DAC Transitions Over Time

posted in: Chip Design Mag | 20

My first DAC trip was 1987 when I worked for Silicon Compiler Systems as a corporate Application Engineer.  My focus was on the demo suites and getting my just-compiled version of software to actually run the live demo to showcase new features. Computer hardware like the MicroVAX was not that reliable, so just surviving the truck travel and booting up were reasons to celebrate. Hardware vendors were nearby with back-up machines to make us software companies look good when DAC opened on Monday morning.

I recall rules at the exhibit area where they had a cut-off time on Sunday nights and if you left your exhibit after the designated time then you couldn’t return to your booth. It was commonplace for vendors to spend the entire night getting their machines and demos up and running.

Our corporate goal was simple – attract clients and prospects into our demo suites all day so that they wouldn’t have any time to see competitor tools in the other suites. We actually ran the software tools on real or demo designs to show off the features, plus a little time with overhead slides to show off the product roadmap. Fancy presentations were shown with 35mm color slides.

Eventually the DAC structure changed so that the demo suites were no longer off-site, they were integrated into the same exhibit area as the booths. Still, in the 90’s we could witness live product demos up and down the aisles of booths. You could easily spot the buzz at DAC by how deep the crowds were around the live demos.

Eventually we saw the demise of live demos in the booths instead replaced by theatre presentations with slick MTV-style movie clips. You had to be invited into the suites to see live demos running.

One year IBM decided to make a huge splash at DAC to showcase their internal tools to the world. They were very impressive and the people showing the demos were either tool developers or IC designers, and very knowledgable. I recall getting into one of their demo suites only to be escorted out of the suite during the presentation, “for competitive” reasons.

In recent years I’ve notice that even in the suites we are seeing mostly PowerPoint slides and screen shots with fewer and fewer live demos of tools. The thinking must be that CAD managers only want the big picture while actual tool users are not attending DAC as much due to shrinking travel budgets. CAD managers want to lower the risk of buying and using a new tool, so stability is most important.

The last year that Cadence attended the DAC exhibit area they trimmed down the number of tools being shown. I couldn’t even find one person to talk about their FastSPICE tool. Cadence was the first large and public EDA company to pull out of the exhibit area in favor of promoting their own tradeshow. I can understand the thought process to have their own show and keep the attention of their clients loyal to the Cadence brand.

Free Monday at the exhibit area has been around for many years and created a flood of interested people on opening day. This year there is no free Monday, so I expect exhibit traffic to be much lower than in past years. It looks like a blunder by the DAC committee to limit exhibit attendance by charging $50.

Cadence use to throw the biggest DAC party, however now it’s the Denali party that you do not want to miss.

Let’s see what new trends emerge at DAC 2009 in San Francisco.

20 Responses

  1. Grant Martin

    Brian Bailey also raised the issue of No Free Monday at his blog, at http://www.chipdesignmag.com/bailey/2009/05/26/dac-no-free-day/
    which got a few comments (including my own). I too think it is an error for DAC even though no-one serious about attending will be deterred by a $50 fee. But if the attendance is down from last time in San Francisco, that may lead some to the conclusion that “DAC is dying”, no matter how erroneous that may be.

  2. Daniel

    I’m guessing that DAC attendance will decline by 40%, similar to other tech conferences that I’ve heard numbers for in 2009.

  3. Sean Murphy

    I have been helping one customer or another the last few years by manning a booth and I am not sorry to see them skip “Free Monday.” My concern is less with total attendance and more with senior engineers and managers who can communicate a clear understanding of the challenges their teams are facing. I would like to see them hold it at the Santa Clara or the San Jose Convention center if they come to Silicon Valley. Moscone is more of a hassle for attendees from the major electronics firms in Silicon Valley.

  4. Daniel

    As an EDA vendor I always preferred busy Monday to dead Tuesday-Thursday. More people meant more prospects, more evaluations, more sales, more market share, more annual bonus.

    Both Santa Clara and San Jose convention centers offer an inadequate number of hotel rooms for out of town attendees. You are correct that the trip from the Valley to the City is a hassle. In years gone by they have organized buses and mass transit to the City.

  5. Daniel

    Thanks for the clarification although Cadence will not have a single, massive booth as in years gone by…

  6. Grant Martin

    It is interesting in fact to see that Cadence will be back at DAC physically, and has decided to convert its CDNLive company trade show in Silicon Valley in October this year into a set of webinars. (see http://www.cadence.com/cdnlive/na/2009/pages/default.aspx for the explanation). The pendulum swings back to a previous state! Or, the more things change, the more things (return) to the same……

  7. Daniel

    Good observation. I’ve seen an explosion in the number of webinars offered in EDA.

  8. DAColdie

    Having been in a vendor booth many times, I think the elimination of “Free Monday” makes sense. It’s not number of attendees or even people coming to your booth, it’s number of serious buyers that matters. Monday was full of what we call “Freebie Takers”, technicians, spouses, college students, vendors, resume-circulators etc. They don’t buy from you. $50 is a nice way to limit those people, if you are a serious manager/engineer, the $50 won’t deter you from learning about new tools.
    Having said that, in general, IMHO the trade show is less important than it was years ago. In the 90s engineers want to see your GUI, see interoperability, ‘demos’ as the first commentator said. Today sales (at least ours) are made at a higher level as the industry has matured. We’re showing customers how to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars at a corporate level. It’s a tough sell and high cost to go to a show to have an engineer peek their head in and say “I have two minutes before the next paper, what do you have here?”. On the internet we’ll get 1/2hr, hour or more of the person’s time and heck his manager will look too and it doesn’t cost them to travel our website.
    Sorry to be anonymous but my company may not agree with my view.

  9. Daniel

    I’m curious how effective webinars and web-based demos are in your EDA sales process these days. Can you share any insight?

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  11. Karen

    Hi Daniel. I think that webinars are becoming a lot more prevalent, because of travel budgets being cut. Having web-based activity allows EDA companies to track how the activity leads to more follow-up, but I think that it is still fairly removed from closing sales. I think it’s similar to free mondays, or free seminars. It helps get the word out there, but the actual sales process is quite involved and requires deep relationships.

  12. Daniel

    That makes sense, webinars help build initial EDA product awareness, yet it still requires a sales team to qualify the account and then close the order.

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  14. Daniel


    Let’s wait to see what numbers are reported at DAC for exhibit attendees. I’m guessing that total attendance could dip by 30% in 2009 compared to 2008 levels just based on what other trade shows have been reporting for the past 6 months.

  15. rolfmobile99

    Hi Folks,
    As a first time visitor to DAC,
    I am curious, but also hesistant to spend

    Sorry to ask, but is there a promo code
    for an exhibits only pass?

    By the way, attendance at the ESC show
    in SJ last April seemed quite robust.
    Designers seem to realize this is not the time
    to stop learning or training.

  16. Daniel

    Contact your favorite EDA vendor and request an exhibitor pass.


  17. hillol

    $50 for the show will limit the number of people.
    Travel to San Francisco is also a problem.
    If every one thinks that we will have 40 percent
    less people then San Jose would have been better


  18. Daniel Payne

    The only issue about using San Jose is that I’ve heard that they don’t have enough hotel space to house all the attendees while San Francisco does. I hope that you make it to DAC this year anyways.

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