DAC Vision from Wally Rhines

-June 10, 2013

At DAC this year, we saw many innovations in the program and on the floor. This was in part an attempt to spur attendance to a DAC that was special, being the 50th anniversary, and in a location that had never been tried before – Austin, Tx. One very successful aspects of the program was the format of the keynotes, in which the keynote had a warm-up act in the form of an EDA industry CEO providing a visionary talk. These were meant to be around 10 minutes in length, although one executive clearly had not got the memo. I will report on each of them. The first was from Wally Rhines, CEO of Mentor Graphics. Rhines is well known for presenting the numbers and the trends and that is exactly what he did this year.

He started his talk by saying that the EDA industry has been a tremendous place to be over the past 50 years. This reason for this can be boiled down to two things: it presents exciting and tough technical problems that make a real difference and change the world and secondly it provides financial growth and opportunities to start new companies that can grow into big companies. Wally noted that the industry has had about a 3% growth in the number of engineers and the number of transistors produced has increased 5 orders of magnitude over the past 25 years.There has been a progression from engineers largely doing manual design in the 60s to automation that created a flow and industry of over $6B. But, said Wally, all good things must come to an end…

Moore’s Law is coming to an end. Even Gordon Moore said that no exponential can be forever. And yet, for a dying law it is still doing fairly well. If you look at the last 4 or 5 process technology nodes, you will note that the pace of adoption has accelerated. If you look at the new technologies needed to build 20nm and smaller geometries we are going through one of the most disruptive changes that we have seen in years. A new transistor structure in FinFET, a concern about thermal analysis and stress, plus reliability challenges, electromigration and other things that a designer now has to worry about. We also need a two orders reduction in power consumption.

But, he noted, there is something that is unique about the semiconductor industry that is different from others. Most industries mature. They reach a point where their unit growth slows to single digits. Even cell phones and computers are in the low single digits. We are about to go through a period where we will see bigger growth than the ones we have been through. The types of growth we have seen powers a learning curve and this creates unit growth that follows a log-log curve that is perfectly straight for our industry. Moore’s Law is a mechanism that has helped us stay on that learning curve. So long as unit growth continues, so will everything else. EDA has also kept on track enabling an increasing number of transistors per unit of cost. This is necessary so that EDA does not consume an increasing amount of the semiconductor revenue.

What comes next? When Moore’s Law makes it difficult to cost effectively shrink in the X-Y plane we grow in the third dimension. We do more functions per dollar by integration things like photonics, mechanical functions or by utilizing new materials. The technical challenges are exciting, but what about economic growth? EDA has been about 2% of semiconductor revenue for the past 15 years. Semiconductor is a $300B industry so EDA is about $6B. When the systems world adopts automation we will be looking at a $1.9T semiconductor industry which, all else being equal would make EDA a $38B industry. This is a 6X growth from today. An example of this is the growth in electronics content of cars where today over 50% of the bill of materials is electronics. Just as with the semiconductor industry, they did it because of the complexity involved. The big growth will come when the same applies to the Internet of Things where we will go from hundreds of millions of electronic components to billions of components.

It’s going to be a great time to be in a great industry.

Other visions speeches to come include Lip-Bu Tan, Aart de Geus and Kathryn Kranen.

Brian Bailey – keeping you covered

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