Wednesday, February 25, 2009

EDA: Dead or Alive?

Here are my notes from tonight's panel discussion at DVCon titled EDA: Dead or Alive?

Moderator: Peggy Aycinena - Editor, EDA Confidential

Panelists (selected by Peggy):

  • Ajoy Bose Chairman President & CEO, Atrenta, Inc.
  • Diana Feng Raggett CEO, President & Co-Founder of Javelin Design Automation, Inc.
  • Gary Meyers VP & GM of Synplicity Business Group, Synopsys, Inc.
  • Lauro Rizzatti GM, EVE-USA
  • Ravi Subramanian CEO, Berkeley Design Automation, Inc.
  • Scott Sandler President, SpringSoft, Inc.
  • Tom Sandoval CEO, Calypto Design Systems
1. Panelist's 90-second response to the question - is EDA Dead or Alive?
  • Ajoy: EDA is a driver for the semiconductor industry, so not dead unless semiconductor is dead.
  • Diana: not business as usual, but not dead. Customers focus on "what is needed to ship" product.
  • Gary: There are more electronics in our future, hence EDA can not be dead.
  • Lauro: EDA is not in good health, with 500+ EDA companies, no exit strategies, and no room for growth.
  • Ravi: Current situation is like a 100-year storm, and we can expect dramatic change. "There is no life without death", and can expect the same in EDA.
  • Scott: EDA dies when electronics dies. Money will be made, but question is by whom?
  • Tom: Different perspective now, where in the past he was in semiconductor and would beat up vendors for lowest price.
My take: Ravi's and Lauro's answers were the most accurate and honest assessments of the current state of EDA. The inefficiencies, redundancies, and poor management in EDA must be shaken out - as in all industries. Recessions and depressions are Darwinian events, exposing the weaknesses that should have been obvious before.

2. Peggy's 2nd question: Should EDA become "DA", design-automation of a complete system and surrounding components?
  • Ajoy: Time constant of change in other parts of the design chain are slow, whereas the chip component changes very rapidly.
  • Diana: is holistic integration an advantage?
  • Gary: Question is what market gives the best ROI? Systems markets are too vertical, specialized.
  • Lauro: Rejects the idea. Most important is that the two worlds of software and hardware should work together. (Echoing Aart's keynote address)
  • Ravi: No need for expansion beyond tighter hardware-software integration.
  • Scott: Increasing trend toward specialization means that EDA should stick to electronic design.
  • Tom: Calypto products address system level link to RTL.
My take: I agree with the value of EDA being in specialization to the problems of chip design. Heck, EDA has difficulty as it is in addressing user's needs for complete, inter-operable flows at the chip level! How many people in EDA have ever had full top-to-bottom responsibility for taping out a chip, never mind building a whole system? Name one EDA company that is structured in a holistic fashion to address that problem!

3. Peggy's 3rd question: What new products do each of your companies have coming in the next 18 months?
  • Tom: Ability to automate system level to RTL, with more focus on power issues across an SoC.
  • Scott: There are no cash cows in EDA. (Not sure if there was a roadmap mentioned, sorry if I missed something in my notes here).
  • Ravi: Focus is on AMS, "analog is the new digital" meaning that analog is what fails now, and costs time to market. Markets BDA addresses are wireless, computer, and consumer. Requirements are accuracy, performance, capacity, and physical effects (i.e. parasitics).
  • Lauro: debugging enhancements, scalable emulation.
  • Gary: Synopsys addressed their "technology gap" with introduction of Custom Designer. Forthcoming are more integrated solutions, look for a brand new top down design system to be announced at SNUG.
  • Diana: "Path finding". Talked about recent announcement with Qualcomm and IMEC on solutions for stacking memory on logic. Results in lower power and higher bandwidth.
  • Ajoy: Must find ways to better align with the roadmap of the semiconductor companies. "Where is semiconductor going"?
4. Peggy's 4th question: How are your customers doing, and is your agenda the same as it was 5 years ago?
  • Diana: Customers are being more pragmatic, tight budgets, everyone is looking for disruptive opportunities.
  • Gary: Environment changed rapidly. Customers are focused on risk mitigation, closer partnering, reducing the number of flows.
  • Lauro: difference is technical - increased complexity.
  • Ravi: Survival is the utmost concern now. Customers have limited visibility, cost is the #1 risk. There has been a dramatic change in the level of collaboration, for example - RFCMOS. Nine of ten papers in the RF/Tuner session at ISSCC were customers of BDA. BDA recently announced AFS nano, allowing customers to shift more dollars to tough problems.
  • Scott: One thing never changes in EDA; customers buy value.
  • Tom: Customers want to know how can EDA help today?
Some final comments from panelists:
  • Diana: Discussed recent visit to Taiwan. Customers in Hsinchu industrial park are down to 1-day work week, fabless design houses in China closing, or merging. Companies looking to survive through collaboration, opening up to universities and research institutes.
  • Scott: feels that Peggy's opening statement that EDA tools are underpriced is "ridiculous". The problem is commodity prices of products that are not differentiated.
  • My take... YES!
  • There were some other discussions that I did not bother taking notes on, such as Peggy's question about how much the EDA vendors support interns and universities.
  • My take - overall:
  • It was interesting, after all the discussion on non-differentiated products, and "rebirth" after death, that only Lauro raised his hand when Peggy asked if there are too many EDA companies.
  • No one on the panel admitted to having laid off anyone since November 2008. (Interesting, as I was laid off as part of an end-of-year cutback at Synopsys, and we know there were other EDA companies that had layoffs as well.)
  • I had not gone to any of the past "Troublemakers" panels at DVCon, but Peggy acknowledged replacing John Cooley (who had moderated those discussions in the past). Perhaps that is why Peggy was so confrontational to the panelists?
  • Personally, I think it is different when a customer (or customer proxy) takes that approach. Anybody who has been in EDA is used to that. Customers pay a lot of money for EDA tools, and if there are bugs, or tools are delivered late, or they are over-hyped.. they have a valid gripe.
  • But what does a journalist have to be so pissed off about?


John said...

Nice wrap up Mike! I followed the whole thing on Twitter, which was an interesting experience in itself...

I found your blog through the #dvcon tag on twitter - good to make your acquaintance (online). I put a link to your blog on mine ( Visit sometime!

John Ford
DFT Digest

Unknown said...

Didn't see this until it showed up on Linked In. Here is my belated comment:
The last strategic-minded EDA executive was Jim Hammock. Since he moved on we have seen only tactics and reaction from technology-minded people. For all their high IQ and energy, they have been so thoroughly punked by customers that their sole remaining business idea is cost reduction. It is a spiral. -- Dick Lanham