Put Up or Shut Up

By Greg Spirakis, Panel Chair, 46th Design Automation Conference

Greg Spirakis

The EDA community is often criticized for not doing a good job of responding to the user community. The perceived attitude among designers is that EDA developers are more interested in coming up with “novel” algorithms rather than solving the problems of the design community. I don’t happen to think this criticism is fair. Most EDA developers are genuinely interested in solving problems although, often times, there are legitimate differences of opinion as to how to best approach a particular situation.

That said, the many volunteers of DAC have been listening and are making a big change for this year’s conference. Perhaps you’ve already heard of it. It goes by the fairly descriptive though not terribly clever name of “User Track.” Unlike past years where the technical papers were focused on topics primarily of interest to an EDA developer, this year there is a collection of papers that were selected by and for the EDA user community.

The nine sessions of the three-day User Track will cover front- and back-end design processes from power planning and analysis in the front-end to real-world timing analysis in the back-end. A Wednesday poster session will include more than 40 additional presentations.

Now, you may wonder whether this is really just a smoke screen for getting papers into the program that couldn’t quite make it to the traditional DAC paper sessions, but a quick look at the process and results suggest otherwise. Paper selection was handled in the same rigorous and unbiased way that has been used in years past. The key difference is that only EDA users were involved in the selection and the criteria for acceptance were adjusted accordingly. And, those users were pretty picky. They accepted about 30% of the papers submitted for presentations.

Also, take a look at where these papers are coming from –– it reads as a virtual who’s who of semiconductor design companies. You have Intel, Cisco, Qualcomm, Samsung and STMicroelectronics to name a few. In fact, if you look at a list of the authors, the majority of the authors are from non-EDA companies. From my perspective, it’s a golden opportunity to find out how your colleagues and peers are solving some key design problems. As a bonus, you get to hear it directly from the engineer’s mouth, not filtered through some third party. This alone should be worth the price of admission. And yes, you can still go to the show floor and hunt down a free T-shirt or some other hot giveaway.

That leads me to the title of this article: It’s put up or shut up time for the design community. Are you going to make an effort to put your time where your mouth is and support the user track by attending one or more sessions or are you going to let it die on the vine?

Times are tough and travel budgets are limited but you should ask yourself this question: “Where else will you have a chance to find out how some of today’s biggest design problems are being solved by some of the most talented people in the design community?” Miss this opportunity at your own risk. If it were me, I’d be turning to the designer in the cubicle next to me and making sure that one of us was attending. You might not get another chance.

Greg Spirakis was the Panel chair for the 46th Design Automation Conference that was held July 26-31 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. He is a former vice president from Intel Corporation's Technology & Manufacturing Group.

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