Electronic Design

DAC Survey Results: A New Perspective On EDA?

It is fascinating, sometimes, when we get glimpses of information that opens a window onto a broader landscape, providing new perspectives on old ground.

Such was the effect of a recently completed Design Automation Conference (DAC) survey, comparing the perception of a range of DAC exhibitors with the reality of the conference statistics. Not only were some of the findings unexpected, but as with so many aspects of this show, they also opened up a new perspective on the entire EDA business and related industries.

An inspection of the basic statistics revealed that conference attendance has been rising for the past three years. The number of exhibitors has also increased from slightly over 200 to almost 250 over the last five DACs. When the attendee numbers are broken down, there is a healthy level of senior leaders and engineering managers from most of the top electronics companies worldwide turning up, representing almost 40% of non-exhibitor attendees. While location of the 2006 DAC in San Francisco might have helped with attracting conference-goers, the number of paying attendees has been on the increase, regardless of venue.

This is not limited to technologists either. Attendance by members of the press and analyst groups almost doubled between 2004 and 2006. In the survey, all of the exhibitors with suites at the show report that they are 85% to 100% utilized, with most of this time taken up by key customer meetings. Lead generation earned a rating of four out of a possible five in overall satisfaction from almost every exhibitor surveyed.

This all looks pretty positive, so what is the issue? Well, the perception survey results were also positive in general, with many exhibitors stating that their return on investment from DAC was high. They found many of the recent enhancements to the show, such as improved floor layout, were very effective, and overall their DAC experience was positive. However, they had a number of misperceptions that included relatively flat attendee number growth, unchanging exhibitor numbers, and static exhibit traffic density from year to year.

DAC has traditionally been a lightning rod for the EDA industry, as one exhibitor observed. It is regarded as a forum that attracts the entire electronic design community, and is a key trend-setter in this business. It also offers a terrific networking opportunity for all attendees. So, if the trends are positive but the perception is steady, is this a reflection on the overall industry?

EDA revenue has been up this year, and continues to show momentum. Customer requirements, such as multicore processor-related design issues, and manufacturing problems introduced by ever-shrinking geometries, are prominent. Acquisitions of smaller companies by large players are again becoming more apparent. It seems like the EDA industry is getting active again. But talk to potential investors, commentators, and stakeholders alike, and you get the sense is of a "maturing" business.

So, if a survey of DAC exhibitors’ perceptions compared to actual results is what it takes to drive recognition of an expanding, vibrant conference, what is needed to create the same recognition for the industry at large? Maybe this year’s DAC will provide the impetus to jump-start industry perception and, given some of the papers, exhibitions, and other attractions, it could very well lead the charge. After all, it’s not your Daddy’s DAC!

Dave Kelf has more than 17 years experience in EDA and is currently working as a consultant. He has held senior-level marketing positions, including Director of Simulation Marketing at both Cadence and Synopsys, VP of Marketing for Novas Software and at Co-Design Automation, originator of the SystemVerilog language. Kelf holds a MSc degree in microelectronics and an MBA.

Note from Nanette Collins, publicity chair for the 44th DAC: DAC has undertaken several ambitious projects this year, including a survey of exhibitors to better understand how DAC is perceived and how it needs to evolve. EDA executive Dave Kelf conducted the survey. For a copy of the survey, contact Lee Wood at MP Associates, DAC’s management company. He can be reached at [email protected].

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