SEMICON Season And The DAC Dilemma

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By Mike Gianfagna

Amid great fanfare and excitement, SEMICON West started this week. While not as old as DAC (43 years for SEMICON vs. 50 years for DAC), it is a broad and ambitious conference. Billed as “the flagship annual event for the global microelectronics industry,” the conference treats topics such as:

Figure-1

Wow, that phrase it taken directly from a SEMCON West email blast, and it contains no pronounceable English words. I’ve worked in both EDA and semiconductor for a long time, and the semiconductor folks have always had a good time poking fun at the EDA people and their love of vague, convoluted acronyms. That phrase, above, is payback.

SEMICON West is a big show—about four times the size of DAC, depending on how you measure it. Because it’s a semiconductor show, with references to design, it is appealing to think about co-locating DAC with SEMICON. After all, 1 +1 should be at least 2, right? The cross-technology interest should breed a stronger version of DAC. In my opinion, this thinking is far off the mark and is actually dangerous to the health of DAC.

Figure-2

Let me explain. I am not against co-location of events. There have been many successful examples of this technique. An important aspect of all these “show mergers” is the fact that there is a dominant show theme that other events fit into, and this is where the problem is. DAC is the flagship conference for a complete industry segment, EDA. As the main focal point for the industry, the show needs its own identity and theme. To attempt to merge DAC into a show four times its size would not work. Every year, the DAC organizing committee focuses on attendance, and how to increase it. Putting DAC inside a show such as SEMICON West would ensure attendance dwindles.

The flagship conference for an industry needs to be the main event. Giving it a lower billing makes it lose relevance. I have first-hand experience at SEMICON West as well. A few years back, I exhibited in the “EDA ghetto” of SEMICON as a DFM supplier. Arguably, DFM was close to the core technology of SEMICON. Even with that alignment, our booth, and all the others in the EDA ghetto were, well, lonely. Steppers, manufacturing methods and materials won the day, not EDA software. In my opinion, DAC would suffer a similar fate as part of SEMICON, but on a bigger scale.

As I’ve mentioned, DAC just turned 50 years old. I haven’t been to all 50, but I’ve been to at least two thirds of them, and all that DAC attendance has taught me one simple lesson. EDA is like air. It’s a core technology that the semiconductor and consumer electronics industries just can’t live without. If we all stay focused on those facts and look for the relevance and connections between EDA and the bigger picture, the show should be fine.

—Mike Gianfagna is vice president of corporate marketing at Atrenta.