DAC Day One: EDA Through Different Glasses

Is the glass half full or half empty? The same can be said of opportunities within EDA, but it depends which glasses you have on.


DAC is back in Austin after being away for three years. The weather improved for our arrival after the bad thunderstorms of the past couple of weeks. The sun came out and started to heat everything up. With water still pooling around the place, it was somewhat humorous to see a bus pass with the slogan “Think about Austin without water.”

DAC starts, as it always has in my memory, with a presentation about the state of EDA and the growth opportunities ahead. There is more than a touch of sadness as everyone gathers in the room today because there will be no white suit, no orange socks and most importantly, no Gary Smith. But his legacy continues and Gary Smith EDA is still getting DAC off to an early start. This year, the presentation is being given by Laurie Balch, GSEDA’s chief analyst.

Laurie Balch

Balch says there is a lot to see at DAC this year, starting from low level transistor improvements and power optimization, going all the way up to ESL and from PCB design to chip design. At the same time she says that there is no real focus and that it is a scattergram, which may be alarming. She wishes that there were more really groundbreaking technologies and yet, she says there are none. I think there are others who would contest that some of the advancements that may look like small incremental improvements take huge amounts of innovation and development. Innovation may have changed, and it may be focused on process and development improvements, but there is no shortage of innovation within EDA.

The GSEDA forecast is for conservative growth within the industry at around 4%. They do not see much growth being driven by the industry. Instead, they see the industry itself being in flux and that there may be some contractions caused by the number of mergers and acquisitions. While mergers have not been a driver for contraction itself, Balch feels that the future is uncertain and there are other factors at work. She says that slowdowns in semiconductor often lead to impact of EDA but to a lesser extent. She also sees that there are conflicting trends – at the consumer level things look positive and yet there are many naysayers about the economy in general. “At the end of the day, EDA is maturing and we have to start broadening our view to find the opportunities,” says Balch.

GSEDA annual growth rate

“In order for EDA to survive it must grow,” says Balch. “Organic growth is not going to produce anything significant but there is a cost associated with branching out. If EDA does not expand outwards, others may decide to eat EDA.” Balch believes that would not be good for the industry. She also feels that those who have been successful within the industry need to invest back in it and that the community needs vision.

Balch listed the expected three areas for growth: IP, embedded software and mechanical engineering. Another opportunity is to specialize in verticals such as automotive and aerospace that have special needs and requirements. Who should be the driver of this, the EDA companies or those within the industry? We will have to work on that over the next few years, says Balch.

And of course, where wouldn’t be any presentation without some mention of the Internet of Things these days. “That is just another vertical that may produce plenty of opportunity and crosses into almost every technology space,” concluded Balch.

Immediately afterwards there was a reception put on by the newly renamed Electronic System Design Alliance (formerly known as EDAC). To say that it was packed would be an understatement. The band played and the mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, welcomed everyone to Austin. He said that when you go to Las Vegas, it is said that everything that happens there stays there, but in Austin they do things differently. What happens in Austin, and in the technology companies that we are proud of, gets sent around the world.

Steve Adler - Mayor of Austin

Steve Adler – Mayor of Austin

There is no one right view of EDA and the transition that it is going though. Over the next few days, the Semiconductor Engineering team will be talking to many people. Along with getting the pulse of the vendors, the designers, the fabs, the IP developers, we will be collecting the stories behind the scenes and reporting on the areas that are seeing tremendous innovation and development and are stretching technology to the limit. There is a lot of growth left in semiconductors and that growth is dependent on EDA, which means there is growth there as well.

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DAC Day Two
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DAC Day Three
An action packed day at DAC where all extremes of the EDA problem space can be covered under one roof.
DAC Day Four
Art, a fire in the exhibit hall, risk management and team advice, car races and notions of open-source hardware.

  • Kev

    “In order for EDA to survive it must grow,”…

    I’d say the opposite, there’s large amounts of redundant overlap, and inefficiency in the current tool offerings. Serious pruning is required.

    I expect a new crop of AI driven tools to reshape the industry sometime soon.