While many third-party organizations conceived and launched to assist both semiconductor IP vendors and users have gone by the wayside (think VCX and VSIA, for example), the need for such groups has certainly not gone away. In fact, due to the breadth of available IP and the increase in SoC complexity, this requirement is now even stronger.

IP creation, evaluation and integration suffer from a lack of standards and the purchase of IP of almost any complexity requires better-than-average communication between vendor and user. It’s this need that makes the Constellations program, initiated by IPextreme and a small core of charter members, so compelling.

Originally conceived as a sales collaboration effort between small IP vendors, Constellations is in the process of rethinking its goals and expanding into other member-cooperative efforts that will, ultimately, benefit the members and their customers. While the expanded Constellations efforts are still in the discussion and planning stages, the group’s ultimate goal is to simplify the IP exchange process between vendor and integrator. Towards this end, Constellations is offering a free, one-day conference on March 31 in Santa Clara on “What keeps you up at night about buying IP?” The event will comprise presentations and panels discussing the technical and business issues of purchasing IP from an outside source. To register for the conference, please go to: http://constellations2010.eventbrite.com/

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: March 17, 2010, 4:47 pm | No Comments »

There has been a trend over the past several years in the electronics community. It has been driven by the dismal economy along with the rise of social networking. I am referring to the diminishing number of technical editors covering electronics technology.

Virtually every electronics trade journal has seen a substantial decrease in the size of their full-time editorial staff. These people are the ones, through long-term experience and a good set of contacts within the various companies and trade organizations they write about, who gave us in-depth, well balanced and well written articles on a wide range of interesting technology topics. The key term here is ‘well balanced’ – good technical editors can write without bias and cover the pluses and minuses of a cool technology, industry trend and emerging application.

Well, unfortunately, these people are fast disappearing. Taking their places are blogs and other social media venues for technology coverage – but without the constraints and guidelines of a well-run publisher. As interesting and informative as they may be, blogs are, essentially, opinion pieces. Bloggers, me included, offer opinions on various subjects and do not always present hard and fast facts or a balanced argument. This is not to say blogs are bad – good bloggers present very interesting pieces on some fascinating subjects. However, bloggers are not replacements for the traditional technical editorial staff on publications such as Chip Design, EDN, Electronics Design, EETimes and many others.

Editorial technology coverage, as we know it, is fast disappearing. To the detriment of the electronics community, it is going…going…almost gone, and that’s a real shame.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: January 19, 2010, 9:02 am | 2 Comments »

12  Oct
Thinning the Herd

Attending the GSA Suppliers Expo and Conference earlier this month was a sobering experience. During a 9 ½-hour stint in my company’s booth, I saw firsthand how the sour economy has affected the networking that goes on at industry trade shows.

As expected, lots of people, including many ex-colleagues and acquaintances, stopped by to see how I and my company were doing and to trade stories about what has happened since the last time we had a chance to chat. This is all well and good; unfortunately, there were also several other visitors, some who I knew and a few I did not know, who stopped by to inquire about work opportunities. This is the reality of a trade show in a today’s severely down economy with many people either unemployed or underemployed.

I am sure all of us know several people in the semiconductor industry looking for work. A couple of fellows I know have been unemployed for over a year; one for 18 months. Having the analysts tell us that the industry is starting to rebound doesn’t help these people – they are out of work and have bills to pay.

The really unfortunate part of all this is that many of the jobs that have been eliminated are not coming back. As past downsizing periods have shown us, companies “thin the herd” of employees to accommodate a business downturn and then, when business picks up, they increase the workload of current employees and only partially refill the employee pool to prior levels at comparable business loads.

This is the new business climate, it is here to stay and we all have to live with it.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: October 12, 2009, 1:56 pm | 3 Comments »

I recently sat in on a webinar sponsored by eg3.com on “How Designers Search – Survey Results.” The information in the webinar was gleaned from the 185 managers, engineers and programmers working in commercial or military positions out of 443 respondents to a survey sent to eg3.com’s 43,000-plus subscriber list – a small sample, but still meaningful.

The survey asked a series of questions to determine: how engineers and programmers search for information on technology, what content they seek, and what are their search strategies. I am normally skeptical of free webinars to the engineering community (since so many are thinly veiled sales or marketing pitches), but this was a pretty good one, with some expected results and a few surprises.

Not unexpected, search engines are highly regarded and used by engineers, virtually all the time. Google is King, followed by Yahoo (a distant second) and Microsoft’s Bing. Beyond search engines, other Internet-based media was a very good source of information to the engineering community, while emails and newsletters were also highly regarded.

Social media as information sources is growing slowly and, currently, appears to be greatly overhyped for this purpose. While still popular (but significantly behind search engines), trade shows and print publications are losing ground.

The survey results also gave insight into how engineers search on the Internet. I was surprised to find out that most do not give up after the first page of links, but go down as far as the third page. In fact, almost 40% “often” or “always” go as far as Page 10 on their searches.

In the “What do Designers Want” category, ‘hands-on’ items such as demos, software and evaluation kits rank very highly. On the flip side, vendor articles and webinars ranked moderately low and podcasts very low in response to a “What Information do you seek” question (the webinar response probably due to the same perception that I have that many are sales or marketing tools).

There was a lot of other useful information in the webinar, making this hour a good use of my time. For more information on future eg3.com’s marketing webinars on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), free and paid, go to www.eg3.com/technology-marketing/seo.htm.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: August 24, 2009, 11:11 am | 1 Comment »

22  Jul
Doug at DAC

One of the less recognized aspects of the Design Automation Conference is the Pavilion Panels program that takes place on the exhibit floor. Covering a broad range of business and technical topics, these relatively informal sessions include roundtables, presentations and other goodies throughout DAC week.

One not to be missed this year is an industry retrospective that will be given by Doug Fairbairn. One of Silicon Valley’s true visionaries, Doug has had a rich career including editor-in-chief of a ground-breaking industry publication, the old Lambda magazine; co-founder of VLSI Technology, one of the first true ASIC companies; founder of Redwood Design Automation; and much more.

Doug’s talk will provide a retrospective on major shifts in the electronics industry over the last quarter century and how they have shaped the design tools and methodologies of today and tomorrow. But wait, there’s more. After his presentation, Gary Smith and Richard Goering will join Doug to provide their perspectives on Doug’s presentation and discuss what it all means for the industry’s future.

This is a very unique opportunity to hear a semiconductor/EDA veteran who has seen and heard it all. It takes place from 10:45-11:45 Monday morning in the DAC Pavilion (Booth #1928), in the exhibit hall. If you are going to DAC, don’t pass this up.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: July 22, 2009, 12:15 pm | 2 Comments »

No, I’m not talking about stargazing. This Constellations is the IP collaboration program launched by IPextreme earlier this year.

Four of the Constellations partners – CAST, IPextreme, Sidense and Sonics – are sponsoring a luncheon at DAC on Wednesday, July 29, where you can hear about “The Changing Face of the IP Industry.” Following a keynote talk by Jim Hogan, well-known semiconductor and EDA veteran, the luncheon will feature a Constellations overview followed by a panel manned by the sponsoring partners. The panelists will discuss current and evolving techniques for obtaining on-chip resources, along with some of the technologies available in third-party IP that can help you with your chip designs.

Identifying, selecting, and implementing IP is difficult. Web searches and IP portals such as ChipEstimate.com and Design & Reuse are useful for IP identification, but the expertise of the Constellations partners add another dimension for connecting IP integrators with the right IP providers.

If you would like to sign up for the Constellations luncheon, visit:

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: July 19, 2009, 12:18 pm | No Comments »

20  Jun
How Low Can We Go?

In an article this week in one of the industry trade publications, an iSuppli source was quoted as saying, “The usable limit for semiconductor process technology will be reached when chip process geometries shrink to be smaller than 20 nm, to 18-nm nodes.” According to iSuppli, this will occur in 2014 when Moore’s Law will not drive volume production. This is an interesting take on the divergence of Moore’s Law and the economics of the semiconductor industry.

The technological advancements of the semiconductor industry have amazed me for as long as I have worked in it. I remember transistors with five-micron features in the early 1970s and a worry at Texas Instruments about having equipment available for volume IC production much beyond that point. During the intervening 35 years or so, various industry visionaries have predicted a “practical” limit to process node shrinkage for a variety of reasons – manufacturing capability boundaries, design limitations, and even a physics-based stopping point; I believe Carver Mead set the latter at around 10nm. Now we have another factor to consider when contemplating the silicon “wall” – economics.

iSuppli postulates that process node shrinkage won’t be limited by the ability to make devices smaller (through shrinking feature sizes). Instead, it will become too expensive for most chips to utilize a process node below 18-20nm. This is an interesting concept, but not a really surprising one. Mature process nodes are much more economical to use than leading-edge ones; the older nodes have already gone through the roughly 30% learning curve (and price reduction) per year for the first few years. And while leading-edge process development is necessary for continuing the advancement of the chip industry, most products do not need to be fabricated at 45nm and beyond to show a good profit margin and, in fact, certain chips such as analog and mixed signal devices do better at the larger process nodes.

So, do I agree with iSuppli’s analysis? Pretty much so, although the 2014 date and 18-20nm node size may be off. In addition, some new and highly innovative silicon (or other semiconductor) structure may come along and throw everything out of whack.

That’s what makes working on our industry so much fun!

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: June 20, 2009, 7:17 pm | No Comments »

If you are like me, trying to get all the information you need to do your job can be a harrowing experience. With so many sources from which to choose, how do you know which ones are right for you to stay current? Well, a little help is on the way in the form of a DAC panel, “Tweet, Blog or News: How Do I Stay Current?”

Presented as a Pavilion Panel Wednesday afternoon on the DAC show floor, this will be more like a roundtable than a true panel, with a moderator, three participants and no slides. The panel’s goal will be to help you understand the various information sources you have available – including traditional ones such as print and online publications along with the newer blogs, portals and social media networks – and what each has to offer.

Each of the three panelists will give a position statement, followed by a group discussion on topics such as how to find your way around the various information sources, what tools are available to use these sources and what is the best way to use them. The panelists will even give some advice on how to start blogging.

There is an overabundance of things to see and do at DAC, but I would put aside the Wednesday, July 29, 4-5PM slot to sit in on this panel. The topic is interesting, timely and, who knows, you might pick up some pointers on how to make your job easier. Check out the panel details at: http://www.dac.com/events/eventdetails.aspx?id=95-106

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: June 9, 2009, 2:23 pm | No Comments »

Post-VSIA has been an interesting time for the IP industry, with work on IP qualification standards slowing to a crawl and not a lot of interesting news concerning the IP industry as a whole. Enter the Constellations Program this past week, complements of IPextreme and a handful of founding members.

Constellations aims at “leveling the playing field” for small IP vendors through a sales collaboration program between IPextreme and Constellations members, who initially include CAST, NXP, Sidense and Tiempo. Based on a lead-sharing concept, a Constellations member inputs a lead (with permission of the inquiring customer) for IP that they do not supply into a database that is shared by the other Constellations members who have IP matching the request. These other members can then follow-up on these leads through their sales departments. The follow-up is voluntary and the leads go to members without any implicit endorsement, meaning that interested members have an equal opportunity to close business based on any lead.

If a business deal is successfully closed, the company getting the IP business pays a royalty that is shared by IPextreme and the company that submitted the lead. Constellations members, who pay a small annual fee to IPextreme, also participate in co-marketing and co-promotional programs that are guided by IPextreme.

I think this is a very interesting concept and one that goes beyond IP catalogs in portals such as chipestimate.com and Design and Reuse, since Constellations members help “qualify” the match between IP inquirer and IP vendor. I look at the Constellations model as supplying a supplemental “front end” to a company’s sales force for initial business lead identification. The key to Constellations’ success will be the ability to scale up the program beyond the initial five members; I think 30-50 members would be a nice target number. If successful, Constellations will prove to be a win/win/win situation for the lead-submitting member, the member who gets business and, ultimately, the customer who finds the IP they are seeking.

To find out more about Constellations, go to: www.ip-extreme.com/partners/constellations.html

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: March 22, 2009, 3:44 pm | No Comments »

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to sit in on several conference and other event keynotes given by Wally Rhines, Mentor CEO and Chairman. Wally’s presentations are always very informative and entertaining – the keynote he gave at DesignCon this week was no exception. He called it, “Common Wisdom Versus Reality in the Electronics Industry.” I think of it as electronics industry myth busting.

In his talk, Wally tackled a number of popular concepts, including: the slowing adoption of new technology: the belief that in a stable EDA market there is no opportunity for change; the increasing cost of EDA tools is making them unaffordable to many; more companies are moving towards single-vendor EDA flows; and consolidation in the semiconductor industry. He then proceeded to show why each of these statements is not true, through the use of some very thought-provoking charts and graphs based on data from industry analysts and other knowledgeable sources.

While Wally’s talk focused on EDA issues, it also covered other areas of importance within the semiconductor industry, including such topics as the history over the past 25+ years of semiconductor R&D spending and the acceleration of EE headcount in recent years. These are areas to think about when evaluating the industry and considering its future during the current economic crisis.

A video of Wally’s keynote will be on the DesignCon website (http://www.designcon.com/2009) shortly. I highly recommend that everyone view it.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: February 5, 2009, 1:07 pm | No Comments »

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