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EDA growth to continue this year

Posted: 16 Feb 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EDA? DFM? design? semiconductor? DFM tools?

The EDA industry grew faster than expected in 2006 and should have another good year in store, according to executives from large and small design automation companies. But a shakeout among design-for-manufacturing (DFM) startups could result in a bumpy ride, some warned.

Factors fueling EDA growth include a healthy semiconductor industry, an insatiable CE market, and a move to 65nm and 45nm IC fabrication technologies. As a result of this move, DFM tools and technologies have come into strong demand. There's also been slow but notable progress with ESL tools and methodologies.

At the start of 2006, most EDA executives were predicting a somewhat lackluster year with single-digit growth, following four years of essentially no growth. In October, however, a Gartner Dataquest report predicted a growth surge in 2006 of 13.3 percent, resulting in a forecasted $4.5 billion worldwide EDA tool market. The primary driver, the report said, was investment in DFM-aware IC design tools.

The Gartner report predicted lower8.5 percentrevenue growth in 2007. Stronger growth will resume in 2008 and 2009, the report said, spurred by investment in ESL tools.

Why was 2006 such a good year? "After going through a long cost-management phase, the semiconductor industry is again focusing on technology differentiation and innovation," said Aart de Geus, CEO of Synopsys Inc. Further, he said, there's been an "increased aggressiveness" in moving to lower technology nodes, with customers transitioning to 65nm designs more quickly than expected.

Return to innovation
"It is clear to me that the EDA industry leaders have returned to innovation, and are offering end-to-end solutions for the enterprise," said Jim Miller, executive VP for the product and technologies organization at Cadence Design Systems Inc. He cited the development of "solid" design flows for 65nm and said that many customers are skipping 90nm and going straight from 130nm to 65nm manufacturing.

Design complexity and shrinking process nodes have forced a reassessment of design methodologies, resulting in EDA revenue growth, said Wally Rhines, Mentor Graphics Corp.'s CEO. "DFM and ESL led the way in 2006, as did the continuing rapid adoption of SystemVerilog," he said.

Rajeev Madhavan, CEO of Magma Design Automation Inc., also cited a rapid move to 65nm, but wasn't as impressed with the year's EDA developments. "In 2006, the emphasis and focus of EDA were on DFM, behavioral synthesis, sequential verification. Curiously, there was plenty of noise with little to show in the way of products."

The big question is whether EDA growth is sustainable this year and beyond. Rhines thinks so. "Rapid growth of 65nm-and-below designs will continue to force new tool developments, and adoption of DFM and other design tools," he said. "For Mentor, software renewals for 2007 are looking very positive."

Signs that semiconductor R&D spending will continue to grow bode well for EDA, said Cadence's Miller.

Magma's Madhavan said many of the venture-capital-funded ESL and DFM startups will close down in 2007 and 2008. "ESL product development will continue to be slow, and standalone DFM products will have a hard time surviving," he said.

DFM lives
There are varying views on what will happen in the DFM market, where a number of startups are marketing point tools as the big EDA vendors add capabilities of their own. The big story of the new year, said Atul Sharan, president and CEO of DFM startup Clear Shape Technologies Inc., is "that the reports of DFM's pending death will be proven to be extremely premature and shortsighted."

"DFM as a design challenge is here and it is real," said Pravin Madhani, president and CEO of Sierra Design Automation Inc. But there will be winners and losers, he said. "The DFM startups with differentiated or comprehensive solutions will survive, while most of them will perish."

Large EDA companies are more cautious about acquisitions than they previously were, and overinflated valuations are a thing of the past, noted Ray Prasad, CEO of DFM startup Invarium Inc. "Startups will also have to look at mergers among themselves to achieve higher critical mass and address larger flow dynamics, not just point solutions."

Prashant Maniar, chief strategy officer at Stratosphere Solutions Inc., distinguished between DFM, which he views as a "process-centric, deterministic simulation play," and design-for-yield (DFY), which he sees as a "front-end play." While DFM startups will face an uphill battle in scaling business beyond early-adopter customers, he said, designers will gravitate toward an "actionable" DFY flow.

Observers have been predicting for years that ESL will represent the next big wave in EDA, but for 2006 and 2007, even advocates see slow going. "ESL became a mainstream focus of EDA activity" in 2006, said John Sanguinetti, CTO of Forte Design Systems, "but it has not matured into a mainstream part of the design flow. This was a gradual process, and I don't think there were any dramatic milestones."

The most important ESL development last year was the emergence of virtual platforms for software development, said A.K. Kalekos, VP of marketing and business development at CoWare Inc. "It may very well be the killer application for ESL design, and may be the catalyst for changing how electronic products are designed," he said.

One driver for ESL is the increasing need for low-power design, which is best addressed at higher levels of abstraction. "Design-for-power is the new mantra," proclaimed Vic Kulkarni, president and CEO of Sequence Design Inc. "Our work with ESL partners is revealing how powerful microarchitectural design exploration can be."

Custom approach
Not all IC design is standard cell-based digital design, and there was a renewed focus on analog and custom IC design in 2006. The big development, said James Spoto, CEO of Applied Wave Research, was the emergence of the OpenAccess database. This year, Spoto expects a push to extend OpenAccess to include interoperable parameterized cells, standard technology files and parameter-mapping standards.

This "will be the year that analog design tools will begin to close the gapif only slightlywith the digital world," said Andrew Levy, VP of marketing at startup Lynguent Inc.

- Richard Goering
EE Times

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