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EDA CEOs field provocative questions

Posted: 08 Mar 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:design and verification conference? asics? systemc? systemverilog? synthesis?

In a broad-ranging panel discussion at the Design and Verification Conference (DVCon), moderator John Cooley asked EDA CEOs a variety of provocative questions - and received some spirited responses. Topics included structured ASICs, SystemC, SystemVerilog, synthesis, and the outsourcing of jobs to India and China.

Synopsys was not present on the panel, but Cooley, moderator of the E-Mail Synopsys Users Group, noted that Synopsys has placed its Behavioral Compiler and SystemC Compiler products on an "end of life" basis. A Synopsys spokeswoman confirmed this statement, and noted that Aart de Geus, Synopsys CEO, was unable to attend because he was traveling on business.

In his recent ESNUG 423 bulletin, Cooley asked readers to send in questions for the CEOs, who included Cadence Design Systems' Ray Bingham, Mentor Graphics' Wally Rhines, Magma Design Automation's Rajeev Madhavan, and Synplicity's Bernie Aronson. Brett Cline, VP of Forte Design Systems, was also on the panel.

Cooley launched the discussion by asking Bingham why Cadence has fallen behind Synopsys to take the number two place in EDA revenues. "Synopsys added bulk by acquiring Avanti and making smaller acquisitions," Bingham responded. "This gave them a revenue level roughly equal to where we are today, as we go through a license model shift."

Cooley then asked Madhavan if he believed Magma will become the number two EDA company in four years, displacing Cadence. "Absolutely," Madhavan replied. While Magma's revenues are about one-tenth of Cadence today, he said, Magma's bookings and sales are probably more like one-fifth those of Cadence. He also said Magma is the "antithesis of Cadence" when it comes to developing new technology in-house.

Turning to Rhines, Cooley called Mentor a "doughnut" company, with tools at the front and back of the design process but a big gap in the middle. Rhines replied that Mentor dominates several important market segments, including HDL and C design, and physical verification. "I don't see the benefit of being another competitor if there's already a de-facto standard, or two or three large competitors," he said.

Cooley asked Synplicity's Aronson whether structured ASICs are really warmed-over gate arrays. "You could say that, but I think of it as an ASSP with personalization," Aronson said. He said structured ASICs will appeal to design teams who are targeting "moderate" volumes of chips, and that Synplicity, with its FPGA and ASIC design technology, is ideally poised to serve this market.

Rhines expressed more caution about structured ASICs, saying that the industry is in a "competitive sorting period" and that it's not yet clear which approaches will win.

Forte's Cline fielded questions on SystemC, and was practically gloating over Synopsys' discontinuance of its SystemC Compiler. "Their technology failed," he said. "If SystemC Compiler users give us a call, we'll give them a path out of hell."

Cline noted that SystemC now has support from 36 products from 25 companies. He said it's being widely used in the consumer electronics market, and that tapeouts are appearing. "Brett is right, his facts check out," said Bingham. "We see the consumer market folks using it."

Cooley, however, asked Bingham why Cadence has given its SystemC business to CoWare. Bingham responded that Cadence's Incisive verification platform lets designers use whichever language they find most valuable.

In response to a question about SystemVerilog, Cline said that "at the end of the day, it [SystemVerilog] is just another RTL implementation language. RTL will be the next assembly language. You need to do something different or your company is going to die."

Synopspys critiques

Even though Synopsys was not on the panel, its recent purchase of memory IP provider MoSys for $432 million drew some fire. Both Bingham and Rhines said it will put Synopsys in the position of competing with its customers.

"I have lived through the hell of having the customer look at us as someone who might compete with them," Bingham said, in an apparent reference to Cadence's previous push on design services. "I gave that up."

Synopsys also came under attack in a discussion about RTL synthesis. "This business of the front end and back end, with Design Compiler as a separate synthesis market, is almost a thing of the past," said Madhavan. He spoke of Magma's approach, in which synthesis is interwoven with physical implementation. "What we can do is 10 times faster than Design Compiler, and I encourage everyone to do a benchmark," he proclaimed.

Cooley pushed Bingham to explain why Cadence doesn't have a SystemVerilog product. Bingham talked again about his company's Incisive verification platform, and then questioned how much of a market there is for standalone SystemVerilog tools. "We choose to serve a market without owning an asset," he said.

In response to questions about OpenAccess, Madhavan launched into an explanation of why he feels Magma's unified data model is different from, and superior to, a database. He said, however, that if Magma gets any customer demand for OpenAccess, it will be able to provide a connection within two quarters.

Bingham pointed to OpenAccess adoption at Hewlett-Packard and at major semiconductor companies, and said that Magma's perspective "is a lot smaller than ours." He did not directly reply to Madhavan's response: "Can you name one OpenAccess tool that has functionality Magma doesn't have?"

Towards the end of the panel, Cooley asked the question that may be foremost on the minds of many engineers. "If I want to be a chip designer, do I have to move to India or China?" he asked.

The panelists didn't answer that question with respect to chip design in general, but they did talk about their own overseas hiring. Madhavan said that out the last 100 jobs that Magma added, only seven were in India. "We haven't taken one job from anywhere else in the world to move to India," he said.

"There's no ducking it - there are two important reasons to look at India and China," Bingham said. "You can find very qualified people who can be employed at a fraction of the cost you'd pay here. And customers demand a capability in these locales for support and R&D."

Cooley also presented a question from an ESNUG reader about EDA vendor use of H1-B visas. It's not any cheaper to hire immigrant engineers with H1-B visas, Bingham said; companies make those hires because they can't find the skills here.

Aronson said that most of Synplicity's H1-B hiring occurred before 2001, when it was very difficult to find qualified people in Silicon Valley. Synplicity also opened a center in India in 2000. But there are limitations, he noted. "If you want something done quickly, do it here, because there are people who can hit the ground running."

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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