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Design Automation Conference at 50: Bring on the women, cloud and maybe even open source

Ellen Messmer | June 7, 2013
DAC speakers look back, forward at system design trends, including flight of talent to social network firms.

The era of "complementary metal-oxide semiconductor" CMOS is largely on the way out and that of nanometers and FinFET, a term coined by University of Berkeley researchers for multi-gated architecture, has begun.

"Suddenly, trust and security show up as topics," said Rutenbar, alluding to papers given at DACS in those years. "Can I trust your fab, your chip?"

Lithography, optics, and statistics gained interest, and from the years 2009 on synthesis and lay-out verification and test reliability gained prominence. It's now acknowledged that it's necessary to "deal with a gigantic scale" in an era where smartphones, cars, and healthcare represent new demands in computing, said Rutenbar.

And what of the next 25 years to come? Leon Stok, vice president of electronic design automation at IBM, addressed that question in his presentation, noting his ideas were also intended to reflect some thoughts he gathered in an informal survey of colleagues.

First off, Stok said the industry might well be concerned that the best engineering talent is leaving the field to join the social-networking players that are also shaking things up, "the Googles and Facebooks of the world." He emphasized the design-automation industry needs to make a "compelling argument" to retain talent and help it grow.

It's time for another "revolution" to come up with a new means to get to the heart of "doing something useful" -- the goal of systems -- rather than the vast computational works that dominate. Design automation today relies on different tools cobbled together. But the age confronting designers is that of the cloud, Stok said. "We have to get data from anywhere, any place," he said. "We need scalable design and methodologies."

One question is whether the future of electronic-design automation should be more oriented toward open source, Stok said. "Currently, everything is locked up." And he posed the question for the future: "Would open source help to create a platform?"


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