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Comment: EDA needs to innovate more

Posted: 15 Apr 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EDA? design? innovation? verification?

And yet, what major new product category has the EDA industry delivered in the last few years? Which new businesses are successful? It is not like IC designers have no unmet needs from the EDA industry. On the contrary, designers are struggling with the challenges of designing and verifying multiple 100-million gate chips. Whichever company delivers solutions to these problems is going to do well.

Here's a list of some of the biggest opportunities:

1. Talk to any design team and they will tell you that their number one problem is verification. There is no substitute to simulation for debugging register transfer level (RTL) code and, as designs get larger, the simulation requirements grow exponentially. While simulators are getting faster, they are falling further behind from where they need to be. Accelerators don't work because they can't accelerate test benches. Design teams are adding thousands of servers. While the number of simulators deployed is growing exponentially, the business is not because the average selling price is coming down. What designers need is orders of magnitude improvement in simulation run times.

2. Place and route (P&R) has to deal with increasing complexity. As a result, it takes several days for a single run of P&R on a large physical block. As chips get larger, there will be pressure to run larger blocks. Keeping a design team of a 200-million gate design waiting for days to get implement a single block is expensive. The company that can deliver significant improvement in productivity will harvest significant value.

3. Synthesis does not take as long as P&R, but even here, as blocks get larger, run times are now getting close to 24 hours or more. This is a product category where there is proof of what can be done if big risks are taken to pursue innovation. The founders of Oasys Design Systems, for example, took a fundamentally different approach and created a new product category called Chip Synthesis to handle 100 million gates at 10-60x the speed of traditional synthesis.

Then, there are opportunities to grow beyond traditional EDA businesses. To do that, you have to look at what your core competencies are. EDA companies know how to develop algorithmically complex software and deploy it. Consider Cellworks Group. Several EDA veterans are using the same skills they developed in EDA to simulate the behavior of therapeutics.

What is needed to develop and exploit these opportunities is visionary leadership. Creating meaningful value will require breakthrough innovations and not the kind of incremental improvements EDA has been delivering.

- Sanjiv Kaul
Executive Chairman, Oasys Design Systems

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