I have a unique perspective on DAC since I have attended DAC in many different capacities over the last 15 years: as a poor student, a lucky customer, an excited vendor participant, an independent consultant, a free spirit and a hard working vendor organizer. The following log describes the many DACs that I have attended and my impressions.
- 1995 (San Francisco): My first DAC as a graduate student. Our research group (Zhi Wang and me, led by Prof. Malgorzata-Chrzanowska Jeske) from Portland State University won the Design Automation Conference Scholarship Awards for our project “Fine-Grain Locally-Connected FPGAs; Synthesis and Architecture”. It was an exciting event for me since I had been in the U.S. for only one year. Being able to participate in the academic sessions and meeting with other researchers were simply fantastic!
- 1996 (Las Vegas): As a CAD engineer from Lattice Semiconductor Corporation. As a customer of EDA tools, I was treated to my very first expensive Sushi dinner by sales people of a vendor. The tradeshow floor was exciting and overwhelming. All the exhibitors, presentations, giveaways, magician shows stimulated all my senses. My colleague won a nice telescope in a drawing. Wow, it was amazing!
- 1998 (San Francisco), 1999 (New Orleans), 2000(LA): As a core competency applications engineer from Cadence Design Systems. Those were good years at Cadence when the parties were lots of fun. I worked mainly in the suite to launch Cadence’s new equivalence checker. We were busy but I heard the floor traffic was down.
- 2001 (Las Vegas): As a lead applications engineer from Real Intent. It was a very memorable DAC for me because Real Intent was a young startup at that time. We got a lot of attention from all kinds of people trying to learn about our “Intent Driven Verification” technology.
- 2003 (Anaheim): As a free spirit. I took time off after having my first daughter Makana. Without any obligations, I had a great time seeing old friends and keeping up with new development in the industry.
- 2006 (San Francisco): As a new PhD graduate. I presented my research paper “Symmetry detection for large Boolean functions using simulation, satisfiability and circuit representation”, co-authored with Alan Mishchenko, Prof. Bob Brayton and Prof. Jeske. I also presented at the PhD forum on my thesis “Computing functional properties and network flexibilities for logic synthesis and verification”. I spent most of my time in academic sessions noticing the change of hot topics between years.
- 2007 (San Diego): As an independent consultant. I was there to scout the market and see what’s new.
- 2008 (Anaheim), 2009 (San Francisco): As a technical marketing manager for Real Intent. The product that I am responsible for, Meridian CDC, Real Intent’s flagship asynchronous clock domain crossing verification tool, got great attraction at these events. I remember talking nonstop for hours showcasing Meridian CDC’s advanced capabilities.
This year at Anaheim, I attended DAC as the director of technical marketing for Real Intent. This is the first time that I have been involved in orchestrating all the behind-the-scene work a vendor has to do to participate at DAC. I am struck by:
- How expensive it is to participate for DAC. Besides the huge cost of having a space at DAC, the cost of designing and building the booth, the cost of transporting the booth to and from the convention center, the cost of installing and dismantling the booth, and the cost related to staff travel add up very quickly. Some of the costs are so outrageous that I am surprised we all put up with these every year: $90 per hour for floor union labor from 8am to 4:30pm and $150 per hour overtime? $270 to vacuum a 900 SF area? $50 for a gallon of coffee with $25 delivery charge? Why do the smart people in EDA pay so much money for so little service?
- The amount of time and effort needed to organize all activities. A successful tradeshow is a concerted effort involving many groups of people: R&D to develop the new big thing to showcase at DAC, Sales to line up customer meetings, Marketing to create a theme and associated art work, update product literature, create product presentation and demonstration, Media to tell the public what will happen, Booth design firm to design a booth with a prominent presence while saving cost, Promotional company to select giveaways and DAC attire, Logistics firm for transportation to and from the convention center and within the convention center, Union labor for booth installation & dismantling (their lack of efficiency drove us nuts), Hotel for staff, and many more. After doing all these, I now have great appreciation of people who organize trade shows. There are a million details, tons of work.
The hard work paid off. Real Intent had a good show. We had many qualified people coming through our booth checking out our technologies. People all liked our stylish booth design with wavy frosty panels and 3 different shirt colors (red, green and purple). We often got asked about the different shirt colors as people walked in our booth, and we proudly pointed to the colors of our 3 product families: Ascent, Meridian and PureTime.
DAC released preliminary attendance number for this year: full conference 1554, exhibit attendees 3444, exhibitors and guests 2557. The total participants of 7555 is on par with last year’s total of 7996 . However throughout the years, most people would say that the number of companies exhibiting and the attendance have gone down from the good days. The following are some of the factors that have contributed to this trend:
- With the high cost and huge amount of work involved, smaller companies may reduce presence or pull out;
- With the other smaller regional tradeshows, e.g. DVCon and SNUG, potential customers have less of a need to travel to DAC to meet all the vendors;
- With the advancement of internet, all companies have extensive web presence so information can be accessible at the finger tips of potential customers. The need for people to gather information from the traditional tradeshows is somewhat reduced;
- The economy has definitely played a role in the trend we are seeing with DAC.
These make me ponder what value DAC brings and where the future lies. What are the goals for exhibitors and customers at DAC going forward? And should DAC consider going virtual like FPGA Summit?
My answers coming from all the prospective that I had over the years are:
- DAC is a very unique event in that it is for both academic researchers and end users. It bridges the gap between academic researches and EDA tools. No other venue can conveniently bring the two together as DAC does.
- Though overall attendance has reduced, the key decision makers who attended the shows have not changed. The quality of conversation has definitely improved.
- Despite the cost and effort involved, DAC is a window for potential customers to gauge the financial health of a company and get to know all the hard working technologists behind the scene. It is also a great opportunity for R&D to hear customer’s problems and issues first hand. This level of interaction and communication can’t be achieved elsewhere.
- As Real Intent grows geographically, every year I meet new people for the first time whom I have worked with over skype and email. It is exciting to get to know my coworkers a bit more personally.
- Besides, DAC is an opportunity to connect with old acquaintance. After all, our industry is a very small world.
If I could offer any suggestions for the future, I would recommend DAC to adopt SNUG’s approach with its recent designer community expo (DCE). All the booths are designed and setup for the vendors. All we had to do was to provide booth graphics. I know this removes the unique look & feel for vendors, but it was such an easy event for us to attend and the results were awesome. After all, it is the people and technology users care about mostly.
I certainly believe DAC will stay for many years to come, I will see you in San Diego!
 47th DAC Announces Preliminary Attendance Numbers http://www10.edacafe.com/nbc/articles/view_article.php?section=CorpNews&articleid=836124
Based on the math from years past, the definition of total attendees include conference attendance and exhibit attendance. Last year the total was 5299. This year it should be 4998 (1554+3444), a merely 6% drop. The total number of 6001 given in the press release included exhibitors, not full conference attendees. If we compare the total participants, which include all three categories, then last year it was 7996, again only slightly more than this year’s 7555. Am I missing something?