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Communications of the ACM


The Future of Electronic Design Automation, According to IBM

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Jack Rosenberger

CACM Senior Editor Jack Rosenberger

Like many of the attendees at DAC 2010, I had the pleasure of hearing IBM Vice President of Innovation Bernie Meyerson deliver his keynote speech titled “Echoes of DACs Past: From Prediction to Realization, and Watts Next?” It was Meyerson’s second keynote speech at DAC in five years, and it’s easy to see why—with his sense of humor, abundant intelligence, and propensity for provocative statements—he was invited to address DAC again.

One of the main themes of Meyerson’s speech is how the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry is rapidly changing. (DAC 2010’s first keynote speaker, Douglas Grouse, CEO of GlobalFoundries, also addressed this issue in his talk titled “From Contract to Collaboration: Delivering a New Approach to Foundry.”) For Meyerson, the new bottom line for the semiconductor industry is encapsulated in these four bullet points:

* Innovation drives performance, period. There are no magic bullets left, just a lot of hard work.

* System, not chip performance, is the new metric. A focus on enabling solutions is emerging: stream computing, application-specific acceleration, and appliances.

* Cloud computing is emergent as a class of solution as applied to EDA. EDA clouds have proven track records in supporting demanding users on a global scale. Economy of scale, agile and adaptive capacity, and the conversion of Capex to Opex, all favor this trend.

* The transformation of the semiconductor industry is accelerating.

In his prior DAC keynote, Meyerson made a series of predictions about the future of EDA, and during the question-and-answer session, he was asked about his predictions for the next five years. Off the cuff, Meyerson mentioned the evolution of non-planar devices; hybrid computing, namely, agile accelerators with chips; and remote systems in which latency is stretched and instantaneous response is produced. In speaking about remote systems, Meyerson was clearly impressed with the gaming world’s ability to host fast, interactive sites for a worldwide audience, and suggested that the EDA industry adopt “the cleaver algorithms” and techniques of the gaming industry.

Earlier, I alluded to Meyerson’s sense of humor, which is broad and refreshingly gentle. His best quip involved engineers (I’m paraphrasing): A truly talented engineer is someone who, when his hand gets slammed in a doorway and is badly hurt, inserts his other hand in the doorway and slams the door shut on it, so he can get a second set of data.

In preparation for blogging about Meyerson’s keynote, I did some online research and found these interesting video interviews.

Synopsis conducted a kitchen table-style conversation with Meyerson and 20-plus EDA experts at DAC 2010. All of these talks are available here

On March 2, 2009, Meyerson did a four-and-a half minute TV interview about innovation in an economic downturn (link here). The best segment is when the interviewer asked, “How do you go from the idea stage to the actualization stage?” Meyerson’s reply: “First and foremost, stop trying to convince others that it’s a great idea for them to do. Do it yourself. You have to step up and own the idea. If you don’t step up and own it, no one’s going to believe in your idea. Second, find the people who can complete what you want done. You’re not the only smart person in the universe... You have to find the people who have the necessary skills to help get the job done.”

Jack Rosenberger is senior editor, news, of Communications of the ACM.



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