semiconductor

Secure collaboration is a quiet trend at #52DAC

By Lou CoveyEditorial Director

While outsourcing software and design development is a common practice, the idea of putting your company’s crown jewels into the cloud for a freelancer to monkey with tends to drive sales of anti-emetics. Can you safely allow virtual strangers to access your server, or should you just suck it up and overwork your employees?

That has been a continuous conundrum of the Electronic Design Automation Industry (EDA) and its customers in the embedded software and semiconductor industries. Larger companies, like Synopsys and Intel either use internal security paradigms in the collaborative tools or work with some of the big players, like IBM and OpenText. The costs of those tools however don’t always fit in the budget for smaller companies and can be a hindrance to outsourcing companies.

What makes the whole issue more difficult is that while companies readily admit is is an important issue, not many are actually willing to talk about what they are doing about it.

At the Design Automation Conference in San Francisco this week, there was a noticeable presence of companies stating they actually do provide for secure collaboration  and were more than willing to tell you who they provided it for. One of the main players, OpenText, customers proudly proclaims their list of customers, including, in the electronics world, Alcatel-Lucent, Cirrus Logic and Renesas (see interview here).

Other players, like the recently funded Zentera, not so much. We visited Zentera’s booth at the Design Automation Conference and they were quite adamant about not saying anything substantial on the record, but their website touts a lot of partners, including Microsoft and Qualcomm.

Then you get into the realm of the EDA tool providers and the walls go up quickly. Mentor Graphics expressed surprise that one of their major customers, Qualcomm, was working with Zentera to provide secure collaboration. Synopsys and Cadence claim their own “cloud” solution, consisting of private servers stuffed in their headquarters building.

Dassault Systeme, on the other hand, was quite effusive about their Enovia collaborative platforms and focuses security according to roles, geography and hierarchy. Dassault is relatively new to the world of semiconductor design and is making a strong effort to differentiate itself from the “holy trinity” of Synopsys, Mentor Graphics and Cadence, and they have been miles ahead of the EDA industry on the issue of collaboration and security, simply because of their much broader range of customers including the mil-aerospace niches that require a standardized approach.

For third-party providers of design services these secure collaboration platforms can open doors for working with the most cutting-edge technologies that are often strapped for resources. Customers that want to integrate design environments from multiple sources can use them to integrate the external design teams into an all encompassing environment without giving up those aforementioned crown jewels. If the customer doesn’t want the additional expense, it might be worth the investment by outsourcers to adopt the collaboration platforms and work the cost into their services overall.

Yotta Data Sciences may have the answer to lowering chip design cost

Yesterday we ran a report about whether chip design could be effectively reduced to the point of profitability for innovative designs.  Conventional wisdom said that possibility will not come around for at least 10 years.  But in our year-long investigation we stumbled across a very quiet company, Yotta Data Sciences, and its founder and CEO Tom Grebinski, that might have a solution that would speed the process up within a couple of years. Grebinski has put his thumbprint on the semiconductor industry for a couple of decades.  He dealt with how ICs are physically composed by pioneering atomic layer deposition technology in the 1980s, he moved to developing a way to handle yottabytes of data as the author of the the OASIS integrated circuit layout format standard of SEMI.  Now he’s taking on how that data can be managed, distributed and protected efficiently and effectively.

 See the full story on ChipDesignMag.com

IC design is focused on wrong problems

By Lou Covey Editorial Director

The semiconductor design industry is focused on the wrong problems, according to Brad Brech, distinguished engineer at IBM at the ISQED symposium in Santa Clara yesterday.  Stating his position in the most diplomatic terms, that was the upshot of his talk on “sustaining Innovation for Smarter Computing in Data Centers.”

While chip design is focused on increasing speed and computing power, Brech said efficiency and cost control are the biggest concerns of the end customer now.

Brech said the chip industry is still focused on incremental increases in performance but the improvements we see in semiconductors, 200ms to 300ms, is imperceptible to the end user.

“We need to bring a different kind of value to the customer,” he said. “In the 1970s and 80s the airline industry was trying to move people faster between destinations and almost went bankrupt doing it,” he stated.  “There hasn’t been a faster plane put into service in over 20 years, but they have found ways to move more people. We need to do the same thing in IT regarding data.”

Brech stated that 70 percent of the IT budget is devoted to operations and maintenance of data centers while complexity of managing massive amounts of data grows steadily by orders of magnitudes.  He said 22 billion devices are connected to the internet now, downloading and adding data every second.  Applications such as cognitive computing and big data analytics are compounding the problem.

The solution, he stated, is in alternative designs that are cloud ready, data ready and security ready.  Those are the applications technology needs to focus on.

Quest for the $10K chip: Services are a mature niche

Continuing on our series on reducing the cost of semiconductor design and manufacturing, we interviewed Josh Lee, CEO of Uniquify, on the design services niche.  Lee took mild exception on Gary's Smith's definition of the niche becoming a "wild west" of competition saying the combination of IP integration with services has created a mature industry that is competitive but also crucial to creating new products in absence of venture capital involvement.

Quest for the $10K Chip: The wild west of design services

In the fourth installment of our Quest for the 10K chip series, We return to the last part of the interview with EDA Analyst Gary Smith to discuss the reemergence of design services and their role in reducing the cost of chip design. Smith believes the industry is headed toward a new generation of ASIC houses, and says the advantage of ESL is that it allows designs to be handed off at any number of various sign off points. Smith believes the design services segment is in for big growth in the coming years.

Esencia weighs in on the $10K Chip

ESL startup Esencia has been making noise about the changing of the guard in IC design as the industry moves from RTL to ESL. In this third part of our series on the Quest the the 10K Chip, Karl Kaiser, VP of engineering for Esencia, talks about Gary Smith's view of the cost of IC design and where ESL can continually lower that cost.

Gary Smith, ESL and the Quest for the $10K Chip

In part two of our Quest for the 10K chip series, EDA Analyst Gary Smith discusses the need for ESL, how it will reduce the cost of designs, and why the time is right for ESL to be implemented now. Smith says in the past, we’ve leveraged IP reuse as a way to solve our design challenges, but we are now seeing 100 block designs with 100 million gate counts; IP reuse alone will not solve these challenges. In this video Smith discusses what he sees coming next to solve these challenges.

See Part 1 here.

 

Gary Smith considers the quest for the $10K chip

At the Design Automation Conference in June 2012, tech blogger JL Gray posed a question: Can you build a chip to prototype, that would interest a potential investor to take it all the way to production, for $10,000?  The question launched a 6-month investigation by New Tech Press to get an answer.  Dozens of entrepreneurs, analysts, investors and engineers accepted invitations to discuss the subject.  While most wished to remain anonymous a few agreed to go as far as to be captured on video. We will be rolling out the series for the next few weeks with links to several articles in other publications.  The video platform we are using is from meBox! Media that will allow viewers to interact with and share the content on a broad level.  We encourage your input in comments on this site, however if you wish to remain anonymous, you can send private comments directly to us by clicking on the email button on each video.  Hover your cursor over the screen to expose the engagement buttons. The series we start today is the best of those meetings, anchored with a three-part interview with Gary Smith, chief analyst for GarySmithEDA.  Gary starts with the basics of the question, starting from the use of low-cost FPGAs and free tools, through the actual costs of manufacturing and ways to keep tool costs low.

Gary Smith on the Cost of IC design

Chris Mack goes deep (UV)

With all the excitement at Semicon West 2012 about the move to 450mm wafer manufacturing, New Tech Press decided to call up the Lithoguru, Chris Mack, to get a reality check on the news.  As usual, Dr. Mack was more circumspect than excited. Mack was vice president of lithography technology for KLA-Tencor. before "retiring" to write, teach and consult in the field of semiconductor lithography.  He has trained more than 2,000 lithographers from over 200 different companies around the world, and is an adjunct faculty member in the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Chemical Engineering Departments of the University of Texas at Austin. In January 2012 he become Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS (JM3).

Univa filling Sun gap in EDA industry

Sun Microsystems had been an active partner and participant in the EDA world until Oracle completed its acquisition in 2010.  Suddenly the Sun logo disappeared quite conspicuously from the EDA exhibitions in 2010 and 2011 where Sun had previously been prominent and ubiquitous. A little of that came back in 2012 with Univa taking their first active presence at the Design Automation Conference. In 2007 Univa helped Sun create the Sun Grid Engine, a job resource and management tool, developed the software to meet Sun’s HPC go-to-market requirements and became a reseller of the engine.  In 2010, however, Oracle decided the grid engine division was not as profitable as they would like and dropped it altogether, giving Univa an instant gift of thousands of dedicated users and a rapidly growing service business. Nearly 30% of the company’s customers are in the EDA / Semiconductor space.

In January 2011, Univa hired the Sun Grid Engine team and redesigned their business model to continue to support and update the Grid Engine. over the following year Univa delivered more code to their new community than any third party, patching holes and adding new functionality, something that had not been done for close to 2 years.

In March of this year, Univa released the results of a Technical Computing User Survey, that showed 70 percent of the respondents expected an increase in use of high performance computing this year and 75 percent expected an increase in 2013.  No one indicated a decline in use.

The information of the survey was instrumental in Univa's decision to begin making their presence in the EDA industry obvious and the plan, according to Gary Tyreman, President and CEO is to grow that presence steadily.  New Tech Press's Lou Covey sat down with Tyreman to talk about Univa and where the EDA industry is headed.

 

Flexras debuts Wasga Compiler

Flexras Technologies hit the 2012 Design Automation Conference (DAC) with the Wasga Compiler, an FPGA prototype partitioning tool, with some big claims. Turns out the claims were true... sort of. Their partner, Xilinx, confirmed the tool did provide good results quickly. So the hyperbole in their press release can be forgiven. New Tech Press editorial director Lou Covey interviewed the CEO, Hayder Mrabet.

Teen robotics team learns realities of high-tech product development

By Lou CoveyNew Tech Press Editorial Director

The FIRST national robotics championship brings together teams from high schools and high school districts from all over the US to solve a particular set of challenges every year.  At this year's competition in St. Louis, Missouri, the week of April 23, the teams will work cooperatively in a series of 3-on-3 basketball games using homegrown robots, mostly student designed.

One of the veteran groups, Team 100 from the Sequoia Union High School District in San Mateo County, California is going to the competition as a "wild card" participant.  The team has had a long experience in the competition going back to 1995 (national champion.)  In the path toward their current creation, the team found that what the basic design provided was not sufficient for the task.

Woodside High School junior Andrew Blatner, part of the electronics engineering crew for Team 100, said the standard CAN bus (controller area network) that the teams use in their projects was insufficient to deal with the communication between motor controllers.  The team attempted to use a workaround that converted the ethernet signals.  "That still didn't solve all the problems we were having in competition so we switched to direct communication to individual controllers."

Team advisor Laura Rhodes said another problem was a limitation on the number of inputs the project needed, so one of the team members, Ethan Anderson, Woodside High School senior, brought up the idea of using an Arduino development board to expand the available number of inputs.  Anderson had some experience using Arduino in personal home projects and several advisors had additional input based on their experience.

A remarkable aspect of the project is how it mirrored problem solving efforts experienced by professional product development teams, as in the software phase of the project.  Connor Wake, Sequoia High School senior and part of the software sub-team, said several new aspects of the competition created unique software control issues.  The team decided early on to switch from National Instruments Labview to Wind River C++ to handle the use of cameras, motor controls for shooting the ball at different angles and speeds and to control intakes to avoid jamming.  New team members had to be trained in the use of the tools and legacy code integrated.

What was unusual in the project development was the lack of "walls" between the sub teams. Wake spoke in detail of the various mechanical aspects of the robot, and Anderson demonstrated more than a working knowledge of the software difficulties.

Rhodes said the goals of Team 100 students have always been to acquire real–life skills and gain hands-on engineering experience. Originally, the team consisted of solely of Woodside High School students, but in 2003, a large group of students from Carlmont High School, a neighboring district school, joined the team, soon becoming a permanent addition. During recent seasons, Sequoia High School students have also been added to the roster, creating the current tri-school team. The team's primary sponsor is DreamWorks P.D.I.

Read more at element14.com

Interview with BOM Financial Investments

The Brabant province straddles the border of Belgium and the Netherlands. To the south it reaches into the Belgian capital city of Brussels the home of IMEC, arguably the leading nanotech research center in the world. To the north it comprises most of the Dutch southern communities and the home of the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. New Tech Press sat down with representatives from the northern province Marcel de Haan, Director of Strategic Acquisition and Bodo DeWit, senior project manager, to talk about the one-stop-shop for technology companies looking to expand into Europe.

 

Accellera announces new standards submissions

At the Design Automation Conference last month, Dennis Brophy, vice chairman for the 10-year-old standards organization, let slip that several standards resulting from the merger with SPIRIT last year would be submitted to IEEE.  (Yea we know this is a month old, but it hasn't been announced yet and we just fixed a major tech glitch in this site's database following a major upgrade.). follow this link for the interview. Watch video live on Vpype Live Broadcaster