Electronic Design

Scanning The Sessions

This year's DAC comes at a time when the semiconductor industry has been in a deep two-year recession. New design tools and methodologies certainly could help, and there's no better place to learn about them than at DAC.

Keynote talks are always highlights of the program. Tuesday's keynote address by Sir Robin Saxby, chairman of ARM, is titled "Under 100 nm... A Giant Leap for Mankind?" Saxby will detail how the cost of design in the nanometer age has begun to approach that of fabrication, causing a shift in emphasis that will require fundamental changes in the design domain.

The Thursday keynote, delivered by Prof. Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli of the University of California at Berkeley, chronicles "The Tides of EDA." The talk will show how EDA's history has demonstrated clear cyclical patterns, with progress denoted by crystallization of new methodologies. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, a founder of both Cadence and Synopsys, feels that EDA is at a critical juncture. The industry must set a course toward the future, and he'll discuss just what that course should be.

Those interested in future EDA directions should also plan on attending a Monday panel session in the DAC Pavilion titled "Ask the CTO." Moderator Phillipe Magarshack of STMicroelectronics will be joined by Raul Camposano and Ted Vucurevich, chief technology officers of Synopsys and Cadence, respectively. It's your chance to directly question the CTOs of two dominant EDA vendors as to where they see technology heading.

If there is an overall theme in the conference's 40 regular sessions, seven special sessions, and eight panel discussions, it's low-power design. Over 70 papers were submitted in this area.

Several sessions target low power. A Tuesday morning panel titled "Reshaping EDA for Power" brings together experts in circuit design and tool development. Chaired by Jan Rabaey of UC Berkeley, a former DAC general chairman, the group will discuss today's state-of-the-art design tools for low-power design.

Power-grid analysis and optimization will be tackled in Session 8. Representatives of industry and academia will present new approaches to on-chip power-grid design.

A Monday tutorial titled "Design Techniques for Power Reduction" will cover methods for reducing active and standby power consumption for desktop and portable systems. The full-day session starts with fundamentals and funnels down to specific techniques, such as clock gating, gate sizing, leakage reduction, and more.

A secondary thrust of the DAC program for several years now has been embedded-system design. The intersection of embedded systems and low power occurs in Session 9, where papers will explore various design considerations. Topics include variable voltage scaling, memory organization for low power, and power management using component mode transitions.

System-level design and verification issues get their fair share of attention this year. A Friday tutorial, "Assertion-Based Verification," will bring attendees up to speed on the use of Accellera's Property Specification Language, an emerging industry standard based on IBM's Sugar 2.0 assertion language.

Accellera itself will conduct a Monday-morning workshop on SystemVerilog, covering use of the language for design, description of testbenches, and assertions. It will also address the language's C interface and application programming interfaces to tools.

The Open SystemC Initiative (OSCI) will conduct a free technology symposium on Tuesday, moderated by Gary Smith of Gartner Dataquest. Presentations include an overview and update of SystemC and its status, a talk on SystemC working groups along with a technology roadmap, and case studies showing the success of the language in complex designs.

Monday's all-day workshops are perennially of interest. One, the Workshop for Women in Design Automation, asks: "Would Life Be Different If Risk Were Not a Factor? Managing Life and Career Transition." Penny Herscher, vice president and chief marketing officer of Cadence, will give a keynote.

The Interoperability Workshop will assess interoperability issues in the wake of the OpenAccess Coalition's growth and Synopsys' announcement of its intention to open the Milkyway database with a common application programming interface. There will be updates on these efforts as well as an open panel discussion.

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