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Comment: Mentor adopts a better strategy

Posted: 14 Oct 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EDA vendor? PCB system? design?

I have been very excited by Mentor Graphics Corp.'s acquisition of Flomerics because it represents the first time that a traditional EDA vendor has recognized and acted upon a system that is more than simply the electronic components. The problem with ESL, as I had stated in numerous venues for many years, is the "E", since it is impossible to consider all of the architectural tradeoffs when you are constrained by the parochial approach that gives only tools to explore a part of the system, particularly the electronic part. I do understand that The Mathworks, a traditional provider of system level solutions, in the last few years, has extended its products portfolio to give support for electronic system level design. However Mentor, a company that was the first EDA vendor to partner with The Mathworks, is the first EDA company to enter a non-electronics market segment when it acquired Flomerics.

Had Mentor followed the traditional EDA industry convention, it would have purchased the company, retained what was directly related to its EDA market, and sold or otherwise disposed of the rest of the company. This it did not do on the contrary.

Going beyond the usual
Henry Potts, VP and general manager, systems design division, Mentor explained the corporate strategy: "The development of an electronic product requires much more than the PCB design. We will continue to enhance our PCB systems design flows, but this is really not enough to keep up with advancing technology and our customers' business needs. We will keep up to make incremental enhancements to the flows and make a quantum jump in productivity or design cycle reduction as we did with Xtreme."

"But if we really want to significantly improve the development process we must do things that improve design efficiencies and often these will take us beyond pure PCB design and into areas like mechanical design or manufacturing," he added. "Flomerics is an example where products are used in the mechanical domain, specifically for the analysis of electronic products, some for other industries. Primarily, we bought Flomerics to further our electronic product development capabilities, but as a design automation supplier, we will not limit ourselves to just the electronics design. We now have a sales force that in familiar with and into the mechanical domain. Our computational fluid dynamics core software has application beyond electronics cooling and we will continue to sell and support that into markets that go beyond PCB related," he noted.

The role of partnership
Dan Boncella, director of marketing for the division, Mentor, described the dynamics of the new organization by stressing the correlation between the two organizations. "The current Flomerics sales force has a strong if not dominate foothold in the mechanical domain as it relates to the analysis of electronic products, i.e. the PCB in the enclosure with conduction and convection cooling: enclosure, fans, heatsinks and other cooling mechanisms. They understand this market and have the appropriate contacts to continue to sell and support the customer. We will continue to use this sales force and coordinate with the EDA force whenever appropriate, i.e. a common customer, etc. Flomerics also has had a very strong marketing group, although small, but very productive. We will "Mentorize" the Website and collaterals, but continue to depend on the strong and knowledgeable marketing organization to position the products, deal with the Maximum-Connection-Availability Design press, at conferences and so on."

John Isaac, director of systems market development, described Mentor's understanding of the fluid dynamics market by saying: "The application areas for computational fluid dynamics (CFD) are quite broad, but all can leverage a strong core engine which Flomerics has. As a primary focus in the past, the company has a number one position in the electronics cooling market and entry products in two other segments that all use the same powerful engine. Ansys has a small presence in the electronics cooling market but a major one in the more general CFD market. In total, the CFD market is estimated at about $450 million."

I was curious to understand if the systems design division view any parallels in the way designs are created and implemented in the fluid dynamics design flow and some applications in the EDA flow. Henry Potts said: "Absolute parallels and as you can imagine, the building of the model can make or break both the accuracy and speed of the analysis. This is one of the strengths of the Flomerics CFD engine. They have some very intelligent algorithm developers in Germany and Russia that have developed unique ways to break a physical entity like a PCB in an enclosure or the inside of a water pump into structures that represent it accurately yet won't require Cray to perform the analysis. Today, they dominate the electronics cooling market, but as they expand into more general CFD markets in the mechanical domain, this engine is proving to be a definite differentiator."

What Mentor is showing is that EDA companies are not condemned to remain in their traditional markets. By looking at the appropriate opportunity, an EDA vendor can open new market opportunities, widen the revenue sources, and improve the opportunities of a more stable corporate growth.

- Gabe Moretti
EE Times

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