Somehow, without intending to, I've managed to put together a fairly long string of consecutive Design Automation Conference (DAC) visits. Starting with the 1995 DAC in San Francisco, I've now been to 17 consecutive conferences representing 4 different companies. I'm sure there's a sizable contingent of folks out there who can easily double both of those numbers.
The streak was nearly broken a few different times. I started my AE career at Quickturn and there were always plenty of AEs available for the show but I always managed to be one of lucky (or unlucky, depending upon your point of view) to be chosen to attend and man the demo suites. The streak was actually most in danger 10 years ago when Carbon was first founded. We had incorporated as a company in April, 2002 but didn't actually close that first round of funding until just before DAC. Right after the funding closed, we put a deposit down on office space and booked our tickets to DAC to do some desperately needed networking. Carbon didn't have an exhibit or a suite that year but we've been back every year since.
The Annual Quandary
With such a long history of attendance, you would think that the decision to exhibit at DAC each year would be an easy one. It has actually been a big point of debate for many years now and I know that we're not the only company holding that discussion. Cadence skipped the event in 2008. ARM skipped for many years as well. Both companies are back now of course but the conference exhibit is definitely scaled back. This year's exhibition is only taking up one half of the Moscone center whereas in previous years I recall making the trek from side to side multiple times in a day.
When Carbon first started, most of our customers were concentrated in the verification space. They used our Carbon Model Studio product to compile their RTL and accelerate their regression tests. As we've evolved the company to focus entirely on the virtual prototype market however we've found that the folks we'd like to speak with are in much shorter supply at DAC. Architects and firmware engineers are easily outnumbered by their verification and backend optimization brethren. Software engineers are starting to show up in a bit larger numbers but they're still rather scarce. This seeming dearth of target users forces us to take a long look at the costs and benefits of renewing our spot each year. The default starting point has been to not attend for the last several years but each time we've ended up attending to hold a key meetings. Inevitably, those few meetings blossom into a fully booked schedule by the time the first day rolls around (especially now that they've mercifully cancelled the half day on thursday)
Lather, rinse, repeat
DAC 49 planning started much the same way that DAC 48 planning did. We wouldn't be exhibiting and would just send a few folks out to hold meetings. Last year, the lure of the embedded section of the floor proved to be to strong to resist. This year, the irresistible draw for us is the ARM Connected Community Pavilion. Since Carbon offers the industry's only cycle accurate virtual models of ARM processors, the ARM pavilion is actually a very appropriate fit. The recent slew of IP coming from ARM also makes for great demo fodder. Carbon's demo this year will feature ARM big.LITTLE™ technology and demonstrate how crucial accuracy can be when designing using this new offering. I promised my marketing guys I wouldn't spill the beans too early on what we'll be demonstrating so you'll need to come back in a week or two to learn more specifics.