A big chunk of the industry will converge on sun-kissed San Diego this week to take in the salt air, play a little golf, peruse some new software tools and confront a few old demons. There is a weird allure to the Design Automation Conference, some of it tied to its timing near the first days of summer, some to the clubby atmosphere and some to the notion that hope springs eternal. Yes, Virginia, there really are new tools to address some of the problems your vendor insists will be solved one of these days.
Despite that progress, DAC can also be counted on to lay bare the design automation industry's low self-esteem. It shouldn't be that way. Design automation is, to use Reggie's Jackson's famous description of himself, the straw that stirs the drink. But it gets no respect from those from whom it most deserves recognition. Only slowly, with support from the folks at EDAC, is the EDA industry learning to look in the mirror and like what it sees.
One fundamental stumbling block has been EDA's difficulties in pricing its solutions properly. Software is ethereal, so it does not seem to have much value (though if you've thrown away your checkbook register and bought Quicken, you understand how huge software is).
Hardware, on the other hand, is tangible and takes up real estate. So the test and measurement industry sells big iron with big price tags, and its salesmen get in front of big executives-occasionally at the board level. The test industry commands that level of respect despite its failure to address the electronics industry's nagging yield problems properly and cost-effectively.
Then there's the EDA salesman. He sits in the CAD manager's office, perhaps with one of his own C-level colleagues in tow, hoping for a cup of coffee and seeking validation.
That's a disconnect, especially since some EDA companies have taken the yield issue to heart in the past four years and have actively generated design-for-yield solutions to solve problems before the design gets to the back end.
Two DACs ago, DFx was a lofty notion described to select customers in the demo suites. This year, it's got traction.
Now if only the respect would follow.