Patrick Groeneveld, Technical Program Co-Chair of this year's DAC, thinks the EDA industry can learn a few things from the ongoing meltdown in the financial community.
The chief technology officer at Magma Design Automation is moderating a panel at DAC end of July.
"Oil Fields, Hedge Funds and Drugs" will investigate what EDA can learn from the mathematical techniques that are used in finance or in the medical field.
Complex, non-linear systems, such as the economy, are modeled using statistical methods. These models could be used to predict the effect of changing interest rates or to mitigate risk in hedge funds.
"The economic meltdown has made us question the validity of these macro-economic models, so is DAC the right place to learn from them and avoid an Electrical Design meltdown?" asks Groeneveld.
Groeneveld admits that the models must "fed with reliable input data". "Our opening gambit is that some of the methods are already used by EDA tools. In electronic design, for example, 'Monte Carlo' analysis is used to get a handle on random device variations in complex circuitry. Similar to macro-economic models, the complexity and intricate non-linear relations make it too hard to derive closed-form equations.
"Instead, the Monte Carlo method generates a random device variation, simulates the circuit using those device settings and stores the result. Repeating this process many, many times will yield a reasonable prediction of the actual circuit. The point of this method is its generality and applicability for problems on which all other methods fail."
Groeneveld than argues that "the Achilles heel of Monte Carlo is its enormous appetite for compute resources. The simulation step is often a slow Spice run that needs to be run many thousands of times to obtain relevant results, restricting the practical usefulness to toy circuits."
The speakers on the panel will present the general statistical techniques, and lift the hood on the research that is being done to accelerate the method. Guest speakers from other disciplines such as medicine and economy will present crossover applications that could benefit EDA.
Groeneveld reminds his audience that the widely used "simulated annealing" optimization technique was born from insight from a different discipline.
The panel is on Wednesday, July 29, from 2-4 p.m. in Room 131 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Also, you can register for the DAC welcome reception on Sunday, the 26th which should set the mood for DAC attendees.
At the reception they will hear from DAC General Chair Andrew Kahng, an EDAC update by Wally Rhines, Chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics, and an intriguing talk by EDA industry savant Gary Smith: "This is a Make or Break Year."
Indeed, DAC 2009 may be just one of those watershed years that will completely rewrite the design automation landscape.