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EDA/IP??

New growth for EDA's in-house tools

Posted: 18 Jul 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:intellectual property? ip? eda? tool? design for manufacture?

Urdhwareshe: EDA vendors need to change their current one-size-fits-all product model and move toward a more customized tool development model.

Recent studies and trends project below 10 percent growth for EDA in the coming years. Two anticipated technology trends that will boost this growth are the tools necessary to move to 65nm and 45nm geometries, as well as the emergence of the intellectual property (IP) business. But the former depends on the supply-side capability of EDA vendors to roll out these tools on time, and that has proven to be risky for some in that they are competing with their own customers.

However, a third important growth segmentnamely, the in-house EDA tool developmentbears watching. While on the surface this might seem a revenue loss for EDA vendors, further analysis shows quite the opposite.

Over the last 10 years, vertically integrated semiconductor companies with large in-house EDA teams have given way to independent EDA companies offering full tool suites. But developing conditions are leading to a reversal of this trend. Some key drivers: Design-for-manufacture/design-for-yield problems have forced design and manufacturing teamsand fabsto interact more closely. Companies that have both teams in-house have seen significant IP value in bridging that gap and having data stay within company firewalls.

Leading semiconductor companies have always experimented with new process technologies to differentiate their offerings from the competition. A case in point is 3D semiconductor technology, which has required a complete overhaul of physical-design tools. Commercial EDA vendors have traditionally waited for markets to be established before entering them, leaving startups without access to fab, manufacturing and design data. Semiconductor companies would need to develop these tools in-house.

Programmable platforms (including several by venture-capital-backed startups) have emerged recently in areas such as structured asics, via-programmable ASICs and single- and multicore-embedded processors with programmable data paths. One common thread among all of them: They devote precious resources to develop custom tool chains, since off-the-shelf solutions do not fit their needs.

To tap into this in-house tool segment, EDA vendors need to change their current one-size-fits-all product model and move toward a more customized tool development model. This would involve productizing key reusable EDA technology modules or components rather than the whole tool itself. The reuse of these EDA building blocks will help reduce the overall cost of development and time-to-deployment of such customized EDA tools. The customized portion could be undertaken as a service engagement or the customer might choose to do it. Depending on the IP risk context, the customer may allow the EDA vendor to productize the customized tool for commercial use and share the benefits. Or the customer might choose to retain exclusive rights to the customized portion and protect a competitive advantage.

A recent survey by Dataquest shows that the number of designers using in-house tools has increased threefold in the last seven years. In-house tool budgets went up from 9 to 12 percent in 2004 alone, and Electronics Business estimated this market to be close to a billion dollars. Not a bad place to be!

- Nachiket Urdhwareshe
CEO
SoftJin Infotech Private Ltd




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