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EDA industry thriving in Asia

Posted: 01 Jan 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:eda? consumer electronics? china? taiwan? design trends?

The EDA industry revenue grew by three percent in 2004 and remained almost stagnant in 1H of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004, according to the EDA Consortium. While the industry's biggest market, the United States, has shown lackluster performance, Japan and the "rest of the world," including Asia, have shown sustained growth for some time.

"The rise of China, India and South Korea has shifted the center of gravity from the West to the East," said Seyul Choe, CoWare's VP for Asia-Pacific operations. According to Nancy Wu, principal analyst at Gartner Dataquest's Design & Engineering Group, the double-digit growth in EDA revenue forecast from Asia-Pacific will be driven by the need for cost-effective tools and next-generation deep-submicron process design toolsets.

CE dominates
According to a recently published joint survey by EE TimesAsia and Gartner Dataquest, design for consumer electronics applications dominates in both China and Taiwan. The report, Design Trends & EDA Tools: China & Taiwan, reveals that 32 percent and 40 percent of the respondents in China and Taiwan, respectively, are involved in it. "The EDA industry has substantially changed in the last 15 to 20 years, with consumer electronics moving from 15 percent to 50 percent of all designs," said Aldec Inc. CEO Stanley Hyduke.

Howard Ko, VP of Asia-Pacific for Synopsys Inc., believes that the growing middle class in the region is driving demand for "small, high-performance, low-power, affordable and feature-laden consumer electronics products. These characteristics are often in conflict because advanced features consume more power and area, while increasing development costs and necessitating collaborative efforts within the semiconductor supply chain."

Ko therefore sees design complexity increasing in the region. "Over a third of the designs in India are at 90nm with gate counts ranging from 500Kgates to over 1 million," he said. "Although not as dramatic as India, similar trends are seen in China, Taiwan and South Korea." Ko sees the use of third-party IP gaining momentumsomething that is borne out by EDAC revenue statistics showing robust growth in the silicon IP segment.

RF, microwave
Neil Martin, marketing director at Agilent, is seeing development activity in the RF and microwave areas in terms of both the number and complexity of designs. "This industry was traditionally dominated by the United States and a handful of companies from Europe and Japan, but many companies in Asia have become successful in the design of RFIC, monolithic microwave IC, RF/microwave module and end-products."

Martin said that the growth in China continues to be phenomenal across the entire spectrum of the high-frequency industryfrom design to manufacturing, and from ICs to systems. Martin believes the key growth driver will be China's own industry standards. China's DTV and 3G standards will no doubt spur another big wave of investments.

With joint effort by the industry and government, South Korea is leapfrogging by introducing advanced technologies for wireless high-definition video and high-mobility Internet, according to Martin. Both Martin and CoWare's Choe cite WiBro as an example. South Korea's mobile version of wireless Internet has now become integrated into the IEEE 802.16 family. It is ready for deployment in early 2006 and, according to Martin, is at least two to three years ahead of 802.16e or mobile WiMAX.

In Taiwan, where the IC industry is the most well-established, the trend is higher frequency and complexity designs, according to Martin. "Digital IC design houses and IDMs are forming RF groups and equipment manufacturers are forming advanced R&D groups to move up the value chain," said Martin.

Choe, on the other hand, feels that Taiwan tends to follow trends in the United States and Europe. "After all, Taiwan's economics rely heavily on exporting products to these countries," said Choe.

Systems design
According to the joint study, systems design is the most popular design type in Taiwan. It increased two percentage points to take 28 percent of the respondents. In China, systems design is the second most popular after PCB design, with 29 percent of the respondents working at the system level.

Choe believes that ESL design addresses the ever-changing standards and complexities of SoC designs in the multimedia and wireless domains. According to Choe, South Korea adopted ESL design solutions for complex SoCs about three years ago. In China, with its system-level design experience gained from creating its own standards, acceptance of ESL design solutions is relatively new, but going smoothly. And interest from Taiwan's industry and academia has increased.

With international design collaboration becoming an inevitable trend in Asia, Choe feels ESL design addresses the problem well by bridging the gap between the hardware-centric worlds of China, Taiwan and South Korea, and the software-centric world of India.

Scott Sandler, CEO of Novas Software Inc., has a slightly different take on the move toward ESL design. "Design in Asia is moving toward higher levels of abstraction to cope with rapidly expanding SoC size and complexity," he said. "Asian design companies are increasingly providing not just hardware designs for their customers, but total system-level platform solutions, including software. Asian design-service businesses are becoming outsourced design partners for US firms, handling end-to-end design from high-level architecture through functional verification and physical design."

Johnny Chang, marketing director at Mentor Graphics Corp., feels the move is necessary for Asia to compete on the global stage. "Asia needs to use new methodology and leverage design expertise," he said. "They have to move to the next level in system design instead of developing 'me-too' products."

Nanometer challenge
While many view verification to be the main challenge in SoCs, Sequence Design Inc. views managing power as critical for "superchips" at the nanometer level. "It's not simply reducing power to prolong battery life in a cellphone, although that is critically important," said Vic Kulkarni, president and CEO of Sequence. "At process geometries below 90nm, the physics behind current, supply voltages, timing and signal integrity begin to change. Each begins to impact the other, so technologies must recognize both the first-order effects of power and how to manage it, as well as how it affects the overall design." Kulkarni warns that when the importance of this emerging style of "concurrent" design is ignored, there is increased risk of time-to-market delays and silicon failures.

vivek nanda
Executive Editor
EE TimesAsia

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