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Mentor CEO confirms DFM as best bet for EDA boost

Posted: 16 Jun 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:eda? hdl simulation? design tools? dfm software? embedded software tools?

Finding sustainable growth in the EDA industry is not an easy thing, according to Wally Rhines, Mentor Graphics CEO and chairman of the EDA Consortium. In a Thursday (June 10) keynote speech at the Design Automation Conference here, Rhines said growth comes from new methodologies, of which design for manufacturability (DFM) is currently most promising.

The speech was titled, "EDA industry growth - are there enough new problems to solve?" Answering his own question, Rhines said, "of course there are enough new problems to solve. The question is whether there are enough new problems people are willing to pay to solve."

When he came into the EDA industry in 1993, Rhines noted, it was a slow-growth industry whose prospects looked rather dim. Then, said Rhines, the industry moved into the "even my grandmother needs a 0.35 micron router" phase, and growth soared. Then came the "let's all join Internet startups" phase, and growth plummeted.

Now, Rhines said, we're in the "EDA recovery naturally lags behind the semiconductor recovery" era, and it's been that way for some time. "How do we break out?" he asked. "Do we go back to a long-term average growth rate of 15 percent, and what does it take to do that?"

EDA revenue growth has typically come from new methodologies, Rhines said. The problem is that as those methodologies mature, growth becomes flat. HDL simulation has been a flat market for 7 years, he noted, despite huge improvements in speed and functionality. "An enormous amount of investment has gone into keeping that revenue flat. Not a good picture," Rhines said.

Rhines then turned his attention to new methodologies that might drive significant growth. DFM, he said, is "the only one that I'm confident will create a big wave."

Rhines noted that the market for resolution enhancement technology (RET) and other DFM software has grown from essentially zero in 2000 to $200 million today, and is heading towards $1 billion by 2009. Further, he noted, physical verification and design rule checking (DRC) tools are becoming more DFM-aware.

The reason, he said, is the enormous cost savings DFM tools provide to semiconductor manufacturers. While EDA tools might cost millions of dollars, he noted, fabs cost billions, making the cost of EDA software a moot point. Because of RET software, Rhines noted, foundries have been able to extend the life of existing photolithography equipment and have realized enormous cost savings.

But the burden of DFM is shifting to designers, Rhines noted. "The design you give a foundry is not what they produce," he said. "They're doing things like doubling vias and increasing diffusion. They want to push that back into design."

Another methodology that might drive some growth is the increasing complexity of FPGAs, Rhines said. "As FPGA complexity increases, so will the complexity of design and verification," he said. This might spark a market in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but probably not in the half-billion to billion dollar range, he said.

Electronic system level (ESL) design is another emerging methodology that presents a new opportunity for EDA, Rhines said. What's really needed, he said, are tools that can help with IP selection and evaluation, offer early assessments of power and performance, make tradeoffs between hardware and software, and implement algorithms.

Rhines noted that a number of companies introduced C-based design tools at this year's DAC. ESL could eventually turn into a half-billion to billion-dollar market, but that's a "stretch," Rhines said.

EDA vendors might also find some growth in "adjacent markets," Rhines said. These include embedded software, silicon IP, and cabling and wire harnesses. But he acknowledged Mentor has had only limited success with embedded software tools.

Rhines said EDA vendors must also take demographic changes into account. While the engineering population in the U.S. is growing slowly, it's growing very rapidly in Asia. China, for instance, is turning out four or five times as many engineering graduates as the U.S., and even South Korea is on par.

"In the future, more and more customers will be in Asia rather than the U.S.," he said.

"The biggest opportunities in EDA still come from new methodologies," Rhines concluded. "We have to think about that and look for where the new methodologies are going to come from."

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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