Issue No. 04 - July/August (2010 vol. 27)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MDT.2010.84
A Message from the Editor
With its purchase of chip design firm Agnilux, there is speculation that Google is following Apple into the IC design business. Apple, by the way, has bought PA Semi, a microprocessor design company a few years ago. This move underscores the rivalry between the two titans as they battle for leadership in the lucrative (as least for now) mobile web market. On top of that, a job ad from Microsoft fans the rumor that the software behemoth might be planning to use ARM processors to power its cloud servers. A developing trend seems to indicate that the high rollers are not content with buying commodity microprocessors from Intel to power their high-value, high-margin products. Instead, they want to develop their own chip and use it as a control point to differentiate from their competitors, in both the mobile and cloud space.
What do all these have to do with design automation? Well, a lot. Remember the good old days when there were more than a dozen companies competing in the microprocessor market, many more than the three to four top players that we have today? Old and familiar names like AT&T, Motorola, DEC, SGI, Fijitsu, National Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard, Sun, and so on certainly bring back moments of nostalgia. Those were the heydays when design automation was born, prospered, and established itself as a legitimate industry. Why? It is simple arithmetic—the number of licenses a DA vendor can sell is proportional to the number of practicing chip designers, which in turn is proportional to the number of active chip projects. The more, the merrier. In addition, more players in the fray means more competition for market share. Design tools are just the right weapons for the chip companies to battle each other in the highly contested marketplace. The company with the best design tools and methodology can do more with less, and can do it faster, hence reducing cost and time to market and revenue. The company with the best design tool will also come up with the highest-quality product, which allows the company to capture the largest market share and highest profit margin. Therefore, DA vendors have been rewarded handsomely for providing indispensable service to the design houses.
But the good times of yesteryear were followed by a wave of consolidation, and the dozens of microprocessor design companies dwindled down to a handful. The recent headlines involving Google, Apple, and Microsoft, however, could be indicative of a turnaround. With several industry giants entering the field, the competition is again heating up. We might finally gain the leverage to automate at the system level, to formally verify, to face 22 nm and beyond in its full complexity and variability, and to develop a comprehensive suite of tools and methodology for 3D IC enablement. Who knows, perhaps Amazon is the next one to join the party to put its cloud servers on steroids. Are we witnessing the harbinger of the next golden era of design automation?
David S. Kung
Senior Manager, Design Automation
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Message from the Editor
Thanks to all those who planned, executed, and participated as speakers and presenters in this year's Electronic Design Processes Symposium. The EDPS Workshop held its 17th yearly session in early April 2010. The EDPS focus is on how chips and systems are designed in the electronics industry. It provides a forum to discuss state-of-the-art design processes and CAD methodologies.
Here is hoping that all who attended this year's DAC enjoyed the presentations and took away valuable information, both at the conference sessions and from the many exhibits.
Please visit our website at http://www.datc.info, which has links to all our phone meeting minutes as well as our Newsletter and many other topics. Please take some time to critique the site; I would love some suggestions.
13th Euromicro Conference on Digital System Design (DSD 2010)
1–3 September 2010
23rd Symposium on Integrated Circuits and Systems Design
6–9 September 2010
São Paulo, Brazil
Forum on Specification & Design Languages
14–16 September 2010
23rd IEEE International SoC Conference
27–29 September 2010
Las Vegas, Nevada
IEEE/IFIP VLSI-SoC 2010
27–29 September 2010
2010 Conference on Design and Architectures for Signal and Image Processing (DASIP)
26–28 October 2010
Edinburgh, United Kingdom