see at a minimum two fronts, one opening on the software side while at the same time continuing work on the PPA (Power, Performance, Area) issues of chip design.  This involves a level of participation from parties that have not interacted this organization before.”

Grant believes that there should be more emphasis on the needs of small companies, those where innovation is taking place.  ESDA needs to seek the best opportunity to invigorate those companies.  “At the same time we must try to get system companies involved in an appropriate fashion, at least to the degree that they represent the software that is embedded in a system” concluded Grant.

We briefly speculated on what the RISC 5 movement might mean to ESDA.  Grant does not see much value for ESDA to focus on a specific instruction set, although he conceded that there might be value if RISC 5 joined ESDA.  I agree with the first part of his judgement, but I do not see any benefit to either party, or the industry for that matter, associated with RISC 5 joining ESDA.

From my point of view ESDA has a big hurdle to overcome.  For a few years, before Bob Smith was named executive director, EDAC was somewhat stagnant, and now it must catch up with market reality and fully address the complete system issue.  Not just hardware/software, but analog/digital, and the increased use of FPGA and MEMS.

For sure, representing an IP company gives Grant an opportunity to stress a different point of view within ESDA than the traditional EDA view.  The IP industry would not even exist without a system approach to design and it has changed the way architects think when first sketching a product on the back of an envelope.

ESDA to Host System Scaling Forum

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Gabe Moretti

Not too long ago EDAC was a quite consortium that only bothered analysts and journalists by issuing EDA market reports.  Since Bob Smith became its executive director it seems that not one week passes without another press release reaches my inbox.  First there was the name change, from EDAC to ESDA, just a little further down the alphabet.  Then there was a marketing agreement with SEMICO and the appointment of Lucio Lanza to the ESDA board.  Both with the aim to convince IP companies to join ESDA.  The easoning went something like this: ”We serve the same market, so why not collaborate?”

The latest move is to organize a working group on System Scaling.  No one knows what the working group mission is, but why not try something as long as it generates news.  So now ESDA seems to want to compete with Accellera, probably a very bad idea given the overlap of membership between the two organization at the board of directors level.  As usual ESDA did not ask for my advice.  Had they done so I would have told them to explore a working relationship with Accellera.  They have more experience in running successful working groups than most other organizations and ESDA might even gather a few suggestions on how to improve DAC, seen the results DVCon is producing worldwide.

The meeting is scheduled for May 17, from 6 to 8 PM at the impressive sounding ESDA Global Headquarters, 3081 Zanker Road in San Jose.  The evening is free of charge and open to members of the design and manufacturing community interested in system scaling.  Herb Reiter of EDA2ASIC Consulting will conduct the Forum that has been titled “More than Moore –– Enabling the Power of System Scaling”.  I called Herb to find out what “system scaling” is all about.  He told me that 3D and 2.5D Packaging is what he means when he talks about system scaling.  The idea is to package systems in a smaller volume.  The system is scaled to smaller dimensions thus the name.  He has authored a Multi-die IC design Guide of over 300 pages on the subject.  The volume can be downloaded from the eda2asic.com site free of charge.  The scope of the forum is to seek community input on direction and priorities for the System Scaling Working Group.

To be sure 3D and 2.5D packaging present a number of challenges to designers and verification engineers.  Place and route, power distribution, signal integrity are all issues found not only with traditional dies, but also on printed circuit boards (PCB).  Are the tools used today to analyze and solve these types of issues sufficient?  Is there human interface adequate?  How can the total system into which these packages are integrated be simulated while still maintaining the identity of each individual die?  I am sure there are more issues than just these, but the issue remains how an organization that has never run a technical working group can be efficient and effective from the start.

Lucio Lanza Joins ESDA Board

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

In a major change of the board structure, the Electronic System Design Association (ESDA) has elected Dr. Lucio Lanza to its Board of Directors.  Previously the Board members were only officers, and in most cases CEOs of member companies, but in an effort to broaden the outlook of the board to encompass ESDA’s new mission a new prospective on the electronic industry is required.

Dr. Lanza, the 2014 Phil Kaufman award winner, has spent all of his professional career in the electronic industry and is now a leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist and industry observer.  I asked Lucio the reason for his decision to join the ESDA board.  “It is a very important time for the next generation of electronic products. In the next few years we are going to have more products created than in the history of mankind.  The responsibility of organizations like ESDA to help people create those products is pretty significant.  So we need to make sure that we get well organized and we all cooperate.”

As it is typical of Lucio, he looks at the entire scope of the problem and defines organizations like ESDA as principal facilitator of the upcoming major change in the industry.  When Lucio looks at the purpose of what was EDAC he points out that the EDA industry had traditionally concentrated in enabling the electronic industry to step from one process node to the next while maintaining development costs practically flat.   This has been the EDA’s Moore’s Law.  It has been a success, but the challenges are different now, at least for the vast majority of companies and ventures that are looking at developing IoT products.  And one of the signals that the EDA industry has recognized this fact is the change of the EDAC name to ESDA.

Much has already been written about the new name: ESDA, and how there might have been better choices.  Personally I am glad that at the time we did not name Accellera as the Electronic Standards Development Association, or EDAC would really have had a much harder task renaming itself.  But the aim was to make a statement that electronic products are now much more than an orderly collection of silicon transistors, and that engineers require more than traditional EDA tools to efficiently develop them.  So the word “system” provides the best description of the problem to be solved.  The method to develop hardware has changed with the use of IP blocks, and the use of software has increased significantly.  The way Lucio explains it, makes it so clear that now I appreciate what motivated the name change.

Lucio points out that: “The traditional EDA tools are no longer sufficient to fulfill its own Moore’s Law.  In the last few years what engineers needed to design SoCs was availability of IP.  The issue became “Is there the right IP?”  Because up to 80% of the chip is not new development but new or modified IP.  Somehow we ended up designing new chips by assembling IP and designing only a minor portion from scratch.”

In looking at the state of development today Lucio found that many developers are spending ten times more in software than they are in hardware development and debug. He continued by pointing out that this is the problem to be addressed.  His message is that EDA intended as the provider of all development tools and methods, must find a way to bring the IP vendors and the software modules and tools providers to realize that everyone will benefit from a well-planned coordination on the supply side of the equation.

My next question dealt with how could ESDA contact a software tool company and convince it that it is in the common interest to “design together”.  “There are two steps here” said Lucio “the first step, which I cannot say I am an expert in, so I am very very humble, is to find out what is the environment today.  Are there companies that are already trying to do that?  If so, is there something we can do to help these people to acquire visibility?”  The second question is “Is there a way that potential users can encourage these companies and others to strengthen and expand such approach is the follow on question.  Organizations like ESDA must become the leaders in organizing and supporting this work.”

The just announced agreement between ESDA and Semico says Lucio is a way to understand that we are all after the same goals.   “if we cooperate the efficiency of the industry will increase and we all will benefit, not just benefit as businesses, but benefit as society.”

EDA Consortium Renamed Electronic System Design Alliance

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Gabe Moretti, Senior Editor

It is possible that names matter, but they only do if what they stand for reflect the intent.  A few days ago the EDA Consortium (EDAC) changed its name to the Electronic System Design (ESD) Alliance, an international association of companies providing goods and services throughout the semiconductor design ecosystem.

“EDAC was formed in 1989 during the go-go years,” says Robert Smith, its Executive Director. “EDA still is mission critical for chip design, but other complementary technologies and solutions are required to drive the design ecosystem. We intend to bring them all together under the ESD Alliance umbrella with an expanded scope of interest for a much broader design community.”

One thing that immediately comes to mind is that “ESDA” is not unique.  It turns out that ESDA means a number of things not associated with the new Alliance.  There is a group within the electronic industry called Electrostatic Discharge Association (ESDA) and also we have the Emergency Service Disaster Agency (ESDA).  Exclusivity in a search is therefore not guaranteed

But the new name has been chosen so the two names indicate that:

1)      The organization is still focused on electronics

2)      It still deals with design issues

3)      It is not focused anymore on automation of design functions but more on the creation and building of systems

4)      According to the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus Consortium is a synonym of Alliance so nothing changes as far as the organization style is concerned.

Let’s see what is behind the change.

“The ESD Alliance reflects the sea change happening in the semiconductor industry as chip design takes a more system-oriented approach,” remarks Lip-Bu Tan, president and CEO of Cadence Design Systems and co-chairman of the ESD Alliance Board of Directors. “With a new identity and expanded mission, the ESD Alliance is well-positioned to embrace and represent the design ecosystem now and in the future.”

.  By the way do we also need to change the name of our industry from EDA to ESD?

Electronic design always needed to have a system oriented approach, even if only a portion of the system was implemented on one die.  Engineers still assembled a system from a number of components.  Today so many transistors can be built on a die to make it possible to actually implement an entire system on one component.

Under its expanded charter, the ESD Alliance will deliver a forum for the interests of the integrated circuit (IC) and system design ecosystem, a critical component to the ongoing success of the $360 billion worldwide Semiconductor Industry.

New ESD Alliance initiatives are being formed to address the larger design ecosystem that includes semiconductor intellectual property (IP), embedded software, advanced packaging for system scaling and service companies that provide design know-how and resources. Working groups are being formed in all of these areas to focus on unique challenges and opportunities. They complement existing committees dedicated to the ecosystem’s interest in export, interoperability, license management and antipiracy, market statistics and trade shows.