Thought Leadership

Zombie Alert! (Can the CEDA DTC “User Voice” Be Heard When They Won’t Let You Listen)

By Dennis Brophy

Back to the Future; Unleash the Past

No, I’m not talking about the Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd movie. Nor am I a talking about unleashing zombies from the Zombieland to make the present the dead past.  I’ve given more thought to the DTC after reading some questions Brian Bailey asked in his “I don’t understand this new IEEE EDA User group.” His post that led me to dig deeper, ask questions and issue a Zombie Alert.  (OK, the zombie alert is just humor.)

It appears that after more than a decade the Design Technology Council (DTC) has announced it has abandoned Si2 in favor of IEEE CEDA (Council on EDA) and it has changed its name to the Design Technology Committee.  It keeps the DTC acronym, presumably in a move to save on a redo of letterhead. (OK, I can’t resist a bit of sarcasm.)

The announcement made me think we are either going back to the future or unleashing the dead past.  Watch out – the zombies just might just be on the loose.

Given that CEDA is a collection of IEEE Societies that are replete with immense technical talent and brainpower to help address next generation design issues, the DTC may well be in a better home.  They also intend to interact with other standards setting organization as well.  For these reasons, I think think this is a great move!

Yet, when I read the whole of their press release again, I’m left with skepticism that was only fed by Brian’s words on the topic as well.

1.   Captive EDA Represents themselves as the User and Commercial EDA as not?
Are they really users?  The corporate affiliations of the DTC members is impressive! Their corporations are associated with some of the most advanced designs being done today. If anyone knows hard problems, they do.  If anyone wants solutions, EDA should listen to them.

But when I read the titles of the current members I see a majority of them have CAD or EDA in them.  Are they actually designers or Captive EDA representatives?  Is Captive EDA any different from a Commercial EDA company?  (I came from a Captive EDA group to Mentor Graphics, so I have some history here.  Maybe that’s a topic of a future blog.)

Is this action to form inside CEDA being taken due to a lack of technology response by Commercial EDA or to represent Captive EDA self-interests?  Can Captive EDA be seen as yet another middleman in a vendor/supplier relationship?  Does that promote business efficiency of is it suboptimal?

Can a closed group like this that segregates Captive and Commercial EDA be seen as restraining and hampering trade?  Or could it be that Captive EDA seeks to be a focal point for Commercial EDA business relationships to rationalize its existence?  I do note that Gary Smith has presented his findings on a resurgence of Captive EDA. One can only conclude the resurgence is borne out of necessity and lack of Commercial EDA to address some pressing technical design challenges.

2.   Something “NEW” was announced; but it is the same “OLD” thing
Can a group that announces it is new by concealing its past be that trusted?  I’ve seen some blog comments that support a conclusion of confusion.  Questions are asked is the DTC still in Si2?  Does the industry need another DTC?

The truth is this group is has been around for a long time, not “newly formed” as they would suggest to all. The simple fact is the DTC moved.  Concealing this information makes no sense to me.  It just heightens my suspicion.

3.   It is a CLOSED group
The press release says they “consists of leaders exclusively from semiconductor and systems companies who use EDA tools.”  And they seek to expand as they say “nominations for new members are actively being solicited.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is great the DTC explores ways to rejuvenate itself and drive greater self relevance. It is good they have made a call for nominations for additional members. The DTC needs to expand their ranks as they are more cloistered in their configuration and out of touch with the current design practice in the world.

While no one group may be able to address all problems and solve all issues at once, a group that does not have representatives that play important roles in an age of design reuse where IP suppliers are important or when it does not represent the swelling ranks of programmable logic designers, it is not relevant to the majority of design practice today.

Since EDA vendors are not invited to participate, may I offer this thought through this venue: Don’t stay parochial. Don’t go back to the past. Recognize the future encompasses more than who you have been or are today. The challenges of a majority of designers globally should be part of your focus as you encourage interoperable design flows.  To be the voice, you must be the body.

4.   The DTC will communicate; but they will make it hard for anyone to hear what they say.
How can a group that is to be the voice of users be heard when they are closed?

If they want to be the user voice, what have they said the past decade?  The voice of the user has been center to their theme since their inception under Si2.  Yet there is no easily found record of the users’ voice being recorded.  Even Google has a hard time to find any recording of this.  It can find the promise to be the voice way back to 2001, but no recording of the actual voice.

Is a long standing promise unfulfilled just hallow when committed to today?

5.   Are the proposed DTC business models anti-competitive?
The DTC says in their press release they will “communicate with each other … [on] business models through which [they] access design tools.”  Yet such an action in the opposite direction (all EDA vendors getting together to say how they will sell) would be seen as anti-competitive and a restraint of trade.

Collective price negotiation is potentially anti-competitive if it results in the exercise of market power by buyers.  Are the large EDA consumers banding together to exert monopsony power to create a buyer’s monopoly?

The DTC Vice-Chair, Thomas Harms, is looking to both grow DTC membership (users-only) and start a business model discussion on Twitter. Could those membership actions make the DTC a more powerful buyers collective? A conversation on business models has already been started on Twitter.  Thomas and Cadence CMO have exchanged thoughts, as have many others.  In one of Thomas’ tweets, it seems there is some thought that the world would be better if there was one of anything from EDA to bring to a halt the duplicating of products and the waste of R&D resources.  Humm, are we soon to see one CPU architecture and one supplier, one semiconductor fabricator, one IP supplier, one bus interconnect model – one  of everything?


Is IEEE CEDA’s goal to foster collective bargaining on the part of buyers?  Can you guess if this is where I want my IEEE dues and profits from the Design Automation Conference being spent?

My Hope
Go Forward to the Future. Unleash the Present. Don’t call all zombies from the past back to life.  Become an active voice of the users.  Share what you learn with all.  From where I sit, we seek input from a wide body of users.  We hope this group joins a larger community of users who seek more from EDA, give advice to EDA and in turn get more as we listen to you.

You have my ear….

What do you think?

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at