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Gary Smith at DAC 2014: How System Design is Changing Electronics

Comments(1)Filed under: EDA, ESL, IP, emulation, Gary Smith, system design, DAC 2014

Analyst Gary Smith looks at the EDA industry and sees a lot of promise-and a lot of change. At his annual Design Automation Conference (DAC 2014) industry briefing June 1, Smith talked about how the movement towards system design is changing not only EDA tools but also semiconductor IP and business models.

"Welcome to the wonderful world of system design, because that's what we really started to walk into this year," said Smith, chief analyst at Gary Smith EDA. Today's "OEM" is not necessarily a manufacturer, he noted. We are now seeing vertically integrated companies - such as Apple - that design nearly everything but outsource manufacturing. The key to success for these companies is developing a stable ecosystem, as ARM has done.

"System design is really different," Smith said. "If you think you can approach it like you approached the markets before, you are probably not going to be successful. You need new skills, new marketing, and a new organization."

In a colorful aside, Smith showed a diagram from 1996 and noted that "I have been talking about system design for a long time and people have not been paying a hell of a lot of attention. I've always been right - it's just that I missed by a few years. Or decades."

Success in Vertical Markets

The major vertical markets include industrial, consumer, telecom, computers, automotive, and mil/aero. To succeed in any of these markets you need an expert, or multiple experts, who drive product definition and market access. "You've got to find someone from the industry you're targeting," Smith said.

What role does IP play in system design? A big one, according to Smith. Semiconductor IP is the key to productivity and low-cost design; in fact, it lowered the cost of design by 44% in 2011. It is also, he said, a "meaningless buzzword used to impress Wall Street." And that's how it came to be called "IP" in the first place.

If you talk about IP, Smith said, be sure to clarify what type of IP it is. Smith's latest WallCharts depict 10 different kinds of IP. These include three types of "platform-based IP" that include silicon and software - the functional platform (such as network on chip), the foundational platform (such as Qualcomm Snapdragon), and the applications platform (such as GPS).

At the recent Electronic Design Process Symposium, Smith stated that we now have a working electronic system-level (ESL) flow (slides available here). There are still two problems with the flow, he noted - models cannot be passed back to the architect because there's no behavioral SystemC standard, and emulation is perceived to be very expensive.

Why Emulation is Affordable

But Smith showed a cost chart that suggests that emulation will not have a significant impact on overall design costs. This is because there are more engineers per emulation box, and because funding for emulation can come out of the respin budget (assuming there will be fewer respins because of emulation).

Finally, Smith provided his annual EDA revenue forecast. It's an optimistic one. From $6.6 billion in 2014, Smith predicts EDA revenues will reach $6.8 billion in 2015 and $9.2 billion in 2018. "The pie is growing," Smith said.

Richard Goering

Related Blog Posts

Gary Smith at DAC 2013 - The $170 Million SoC Design is a "Myth"

Gary Smith Webinar: "The True ESL Flow is Now Real"

EDPS 2014: Rethinking the Electronic System Level (ESL) Design Flow



By Steve Grout on June 3, 2014
There has always been a ESL and design/product/chip architect level of design.  The architect tho hasn't always been well served by EDA tools.  Often his/her best level of help has come from near by system guys, a smart marketing guy,  a key smart customer, a black board,...etc., while real design didn't start until the whole project was handed off to a small group of key lead designers who flowed the project on down, working with their detailed design teams.  But the companies who had ESL architect support often had much shorted idea-to-mask-out design cycles.  At Honeywell Large Systems in  the 70s, we had ESL support such that we were able to have a 30-day design process from the point the Architect 'changed his mind about  something" to the moment we were testing real hardware against real application and OS software.  That's where having ESL support in your overall flow leads you.

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