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Last week was the last CDNLive of 2017 (cats have nine lives, Cadence had nine CDNlives this year). CDNLive Israel was all day last Monday. That's actually the second day of the week there, since the weekend is Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is a normal working day. You probably weren't there, but Israel has lots of outposts of semiconductor companies, lots of startups, venture capital, and just technology in general. I went there to get a snapshot of the semiconductor ecosystem in one day.
Getting here is easier than it used to be, at least from Silicon Valley. United has a direct flight since they can now use a 787 which has a long enough range to make the nearly 15-hour flight. It certainly beats the old days when you would have to change planes in Frankfurt or London. Last year, the flight only ran three times per week, but now it seems to run every day. Since the return flight from Tel Aviv leaves at 1am, it is possible to attend CDNLive Israel all day Monday (including the staff dinner afterward) and then attend Jasper User Group all day Tuesday in San Jose, as I did. The only annoying aspect of the flight is that the incoming flight always seems to be nicely on-time, arriving in San Francisco by 5.45am... but immigration doesn't open until 6am, so after having spent 15 hours on the plane already, you have to sit there until they are allowed to open the door to the plane finally about twenty minutes later.
The hotel where CDNLive is held, the David Intercontinental, is kosher. So breakfast is a little different, due to the rules. Obviously, there is no bacon since all forms of pork are nonkosher. But in fact, there is no meat at all, since there are cheese and yogurt. Another rule is that meat and milk products may not be served at the same meal. Eggs and fish (but not crustaceans, fish must have scales) can be served with either meat or dairy, so breakfast can include cheese omelet, smoked salmon, rollmop herring, as well as fruit, cheese, hummus, bread and so on. On Saturday, they can't prepare specialty coffee like espresso or latte, since that would involve "fire" and so is not permitted from (roughly) sunset on Friday to an hour after sunset on Saturday. But there seems to be some way to serve normal coffee that is rabbinically approved. You can't get the aforementioned omelet on Saturday morning either since only food prepared the day before is permitted.
Many Jews in the US observe the sabbath rule against using computers or phones. In Israel, people observing the strictest rules consider operating any electrical device to be "work" and so they turn the lights on before sunset and leave them on until Saturday evening. One of the elevators in the hotel gets set to stop at every floor, up and down, so that you can use it without pressing a button, which is pretty annoying if you accidentally get into that one. I noticed that for some reason the electric revolving door is turned off for Shabbat too, and you have to walk in and out through one of the regular swing doors.
One thing I have only ever had in Israel are truly fresh dates. Dates seem to dry out rapidly, so they are normally wrinkled and chewy. But in Israel for breakfast, they have smooth skin and are still juicy, a real treat and very different. I know dates are grown in Southern California, but I've never seen a truly fresh date in the store or a restaurant. Even the "fresh" dates in Whole Foods are no longer soft and juicy. I suspect they need to be served the day after they are picked from the palm, and the supply chains in the US tend to be comparatively long. You get a similar phenomenon in Mexico, where the fish in your fish taco on the beach likely came from the fisherman a few hours earlier, but on a San Diego beach, it has been through wholesalers and other middlemen.
CDNLive Israel opened with three keynotes. Lip-Bu Tan, Cadence's CEO, was on his second trip to Israel this year, and he opened the day with a keynote Enabling an Intelligent Connected World. He started by talking a little about the startup environment in Israel. Walden International, where he is chairman, has invested in several companies in Israel. Plus, of course, Cadence's most recent acquisition in the simulation space, Rocketick, is based in Israel. That is the technology that has enabled Xcelium to be parallelized so that it can run on servers with large numbers of cores.
Going back a few years, the whole semiconductor ecosystem was driven by mobile, from foundries to EDA and IP companies. It was the fastest growing and largest market for the semiconductor industry. However, going forward there are multiple platforms driving the industry:
Lip-Bu tied these into System Design Enablement, reflecting that systems are not just chips but also involve packages, boards, system integration, and, especially, software.
In the graphic above, the central wafer has the major upcoming challenges in the chip design area. But around the outside are the major system challenges:
The second keynote was from Anirudh Devgan who talked about the various product lines in more detail. I have covered them individually in even more detail over the last year or so, and I won't do that again here. However, some of the color that Anirudh added was especially interesting.
At 7nm, Cadence already has more than 30 customers. The technology is enabling an explosion of chip sizes, with billion gate designs. Performance is always important but power and area are bigger challenges. TSMC had recently announced a 4GHz Arm core that they had created using Innovus. Cadence now has market leadership in digital at advanced nodes, with 16 out of the top 20 semiconductor companies using the Cadence digital flow. Genus synthesis now has over 100 customers.
These chips all, or mostly, contain some analog, which is an area where Cadence has always excelled, going back to SDA days before Cadence even existed.
In verification, almost all complex chips you see in the market are verified with Palladium emulation, bringing up complex software loads such as Android, and complementing emulation with the Protium FPGA prototyping flow.
There are impressive gains that come from using a full Cadence digital flow since the various tools all have common engines for timing, placement, extraction, IR analysis and so on. So whereas using Innovus versus other place & route systems gives about a 10% gain, using Genus for synthesis too results in a 17% better results, over half as good again.
Cadence is also adding machine learning (ML) to the tools themselves, using designs that we have in-house to train neural networks to make predictions, such as congestion, that allow global routing to do a better job. There are plenty of areas where ML is applicable, such as optimized power grids in floorplanning, placement congestion prediction, better clock tree synthesis, better clustering during placement, and improving the initial routing patterns. It is still early, but the results so far are promising.
Another them is parallelism. The best example is Pegasus, which can be distributed across lots of servers with normal memory configurations such as 256G. It is not just that designs run faster on multiple servers, though they do. It is that it is a lot easier to acquire a lot of servers with run-of-the-mill memory configurations than the one server with huge memory. The tools have to be able to distribute their execution to take advantage of this phenomenon. It is not just the number of CPUs that is important but also the memory footprint.
Eyal Waldman, the CEO of Mellanox, talked about Data Drives a Better Future. The theme of his talk was that everything people can do with data today is driven by silicon. Mellanox has its headquarters in Yokneam Israel and has nearly 3000 employees. Their business is driven by the fact that every day there are more devices, and more data being transferred. Data is growing fast and so you need fast pipes. This is not just the backbones of the web but inside things like cars. A car is a sort of hybrid cloud. An autonomous vehicle will generate about 4 terabytes per day. Car companies are putting 100Gb Ethernet into cars, which may be over-provisioning for today but will soon be truly required.
AI is sparking the next industrial revolution, driven by companies like Baidu, Microsoft, Facebook, Alibaba, Apple and more.
It is not just bandwidth driving networking in general and Mellanox in particular. It is also latency. Companies like Paypal or Alipay have 300ms to decide whether a transaction is fraudulent and whether to block it or allow it. The quicker they can get the data, the more data they can analyze, and so the better the decisions.
Interconnect also has to get more intelligent, offloading functions from the servers and other nodes in the network. In particular, taking on security, and adding AI to the endpoint and the switch.
AI is improving things in all sorts of areas, and one of the key enablers is better interconnections: faster, lower latency, offloading intelligence and thus delivering a competitive advantage to customers.
The most demanding of all is AI. This is partly because AI tends to process large amounts of data---in particular, video and image data---which, to a first approximation, is all the data in many systems like autonomous vehicles.
The combination of big data storage, deep learning, high-performance computing, along with increased intelligence at the edge in the internet of things is driven by the performance of getting the data where it needs to be.
In this market, Mellanox is the leading supplier. About 60% of all the world's supercomputers are connected with Mellanox, including the world's #1 supercomputer in China. In what Eyal called his marketing slide, he pointed out that Mellanox is used by 5 out o 6 global banks, 9 out of 10 hyperscale companies, 9 out of 10 of the top pharmaceutical companies, and all 10 top automotive manufacturers.
Anirudh said earlier that almost all advanced node chips are verified with Palladium emulation. Well, they are all using Mellanox too, since it is the communication backbone inside. So in a sort of weird circle of life, Cadence helps Mellanox design semiconductors, and Mellanox helps Cadence products go faster.
In a throwaway aside, Eyal said that all their chips designed with Cadence worked the first time. Now that's a customer reference.
I will cover some of the other presentations I saw during the day in later posts.
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