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Electronic Design

Technology Challenges Unabated In 2005

By most accounts, the buzz at the 41st Design Automation Conference (DAC) in 2004 centered around design for manufacturing (DFM), power and signal integrity, electronic system-level design (ESL), and design and verification languages. As we head into the new year, it's interesting to speculate on what may be 2005's hot topics.

Applications are driving everything, including tools. Consumer electronics, automotive, and wireless communications are forcing upon the industry all of the challenges cited by prognosticators: ESL design reuse because time-to-market needs to be further reduced; power reduction to allow for more portable devices; mixed-signal design to interface to the consumer; and DFM tools as designs plunge to smaller geometries due to increasing complexity.

The pull in two directions will continue. DFM and ESL are approaches that pull in opposite directions. Going toward smaller dimensions requires designers who once tried to stay "above the fray" to have the knowledge and tools to meet manufacturing challenges. But the need to increase productivity requires design at a higher level. Foundries, designers, and tool developers must share problems and solutions to make progress in increasing yield possible.

Verification will still be a challenge, with no "silver bullet" in sight. Formal methods are always represented at conferences and shows, with panels, technical sessions, and product offerings, while simulation and acceleration continue as the workhorses of functional correctness. Simulation isn't going away, and formal methods won't take over. But combinations of analytic and test-case-pounding methods will be needed to get the design cycle under control.

A complete integrated design solution will still be in the future. With 2004's "The Last Interoperability Workshop" at DAC being replaced by "The First Integrated Design System Workshop" in 2005, and OpenAccess still working to align a divergent set of participating users and vendors, a real environment of interchangeable parts is still a ways off.

At DAC, these challenges will be debated and disputed in an open and lively environment. The more than 700 technical papers submitted to next year's conference (which often prefigure future products) reveal a greater interest in reconfigurability, embedded applications, interconnect, DFM, and power analysis. New exhibiting companies will show up to present a better solution to their part of electronic design, adding to the excitement.

Don't miss the 42nd DAC, June 13-17, 2005, in Anaheim, Calif. More details can be found at It appears that 2005 is setting up to be an exciting year!

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