A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


Back to the Stone Age at ESC San Jose

The embedded systems conference is a mystery to me. It always has been. And this year it has been the weirdest of all. A dinosaur? Really? Yes, really, I too the picture of “Samson” below …. Something is not right here. Aren’t they a sign of extinction? I must have missed something in my marketing class. Or the engineer in me is finally trying to break free again and does not get it. No wonder, according to the “Specimens of Tyrannosaurus” Wikpedia page, I also had missed the eBay auction in 2000 in which “Z-rex” was not sold for $8 million and then was subsequently renamed. Oh well.

SamsonWhile the technical conference program looked great – the tutorials have become the main attraction of ESC and are definitely worth their money – attendance on the show floor was light but steady, at least on Tuesday, when I attended for some analysts and partner meetings. Walking the show floor, the exhibitors varied from software programming, lifecycle tracking, compiler, OS, small and bigger board companies, chip and microcontroller vendors to the multi-core zone and the “close-to-embedded” EDA companies Mentor, Cadence and Synopsys.

We at Synopsys had a small booth, we focused on showing our FPGA prototyping, FPGA design tools as well as our embedded offerings around processor development and virtual prototypes. We did not make any announcements. Mentor was present with their “Mentor Embedded” division and announced their integrated development environment based on the GNU Toolchain based on the technology and tools previously acquired from CodeSourcery. In addition, Cadence announced what they call their System Development Suite.

At Synopsys we are serving the market needs of system designers and embedded software developers for a while now. We have made significant investments via several acquisitions. It is nice to see that another big EDA player now also follows and validates this market. The actual announcement was well executed and is naturally anchored on their strength of emulation and RTL simulation. Building on those incrementally the two elements of FPGA based and virtual prototyping, makes perfect sense from where they are at. We will see how a Linux-centric, “hardware-out” approach will work for users when the actual tools come out “later this year”. Undoubtedly the need for better system design tools and more productive software development is strong, as is the need for connections from the system-level to implementation and verification. Synopsys is just wrapping up a worldwide seminar series in which we demonstrated a complete systems to silicon verification solution.

At the end of ESC Mentor took home the VDC Embeddy Best Software Product award. And on Wednesday, just to close the loop back to dinosaurs and times long passed, something unexpected happened in San Jose. While I was happily (and slightly chilled) traveling in Ontario, temperatures in San Jose crept up enough to cause a rolling power black out. As I later heard via phone, my wife was in the midst of a press briefing when the conference center turned pitch black. The effects are nicely described by Bernhard Cole in his Editor’s Note at embedded.com. I guess the only one happy and comfortable in his natural, electricity-free habitat, was probably Samson …

The bottom line from ESC? Diversity is king in embedded! The mix of software tools, OS, board, chip, microcontroller and EDA companies still offers an interesting dynamic. I will definitely be back next year, but will be just as happy without Samson.

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