Archive for January, 2009

No Safe Place To Hide

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

My day was over and I was riding in the elevator on my way home from work. The other passengers had left so I was the only one. Then I heard it. It was a woman’s voice and it was very faint.

I quickly glanced at my cell phone. Off.

I searched in my bag. Nothing.

Running out of options, my eyes wandered over to the elevator control panel and the emergency phone box under the buttons. The little door was unlocked so I opened it slowly and the voice grew louder.

“If you would like to reduce your interest rate, dial 1 now”.

Talk about interruption marketing!!!

Next thing you know, they’ll be advertising in the restrooms!!!

And you thought EDA sales guys were annoying :-)

harry the ASIC guy

DVCon Survey Results - What Do They Mean?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I came across some interesting survey results from the 2007 and 2008 DVCon. Keep in mind, like with any survey, results are skewed based on attendees, which tend to be verification engineers who tend to be using the more advanced methods than the general population. Hence, I’d put more weight on the trends than on the absolute numbers.

1) Which is your primary design language?
                2007     2008
Verilog          56%      55%
VHDL              9%      10%
C/C++            13%      12%
SystemC           9%       8%
SystemVerilog    13%      15%

2 Which primary verification language do you use?
                2007     2008
C/C+             18%      18%
e                 7%       5%
OpenVera          4%       4%
Verilog          28%      25%
VHDL              7%       7%
System C         13%      11%
SystemVerilog    23%      30%

3) Which primary verification language do you plan to
use for your next design?
                2007     2008
C/C++            16%      15%
e                 5%       4%
OpenVera          1%       2%
Verilog          16%      16%
VHDL              4%       5%
SystemC          15%      11%
SystemVerilog    43%      47%

4) Which primary property specification (assertion-based
verification) language do you use?
                2007     2008
Verilog          31%      34%
VHDL              7%       6%
PSL              12%      10%
SVA              49%      50%

Thoughts?

harry the ASIC guy

SaaS - With None of the Benefits

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

A friend just made me aware of a new “No EDA Tool Purchase” plan from Blue Pearl Software.

Hmmm …. sounds like Software-as-a-Service with none of the benefits for customer or vendor:

  • Customer still needs to generate a PO. (By old school thinking, that’s a way to “qualify” the customer.  New school, that’s a barrier to customers actually trying your tool).
  • Still need to install software at the customer’s site. (”What OS are you running? What version? Do you have the right version of ActiveTcl installed?” Ugh!!!)
  • Still need to incur the cost of travel. (Nuff said)
  • Have to get the work done in a 2-day fixed window (Is anything ever done in this short a timeframe? If not, then what?)
  • Have to schedule to when the AE is available, so customer can’t do this on a moment’s notice. (How does a month from now sound … Oh … never mind … AE is out that week … how about the following week).
  • Need to dedicate an AE full-time per customer. (What’s he do while the customer goes to meetings?)

Instead, why not:

  • make the software available online
  • let the designer upload his RTL and work from his desk
  • let the AE work remotely from his office

No PO required. No installation issues. No travel. Easy to schedule and staff and extend if needed. (See what Xuropa is doing). Heck, why not just sell the software that way while you’re at it.

Maybe I’m missing something.  Maybe someone from Blue Pearl wants to explain what the thinking behind this is.

And if you’re interested in topics like this, stay tuned for more on the upcoming SaaS EDA Roundtable at DVCon.

harry the ASIC guy

** FREE ** Conferences

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

How much would you pay to be in the audience for some of the most thought provoking conference presentations from some of the greatest minds in the world. Here’s your ticket.

It’s FREE … completely FREE.

No registration. No airplanes. No hotels. No rental car.

While you sit at home, on a Sunday afternoon, drinking a beer.

Of course, nothing can completely replace the face to face interaction at a real conference. But in these “hard times” and with the technologies like flip cameras making video ubiquitous, it’s a damn good alternative.

It should be interesting to see what comes of DVCon, SNUG, and DAC this year in this regard. My prediction is that you will see an explosion of coverage. Videos (authorized and pirated) of presentations and floor and suite demos and interviews on flip cameras. Blog posts. Twitter feeds with customer hashtags.

What do you think?

harry the ASIC guy

The Dream Lives On

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Although I’ve observed the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. every year since I was a child, I must acknowledge, for obvious reasons, that this year was special. The confluence of this holiday with the inauguration of the first African American President seems like the culmination of the dream that Dr. King spoke of in 1963. Even though I am not African American, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride that this nation was able to finally make good on the check that the founding fathers wrote over 2 centuries ago when they said that “all men are created equal”.

I’m not naive enough to believe that we now have complete equality and that there are no racial, cultural, or religious biases remaining in the US. I know several people that harbor prejudices towards “others”. Indeed, many Americans have simply found new groups towards which to have these biases. And if history teaches us anything, it’s that history repeats itself. That is why I feel it is so important that we teach our children about Slavery, the Holocaust and other ugly chapters in American and World History .. so (hopefully) it does not occur again.

Still, I realized the other day how fortunate I am to work in a truly global engineering community that is so diverse and where people are, for the most part, judged not by the color of their skin, but by their abilities. I won’t lie and say that I am not aware of the race or nationality or cultural background of the people I work with. Of course I am. But it just isn’t that important to me. And hopefully my race is not that important to them.

If you have the time, watch the video of Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech and share it with someone who needs to hear it. Or if you have a little more time, read Dr. King’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail (thanks to John Ford for pointing this out in a tweet). In our current age of the sound bite, we rarely hear or read anything so eloquent or poetic.  It’s worth your time.

harry the ASIC guy

SaaS EDA Roundtable at DVCON

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I’m arranging for a meeting room for an EDA SaaS roundtable discussion at DVCon in San Jose sometime between Feb 24 - Feb 26.  What I need is some volunteers to help me organize this event. For instance:

  • What will be the format and topics for discussion?
  • Who will be the key participants?
  • What do we hope to get out of this event?
  • Who is bringing the refreshments?

If you are concerned about the time commitment, I think it will be fairly minimal.  I was part of a group that helped organize the Blogger Birds of a Feather session at DAC last year and it took about an hour on 3-4 Saturday mornings.

If you would like to be part of the planning for this event, please let me know.

Also, if your company would like to be part of the roundtable, please let me know as well.

harry the ASIC guy

Change Everything By Changing One Thing

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

As usual, I came across another great post by Seth Godin regarding pricing models.

Netflix revolutionized the movie rental business simply by charging by the month rather than by the rental.

Apple changed the music industry with iTunes by letting me download only the songs I like for just 99 cents each rather than pay for the whole album.

Nokia is changing the music industry once more with their “Comes With Music” phone. It comes with unlimited music downloads from the 4 top labels for a fixed subscription fee rather than me paying for each download.

Adobe is now offering a free online version of Photoshop that lets me do almost everything I can do with the professional full priced version.

In all these examples … changing the pricing model changed everything.

What if EDA companies priced their tools like a subscription? A fixed fee gets you any tool they have as long as you only use one license at a time.

Or pay-per-use? Need to do some regression sims? Just pay for the number of sims you do.

Or what about tiered pricing? Full price for the 1st license and less for each additional license?

Sure, these are pretty whacky ideas for an industry as mature as EDA. But maybe that’s what the industry needs.  Someone to change everything by changing just one thing … their pricing model.

harry the ASIC guy

2009 New Years Resolutions

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Back in March when I launched this blog, my goal was “to share my insights into the people aspects of ASIC engineering”. Now, 10 months and 50 posts later, with the start of 2009, it’s time to take stock and make some 2009 New Years Resolutions.  Here we go:

#1 - I resolve to write shorter and more frequent posts. - Specifically, my goal is to provide a new post 2 times a week and most of them will take less than 5 minutes to read.  By doing this, I hope to be more responsive to what is going on in the industry and provide fresher content. Once in a while I’ll still put up a lengthy post, but that will be the exception.

#2 - I resolve to enable some sort of online community  - So far, the conversation has been mostly from me to you (the readers) and occasionally between the you (through comments). I’d like to get us all involved in doing something meaningful and important in the industry. I’ve had this idea for a while that I called “the ASIC guild” that would be a community of ASIC designers helping each other access career training and job opportunities. With all the layoffs in the industry lately, I think this is very timely. Look for something real soon, but I will need a lot of help. So please let me know if you are interested in helping.

#3 - SaaS for EDA Roundtable - Over the last few months, I’ve blogged quite a bit on the idea of Software-as-a-Service for EDA. A fellow blogger suggested that I organize a roundtable discussion on this topic and I am shooting for DVCON (Feb 24-26) to hold this.  This will also require your help, so please let me know if you are interested in helping to organize or be a part of this.

What do you all think?  Are these the right things to shoot for in 2009?

harry the ASIC guy

Top 10 Posts of 2008

Monday, January 5th, 2009

As a way of closing the door on 2008 and opening the door on 2009, I thought I’d start with a list of the Top 10 Posts of 2008. In order to be fair, I took into account several factors including the # of views, the # of comments, the distribution of views over time, the standard deviation of the mean time between views … OK … I’ll admit it, I just picked the ones that were my favorites and also what seemed to be the most popular.  Enjoy!

Most Views - 24 - Season 6.5 - 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM - This tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the last hours for Mike Fister and the rest of the Cadence executive team got the most total views as well as the largest number of views in a single day.

Most “Out on a Limb Post” - Birth of an EDA Revolution - My bold prediction of a revolution in EDA. This post was the first of several that covered topics like Cloud Computing, Software-as-a-Service, and other collaborative trends that will impact EDA in the upcoming year.

Most Commented Post - Gary Smith and EE Times Must Read This Blog! - This post incited 11 reader comments (including one from me). Interestingly, it was also one of my shortest posts. Hmmm … I think you all are trying to tell me something.  (Check out my new years resolutions in my next post).

Longest Comment on a Post - Who’s Right? Gary or Seth? - Elicited one comment that was 923 words long. Sheesh … The Gettysburg Address was only 272 words! Seriously, I appreciate the time Paul took to provide a thoughtful comment.

Most Plagiarized Post - Breaking News … Accellera Verification Working Group Forming - Someone liked the post so much that he/she felt compelled to grab a fake email address and repost a slightly modified version on comp.lang.verilog. Bizarre!

Most Popular Personal Post(s) -  Verizon Sucks! & ABC - Always Be Closing - The first post needs no explanation.  The latter describes how the California Public School System is training 2nd graders to cold call to raise funds to support education. This post also created somewhat of a border war between democrats in NoCal blaming lack of funding and republicans in Orange County calling for vouchers. I should have seen that coming.

Long Tail Post - My Favorite SNUG Presentation -References Mike Keating’s Discussion on Low Power at the 2008 Synopsys Users Group. Has been viewed more in the past 6 months than in the first month. (Unfortunately, Synopsys has redesigned their website and the presentation is no longer to be found by my cursory glance. What a shame. If someone at Synopsys knows where this now lives, please let us know.)

First “Real” Post -The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - My 3rd post overall, but the 1st one that I really put some time and energy and thought into.  Kinda like seeing the pilot for a TV show.

Almost Started a Fight Post - Airbags and Global Warming - By drawing an analogy between two difficult engineering problems, I almost started an international incident.  Comments include an emotional stab at “Mr. Bush” from the left and a dispassionate analysis from the right.

First “Hit A Nerve” Post - Is IP a 4-Letter Word? - This was my first post to illicit a strong set of your comments, calling for more transparency in the IP industry. I guess IP IS a 4 letter word!

That’s all folks.  Look for my New Years Resolutions later this week.

harry the ASIC guy

Do The Right Thing

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I recently caught up with one of my best friends whom I’ve known since Junior High School.  We were on the Math Team together in High School (yeah, we were geeks). We went to MIT together. We moved to Southern California after college together. We got our Masters degrees at USC together. And we both worked in the aerospace industry as our first jobs.

After several years at the Aerospace Corporation, Gary moved back to New York for family reasons. As it turned out, much of the engineering methods and mathematics used to analyze spacecraft attitude control stability (estimation theory stuff like Kalman Filters, etc.) were directly applicable to computational finance (or what is more recently been called financial engineering). With this knowledge, Gary landed a job at an investment bank and did very well, analyzing complex financial instruments to help clients hedge against risk (at least I think that’s what he did … I don’t really understand this stuff that well).

Shortly after September 11, Gary left the corporate world in order to spend more time with his young growing family and to chart his own course.  He performed some personal investing for private clients and eventually created and ran his own privately managed mutual fund. I know this was a big deal for him and he took it very seriously.  He always did painstaking research on companies he’d invest in and never took undue risks with his clients’ money.  As he told me the other day, “this is not a game”.

The first year or two the mutual fund did pretty well. Not great. Not terrible. But pretty good.

Early in 2008 I called Gary’s business line and the number was no longer in service. I left several messages at his home number but did not hear back. Finally, about a month and a half later I got a hold of Gary and asked him what was up. As it turns out, Gary had been really busy with all of the details of closing down the mutual fund he had started less than 2 years earlier. And here is where the story gets interesting.

Gary had been talking with lots of companies about their business and sensed from all of them that things were not good.  He also had a first-hand understanding of the financial markets and financial instruments that were to eventually be blamed for the real estate crisis. Whereas Gary had worked on creating these products to hedge against risk, others were using them to create risk and the ratings agency’s were covering it all up by putting AAA ratings on them.

All in all, Gary knew that there was going to be bad times coming up.  So what did he do?

  • Did he paint a rosy picture for his clients so they would keep their money in his fund and he could continue to collect his management fee?
  • Did he go out and get new investors in order to pay impressive returns to the older ones?
  • Did he do something else to cover it up (after all, he knows enough to do that)?

No.  Gary did what it seems that very few in financial services would do.  Gary called up each of his clients and told the truth.  That there was going to be bad times and that he could not make money for them in this environment.  That the risk was too high.  And, even though he had put so much effort into building this fund, he was going to close it down for their benefit.

Many of his clients wanted him to keep going and were willing to assume the risk, but in the end he convinced them to cash most of it out and closed down the fund.

This was early in 2008, before the worst of the news and most of the crash occurred.  Now, looking back at that decision, Gary’s decision probably saved his client’s millions of dollars.  Some of them have called to thank him since then.

I think this is a great story about integrity and ethics and a great way to wash off the slime of 2008 and start 2009 clean and fresh.  If you have not yet chosen a new year’s resolution, let me suggest one.

Just once in 2009, do the right thing when you stand to lose.

harry the ASIC guy