DAC 2019: Day 2

A highly entertaining day at DAC that started and ended with music.


Day two of DAC started off with a highly anticipated keynote given by Thomas Dolby, musician, producer and innovator. Dolby has always been fascinated with the convergence of music and technology. He started off with a fanfare by balancing a broom on his finger to demonstrate the type of control we have as human beings. He went on to expand the analogy to the hive mind of groups of individuals, talking about the connection between individuals in an orchestra and the feedback they are receiving on multiple levels. “They are making decisions, not based on logic but on impulse.”

These types of collective actions are being studied and reduced to algorithms and used in various ways, such as video games and movies. “In the music industry, we are still dealing with libraries of wavefiles. I can assemble them and trigger them, but they provide no information other than their title. In the hands of a skilled musician I can jam with people, but these files are dumb building blocks with no consciousness.”

Systems, such as Alexa, are interpreting those wave files and applying context to it. “Consumer electronics is streets ahead of the pro audio industry. I hate this. I don’t want to be a bricklayer, I want to be a conductor.”

He says this problem comes down to Moore’s law, and that going from 8 to 16 bits or whatever, Moore-ness has always been the guiding intelligence behind pro audio. “If we are governed by this, we would not have discovered gravity or penicillin or electricity. You can do more with less!”

He went through what it was like for him to start with 2-track, then 4-track and 8-track recording technology and how a monophonic synthesizer could be used to produce polyphonic recordings.

His crescendo grew until he did a live performance of “Blinded Me With Science.”

The talk continued with his involvement in the audio industry and the porting of music as ringtones for the mobile phones and finally the events that caused him to get into education. “If you are 19 years old and you encounter a problem, you think the solution is a few keystrokes away. There are no obstacles. The problem is they think they can solve all problems like that. They will have missed out on the notion of experimentation.”

He concluded with another live performance of “Hyperactive.”

Jay Vleeschhouwer of Griffin Securities provided a Wall Street view of EDA. “EDA industry growth has been sustained by growing demand among multiple EDA tool categories.” He attributed this to new companies, like Microsoft, Google and Amazon becoming dependent on the EDA industry. Cadence and Synopsys now account for about 66% of revenues, up from 52% in 2008. 90% of revenue is going to the big 4, with Mentor and Ansys being added. “Mentor has maintained its market share since its acquisition by Siemens,” Vleeschhouwer said.

“Cadence and Synopsys have increased their profitability and thus will continue to invest. Wall Street has taken notice and raised their valuation by $10B in the past year. A tripling of market cap in just five years.”

To look into the future, he broke down the categories in which he believes they will see growth in demand. Then he looked at the companies best placed in those markets. He focused on emulation and prototyping and the growing importance of them to system companies. The other growth area is IP, which has just exceeded the $1B level. “The slowdown from semiconductor consolidation is over and they are now investing again. Intel accounts for a high single digit percentage of the EDA industry and three quarters of that is with Synopsys.”

After conducting a very informative roundtable discussion about Portable Stimulus, to be published in full, it was time for the panel on in-memory computing, moderated by Reetuparna Das from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In-memory computing aims to reduce the power associated with memory transfers within regular architectures, such as those seen in machine learning applications. Das believes that even more important than the power savings are the improvements in bandwidth. She presented a number of approaches being used in the industry. Panelists were Rangarajan Venkatesan, NVIDIA; Nuwan Jayasena, Advanced Micro Devices; Daniel Morris, Facebook; Shekhar Borkar, Qualcomm; and Engin Ipek, Univ. of Rochester. Each panelist gave either a viewpoint in favor of in-memory or near-memory computing or against the concept, some arguing that there are few applications that would actually see any power reduction or performance increase and many cases where they would actually degrade the results. It was followed by a short question and answer session.

Another roundtable, this time on advanced debug techniques for SoC, discussed some interesting future connections between debug and security. You won’t want to miss this writeup.

More walking of the show floor, sadly devoid of a lot of people at this point, and evening entertainment courtesy of ClioSoft rounded out day two of DAC for me.

Check out what happened Monday in DAC 2019: Day 1 and Wednesday in DAC 2019: Day 3.

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