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Startup turns to China for analog design suite

Posted: 19 Aug 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:paragon ic solutions? eda? analog ic design?

Paragon IC Solutions is a two-year-old EDA startup that's selling an analog IC design suite with a 13-year heritage. That's because the company, which has made no public announcements, acquired its code from a Chinese R&D center that continues to handle Paragon's software development.

Paragon's Zeni 2002 suite is a full-custom IC design solution that includes a schematic editor, layout editor and verification tool. "We offer a standalone cockpit for custom design," said Paragon president Tom Doyle. "You can do a design from start to finish. The only thing you need is a Spice simulator-there are so many in the market, we decided not to focus on that."

The software comes from Huada Electronic Design (HED) in Beijing, a division of the China Electronics Corp. Paragon owns the source code and has requested and specified improvements, but all code development takes place in China. Doyle said that Paragon has sold about 100 seats of its analog design suite, mostly in Asia, and is now starting to penetrate the U.S. market.

Paragon was founded in April 2001. Doyle, who had been a senior account executive at Cadence Design Systems and who has a background in RF design, was one of three founders. Another was CEO Stephen Watkins, who had been director of international business development for Tanner Research.

The third co-founder is Jin Luo, CTO, who was formerly director of consulting and engineering services for Tanner. Now a U.S. citizen, Luo came from China and provided the link to HED, Doyle said.

Paragon will now compete against established providers, especially Cadence Design Systems, the market leader in analog full-custom design. Doyle believes that Paragon offers a couple of advantages: lower costs as well as ease-of-use features. "We're starting to see a big demand for different ways to leverage the analog designer today," said Doyle. "In digital, everything is automated to a large extent, but with analog, it's still the engineer's mind that drives it. There are different features that really make it more efficient and faster to do designs."

The alliance with HED, said Doyle, "has been a long process, but a very valuable and interesting one." He said that dealing with government bureaucracy was less difficult than expected, and that language barriers have not been a big problem. Today, said Doyle, Paragon considers the 50 HED employees as part of its staff, even though they are not direct employees. "HED is not part of Paragon yet, but we're looking at ways to join forces," he said.

Doyle said that HED's analog design software was previously deployed to customers in Asia, mostly in China. Since Paragon acquired and improved the software, he said, the company has mostly sold in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, all areas served by Paragon distributors. The company sells directly in the U.S. and is looking to enter European and Korean markets.

One reason for the Asian sales, Doyle said, is that Paragon's cost structure is more supportive of lower-cost markets. Another is that U.S. sales cycles are longer. "If you can show technical excellence, it's quicker to be adopted in Asia," he said.

Doyle pointed to several features in Paragon software that he called competitive advantages. One is a flexible, parameterized cell called the "Vcell." Another is short- and signal-tracing capabilities that run in seconds, without a need to run layout vs. schematics (LVS). A third is a graphical LVS debugger that Doyle calls unique.

Paragon's Schematic Editor (SE) is the entry point into the system-Paragon doesn't yet support analog HDLs. Paragon's Physical Designer (PD) is a polygon-level layout editor. It provides cell- and object-based, hierarchical, mask-level layout support and claims to provide fast operation for large databases.

The third module in Paragon's design suite, Veri, provides design rule checking (DRC), electrical rule checking (ERC), LVS, parameter extraction, and signal-integrity analysis. Doyle declined to give pricing specifics, or to name customers. He said pricing differs throughout the world, and he noted that Paragon offers site licensing under an annual fee, with "upside potential" for adding new licenses. Paragon tools run on Unix and Linux platforms.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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