Taken for Granted

ESL, embedded processors, and more

Reflections on DAC 2011, June 5-9, San Diego

Filed under: Uncategorized — June 12, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

I returned from DAC 2011 Thursday evening, after being in San Diego since Saturday evening. Here are some observations:

    1. Attendance – I see that DAC has announced double digit attendance rises in all categories. This is something that I am terrible at estimating so I will take their word for it.  Anecdotally, I did attend technical sessions with good attendance – even one of the last sessions on Thursday.  And there were times on the exhibit floor, especially when wandering near Synopsys, Mentor and Cadence, when the crowd around their booths were reminiscent of DACs of old.   The keynotes also seemed well attended although they shrank the space between Monday and Thursday.   So its good to see more attendance.  Next year, in early June in San Francisco may be a better marker for DAC since there is a larger pool of local people to draw on to attend.  It was also better that DAC did not  provide numbers in a somewhat misleading way as they did in 2010 (where they combined exhibit-only and full conference exhibit attendees into one number, as was pointed out by several commentators, including Olivier Coudert).   Still some way to go to back to the 2009 level, or the approximately 5000 in San Diego in 2007.
    2. Mentor ESL Symposium – I attended the Mentor ESL Symoposium and was a bit disappointed when Wally Rhines said that instead of the normal focus in previous years on ESL practices and case studies, there would be several managers from different companies talking about ESL and how it fit into their company’s design flows.  However, on some reflection, I did think that this may be a reflection on the long-awaited maturity of ESL in design flows – no longer a set of “missionary practices” to be taught, but becoming a more ordinary part of design flows and a more regular part of the design process.
    3. Focus on Embedded Systems and Software – DAC 48 tried to beef up the conference content on Embedded Systems and Software.    This included a special “Embedded System and Software Executive Day:  Embedded Systems and Software Meet Hardware” on the Wednesday, in which I participated.  Attendance for this day was rather thin, which was a shame, because there were some interesting talks and quite a few questions and discussion.  I think there were three problems – calling it an “executive day” may have been offputting for other attendees, many of whom would have found the contents interesting; it was billed in a parallel way to DAC’s “Management” Day, but unlike “Management” Day, there was no special fee to attend nor special registration, but many attendees would not have realised this; finally, it was not advertised very well.   Nevertheless, I enjoyed attending and participating.   And there was other embedded content in the show and conference.  This is an area DAC should continue to stress and grow over the next few years.
    4. A Lot of Knowledge can be an Exhausting Thing – DAC had a lot of material presented.  Sometimes, too much!  Looking at the conference programme,  one could often find 13-15 things going on simultaneously:  for example, on Tuesday June 7 at 11 AM, there was one special session, one panel, one pavilion panel, four research paper sessions, a user track session, a special Management day, presentations in the Embedded Theatre on the show floor, an Exhibitor Forum presentation, a colocated event, and a workshop!  Very often the themes of many of these simultaneous sessions or events would overlap, presenting the attendee with the “too much choice” phenomenon.  Sometimes there was a bit of content in some of the colocated events or workshops of interest, but not enough to divert an attendee from the main DAC and making it pretty expensive to attend both.  I think DAC may have reached the limits of choice (and expense) with all the interesting colocated and parallel workshops, and maybe should plan these a little more deeply next year to avoid some of the inevitable overlap and give attendees more opportunity to see some of the interesting parallel content.
    5. Venues – 2012 DAC is in San Francisco in early June.  2013 is in Austin, Texas.  Getting good attendance in Austin may be challenging.  That will be the 50th. DAC (tracing DAC back to 1964 in Atlantic City).   Although generally pulling attendees from Silicon Valley is not too hard when DAC is in San Francisco, when elsewhere it needs to pull from the local design community.  In San Diego this year I saw a number of attendees from Qualcomm (San Diego) but not too many from the companies up in Orange County, not too far away – such as Broadcom.  In Austin there are a number of companies and design centres but it is not so easy to get to from other places, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.  DAC is going to have to make a concerted effort to get attendance in 2013.

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