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DesignCon 2014 AMS Panel Report

DesignCon 2014 AMS Panel Report
by Daniel Nenni on 02-05-2014 at 10:15 am

 DesignCon 2014 was very crowded! I have not seen the attendance numbers but as the first conference of the New Year it was very encouraging. The strength of the fabless semiconductor ecosystem is collaboration and face-to-face interactions are the most valuable, absolutely.

The session I moderated was on Mixed Signal Design which is of growing importance as mobile and wearable devices continue to drive the semiconductor industry. The panelists included an emerging fabless company CEO, a leading IP company VP, and an EDA product manager. The moderator is the opening act so it is my job to keep it interesting and entertaining, which I did.

As a moderator, I always ask for biographies and a list of questions the speakers would be comfortable answering following their presentation. I never actually ask these questions of course because that would be boring. I generally come up with candid questions that are a bit edgy but focused on content. I also try and get a ringer or two in the audience to keep the presenters on their toes.

For this session my ringer was a good friend and fellow consultant Herb Reiter. Herb started his career as an analog circuit designer and earned a dozen circuit design patents in Germany. He worked for VLSI Technology, ViewLogic, Synopsys, Mephisto Design Automation, and Barcelona Design amongst many other consulting clients. Herb knows AMS design, absolutely.

Zhimin Ding, is the CEO of Anitoa Systems which I wrote about HERE. The device he described was not really a wearable or a swallowable device, it is an ultra-low-light CMOS molecular imager enabling portable medical and scientific instruments. This is the future people, immediate results for medical tests, definitely. Swallowables are next! And if I’m going to swallow a medical diagnostic device it had better be 28nm or smaller that’s for sure.

Mahesh Tirupattur, SVP of Analog Bits, was the most entertaining. Mahesh and I have been on panels together before and I have not yet been able to unnerve him. Yes, he is that good. Mahesh can go from the IP business model down to the transistor and field any question in between. Analog Bits uses the Tanner EDA tools to develop high speed IP on the bleeding edge process nodes. They have already taped-out FinFETs and are currently collaborating on 10nm with the foundries.

Jeff Miller, PM of Tanner EDA was my Q&A focus as he interacts with customers and knows where the bodies are buried so to speak. Jeff spent his first 5 years with Tanner Research doing design work for medical, military, and aerospace applications. He then switched to the Tanner EDA group and has been helping customers with AMS designs ever since.

I tried to unnerve Jeff by asking him directly where the bodies are buried. I asked him for some customer crash and burn stories. I did get him to pause and give me a funny look but he came through with tales of process variation and mixed signal design that were well worth the price of admission, without mentioning specific customer names of course. Jeff earned his wings here, a true professional through and through.

Bottom line: If you want an interesting panel, have me moderate. If you want to attend an interesting panel look for the ones I moderate. If you are on a panel that I’m moderating don’t bother submitting questions in advance.

More Articles by Daniel Nenni…..

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