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Presenting an EDA success story

Posted: 02 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SpringSoft? EDA? RTL? debug?

Lu attributes the company's success to two factors: right product positioning and the realization of a designer-centered concept.

The hardware capabilities of Taiwan's high-technology industry are well known. However, the industry is relatively weak in its software capability. Meanwhile, in the semiconductor sector, the three biggest EDA suppliers hold about 90 percent of the market. In this environment, the success of SpringSoft Inc., one of the leading EDA players in Asia Pacific, demonstrates a very special and precious story. Martin Lu, chairman and CEO, attributes the company's success to two important factors: right product positioning and the realization of a designer-centered concept.

SpringSoft was established in 1996 by Lu. He recalled how he started the company. "I had worked for Cadence in America. When I saw that Taiwan's semiconductor industry was about to take off in 1996 after the aggressive efforts made by TSMC and UMC in building 200mm foundries, I knew there would be soaring IC design demand in Taiwan. I felt that Asia's design activities would begin to boom very soon; also, I could see the promising growth of Asia's market. However, there were very few EDA companies in Taiwan then. So I thought of starting up a company here. The timing was just right because the RTL design technologies had gradually matured and there were more talents available in the field. So, I teamed up with some friends to set up SpringSoft in late 1996."

In the beginning, the biggest challenge for the company was "to define the right product position in the market," Lu pointed out. However, based on his own experience, he said, "I know engineers got to face many 'pains' in design, especially in the debug aspect. In the early days, debuggers were just waveform verification tools used after simulation. If any errors were found, engineers were able to fix the problems with much manual effort and time. As design complexity got higher, it was obvious that this approach was no longer enough."

Though he could see the opportunity, Lu was not sure whether "debugging tools would be enough to sustain a company." He said, "Debuggers were only additional functions in the simulation system at that time; customers didn't need to pay extra fees for this. We really wondered if we could create a segment in the EDA market with dedicated debugging tools."

Success strategies
However, things got clear when going back to the basic"solving engineers' problems." Stressed Lu, "There were plenty of debugging solutions in the market, but they couldn't really solve the problems. What we wanted to provide was a 'designer-centered' tool, which would really help to solve debugging problems and speed up the design cycle. Later on, we developed the Verdi/Debussy debugging platform. We proved that this platform could really bring added value to customers when solving complex design problems. As a result, we received recognition from our customers and gradually expanded our global customer base."

SpringSoft also adopted the strategy of maintaining neutrality to get a foothold in the competitive marketthey focused on developing an open and compatible platform tool that could easily be linked and executed in different environments. This approach strengthened the availability and adoptability of their products. Another strategy they used was forming partnerships with other companies, and this helped to establish their place the market.

Hope for the future
Looking ahead, Lu is optimistic about the future of the EDA market despite a slowdown in recent years. "The market is maturing, but there are still plenty of opportunities in each market segment. For example, in consumer electronics and SoC design a chip may include a whole system. Thus, the EDA tool must have 'big' enough capability to handle large-scale and high complexity problems. On the other hand, because of the continuous shrinking of process technologies, EDA tools should also have functions that are 'small' enough to solve very fine physical issues such as leakage power, DFM and yield problems."

"In fact, there are still plenty of things to be done to solve these issues. As the process node keeps going down, to solve various problems, more and more demands and requirements for EDA tools will keep emerging," he noted. "The EDA industry is filled with hope, as long as we can really solve customers' problems."

In addition to debugging tools, SpringSoft had also developed the Laker series of full-custom layout design products. Many have adopted the Laker product line, solidifying further the company's position in the market. In the future, Lu is eyeing more innovative 'designer-centered' solutions for customers.

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