Silicon Valley 2008 kicked off Tuesday with keynotes by Cadence executive vice president and CTO, Ted Vucurevich, and University of California at Berkeley Distinguished Professor, Jan Rabaey. A panel entitled “Low Power, Green Power and the Future of IT” also brought together experts to address issues related to creating energy-efficient devices, and the need to protect the Earth’s climate and conserve its resources. Complexity, collaboration, and Cadence innovations to help designers address the future
In his keynote address, Ted Vucurevich observed how electronic innovation occurs in waves, and that we need a new round of transformational products to lift the industry and the global economy out of their current doldrums. According to Vecurevich, "During challenging economic times the companies that came out in the best shape were transformational in nature. They looked for opportunities in higher levels of functionality and capability.”
He also noted that Cadence users are on the forefront of the next wave, and that along with a huge opportunity to create the next big things come enormous challenges. For one, the leading-edge designs underlying these transformational products will be more complex and require greater collaboration. Quoting the results of one study, he said that 60 percent of all complex projects missed their schedule, and development costs have soared. "Moving these design ideas into reality requires teams of people with different disciplines interacting in a global environment across company boundaries," explained Vucurevich.
The Cadence CTO went on to describe how recent advancements from Cadence will help these teams overcome a variety of challenges in the years to come. The Cadence Chip Planning System, for example, gives companies the capability to understand the implications of design choices. “It's a systematic, methodical way to make decisions around risk, cost, and time to market,” he said.
Vucurevich went on to describe recent product announcements and the advantages they offer for chip design, power management, modeling, verification management, and software as a service—including solutions for companies ranging from start-ups to larger companies that require design capabilities at the enterprise level. Designing for a wired world
Dr. Jan Rabaey addressed wireless technology, explaining how it will continue to stimulate growth and innovation in electronics.
"The good news is that exponentials are not going away," said Rabaey. "By 2015 five billion people will be connected wirelessly. By 2017 seven trillion wireless devices will be available (there can be seven radios in a single cell phone)."
Rabaey divided the IT infrastructure into data centers, mobile devices, and ubiquitous wireless sensors, such as RFIDs. He described a world in which virtual workplaces will soon be the norm; sensors in modern buildings will dramatically reduce energy usage; and GPS devices in every car will allow real-time monitoring of traffic.
One of the big challenges, Rabaey pointed out, will be power reduction in data centers. To illustrate the growth in energy consumption from electronic devices, Rabaey cited how users playing the popular online game of World of Warcraft consume 1.5 gigawatts, equivalent to the output of three coal-fired power plants.
This wirelessly networked world will present challenges to designers, such as developing new multi-core processors needed for wireless devices. "The challenge will then be power management," he said. "There is only about 1 watt available for processing in a three-watt mobile device."
One of the more compelling wireless technologies we will see in the coming years is "sensory" technology. Rabaey said that tiny devices no larger than a flake of pepper will enable a bewildering array of personalized products. Ironically, these tiny devices will need to be designed as holistic systems in order to be successful. "The complexity of sensory networks is challenging," said Rabaey. "If you ignore system-level design, you're toast." High-powered panel addresses low-power design
Also on Tuesday, Cadence invited the media to the “Low Power, Green Power and the Future of IT” panel discussion on the implications of power conservation in electronic products.
"Companies are taking on the challenge of power to provide differentiation in their products," said Adolph Hunter, Cadence vice president of Corporate Marketing, who introduced the panel of experts. "It's good for their business, good for the consumer, and good for planet Earth."
Moderator John Blyler, Editorial Director, Extension Media, noted that power concerns have been around for more than 20 years in electronics, but today is has gone from afterthought to an essential consideration in design. "There is an imperative for a system-level approach to this problem. It's not just the chip world."
Panelists included: Ted Vucurevich, Nikhil Jayaram, Director of Engineering, Cisco; Juan Antonio Carballo, IBM Venture Capital Group partner; Jan Rabaey, and Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Jayaram said that Cisco, like most companies in its market, has only recently begun to focus its designs with low power in mind. "It's foremost on our customers' minds," Jayaram said. "Energy costs are second to labor costs at data centers."
IBM is focused on strategic partnerships to take on the challenges of power at the system level, said Carballo. "We have been most active in the U.S. and China. There is no single acquisition in this area. It requires partnerships." Low-hanging fruit
When asked about what was the "low-hanging fruit" for reducing power consumption, Rabaey said it is access to information. "Only a handful of companies provide environmental systems for the building industry, but they don't share their knowledge," said Rabaey. "If you ask people where the most power is used in the home, they wouldn't have a clue. Smart meters and sensors can be used to gather information, which could be used to manage power consumption."
The panel concurred that they would focus on hardware first before software for managing power. "Software is important, but you have to start with hardware," Rabaey concurred.
Data centers continue to consume more power as the Internet and mobile computing grow. At the current growth rate, data centers will consume 11 percent of all energy used in the U.S., according to Guardino. While government intervention to mandate power reduction in data centers was offered as one way to reduce consumption, the panel agreed that "free market" forces work best.
"Our customers are demanding lower power consumption in Cisco's network products; and we're listening," said Jayarman.