Conferences, Education And The Press

Education is the main limiting factor for growth of EDA.

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The EDA industry once organized itself around conferences. The Design Automation Conference (DAC) marked the time of the year when new product announcements came out thick and fast, and it was difficult to keep up with the stream of press releases. Companies with nothing to announce were viewed as deficient. New products were demonstrated in secrecy in the back rooms of the suites at the conferences, often because they weren’t really ready for release, but they could not afford to wait another year before making the announcement.

Then we started to see a number of User Groups and vendor conferences pop up. Attendance at these were restricted by the EDA companies and this provided a much more controlled environment to show off their new wares. An innovation was that many of these became more like road shows and would go around to the major customer locations rather than making the engineers and managers come to them. At one point, one of the major EDA vendors even withdrew from DAC, although their absence did not last long.

The dot.com recession had lasting impact in that travel budgets were slashed and instead of design companies sending significant numbers of engineers to the conferences, their numbers dwindled and never recovered. With the last downturn, a further reduction was seen. Attendance at even the largest events, such as DAC, is struggling to maintain equilibrium, despite significant efforts to improve the quantity, quality and relevance of the presentations. Exhibitor booth staff numbers are the highest category of attendees.

The proliferation of the Internet also brought into question the need for conferences. Vendors started creating webinars, online conferences and chat sessions with developers and management. There was so much content available that many started to ask if the era of conferences was over.

Several conferences attempted to duplicate the directions of the vendor conferences and started moving them to other places around the US and the world. First it was DesignCon that added Boston and Europe to its lineup. Neither of these was successful and disappeared after a few years. The Embedded systems Conference went through countless name changes and locations, but that did not achieve much better success, although ESC East was a thing for quite a while.

But today, we are seeing another push to make regional conferences work. Accellera has had growing success with DVCon and this year two new locations have emerged – Europe and India. India is an interesting location because India is a hive of design companies that often were viewed as the workhorses for U.S. companies, but today can and should be seen as design regions that may have a significant voice in the devices, tools methodologies and flows of the future. DVCon India takes place Sept. 25-26 in Bangalore.

The Embedded Systems Conference (yes, they have gone back to calling it that) is announcing a reestablishment of its Boston event and adding Minneapolis to the lineup for 2015. Other locations include Bangalore and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I hope that these new conferences are a sign that the industry is growing again, is eager to learn about new tools and methodologies, and that we can, as an industry, make a concerted effort toward more education. Education is, in my mind, the No. 1 limiter to our imaginations, to the growth of the industry and the health of its community. I see my role not as a journalist, but as an educator and part of the supply chain of information between the EDA industry and its users.

An example of our role as educators is the creation of the new Knowledge Center within Semiconductor Engineering. It may be small today, but we hope that over time it will grow into a valuable educational resource for the industry and its engineers. These are exciting times and I am glad to be a participant.


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  • Brian, I am very glad to see the start of the Knowledge Center on SemiEngineering. I think it will become a valuable resource, and I am looking forward to making several contributions myself.