Archive for September, 2008

Leverage Can Be Your Friend

Monday, September 29th, 2008

During these last few weeks of the subprime mortgage crisis in the US, many of us have become all too familiar with the term “leverage” as it applies to those entities that used to be called investment banks.  That kind of leverage is very powerful and is also very dangerous, as we all found out.

There is a 2nd type of leverage that we engineers learned about in basic physics. As Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”

But there is 3rd type of leverage that is “the power or ability to act or to influence people, events, decisions, etc.” Some people call it ROI. I’d like to share with you three examples that recently came to my attention whereby one small EDA company in our industry is using the principles of leverage to try to “move the world”.

Productive EDA

I came across these guys through my Google Reader when the President, Jeremy Ralph, posted the following new product announcement to the OVM World blogs.  Jeremy cleverly used the power of OVM World to reach hundreds (thousands?) of potential customers.  And what did he invest? Only the time it took to write the blog post and put it up.

That’s leverage!

But wait, there’s more.  Jeremy caught my interest when he called the SpectaReg product a Web2.0 application, so I clicked to view the press release and was pleasantly surprised to see that their “products are available online, at lower cost, as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)”. Well, I had been fooled just last week into thinking that Cadence was completely entering the SaaS market, so I wanted to make sure. After all, as President George W. Bush once cautioned, “fool me once, shame on…shame on you…you fool me, you can’t get fooled again.” So I spoke to “President Ralph” on the phone, and indeed, this truly is a Web-based Software-as-a-Service, pay-per-use offering. Using the power of the internet and SaaS, his company is able to deploy its software to virtually any customer of any size anywhere, all from their office in Vancouver, BC.

That’s leverage!

But wait, there’s still more. I pointed Jeremy to xuropa.com, a recently launched online electronic design community and tradeshow platform, that I covered back in June and again three weeks ago. To his credit, Jeremy was already aware of Xuropa. I’m not sure where that will go, but his small EDA company would be able to reach even more potential customers worldwide and provide product training and evaluations through their online labs.

That’s leverage!

Leverage can be your friend. These new media business-to-business (B2B) strategies can enable smaller EDA companies like Productive EDA, which is exactly the type of company that I was considering when I wrote on my blog three weeks ago:

The pieces are coming together for a revolution in EDA. Like most revolutions, it is starting small, hardly noticed by the big guys on the block. In the next 5 years, it will change our industry forever by leveling the playing field, allowing smaller EDA companies to compete with larger ones, giving customers greater flexibility on how and when they access tools and which vendor’s tools they use.

Indeed, leverage can be your friend.

harry the ASIC guy

Upon Further Review and W.W.S.D

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

At the end of last Sunday’s Chargers-Bronco’s game, Referee Ed Hochuli blew a call that cost the San Diego Charger’s the football game.  Here’s a somewhat comical look at what happened:

Probably not so comical if you’re a Charger’s fan :-(

Well, last week I got a chance to do some more “research” into the Cadence announcement of a SaaS offering. Although I got the substance of the call correct, in haste I also got one important detail incorrect.  (As, Mark Twain once said, “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Today, a lie can travel around the world several hundred times while you put on your shoes).

I had inferred from the use of the term “Software-as-a-Service“, that the Hosted Design offering would include a “pay per use … pay as you go” or similar on-demand licensing model. Upon further review … this is not the case.  Here are some of the things I found out:

  1. No on-demand licensing, no eDACard … only monthly granularity for licensing. If you want to scale the size of the hosted environment, several weeks lead time may be needed to obtain and configure the additional CPUs unless they are otherwise available.
  2. The “flows” that are offered are the Cadence reference flows (e.g. Low-Power Design Flow), not a production flow that Cadence may or may not be developing.
  3. Cadence says that it can host any third party EDA software … just license it to Cadence’s hostid.

Despite some limitations, this is still a big step. Small companies can now obtain the necessary hardware, software, and IT support to do chip design at a lower initial cost than building their own infrastructure. The VCs should like that.

But there are some limitations.  First, although the Cadence VCAD chamber provides security, it lacks the instant scalability and on-demand pricing that cloud computing would provide. Second, although reference flows are provided, it lacks a real production design environment that designers can just pick up and use.  Third, despite Cadence’s assurances that they will allow other EDA tools to be hosted, competitive tools likely will be discouraged since the ultimate objective is to further lock customers into an all Cadence tool flow.

So, the question now is … What Will Synopsys Do (W.W.S.D)?

Before that, we have to ask What “Has” Synopsys Done?  You see, Synopsys tried and then abandoned a similar idea about 7 years ago. At the time, companies were not “comfortable with the idea that their computers and data were in a remote building operated by a third party”.  But they are now (at least more than before).  At that time, Synopsys had no production design environment available to offer. They do now.

Synopsys could probably go one better and offer a superior solution if it wanted to, combining their DesignSphere infrastructure and Pilot Design Environment.  If fact, they have done this for select customers already, but not as a standard offering. There is some legwork that they’d need to do, but the real barrier is Synopsys itself. They’ve got to decide to go after this market and put together a standard offering like Cadence has.

And while they are at it, if they host it on a secure cloud to make it universally accessible and scalable, and if they offer on-demand licensing, and if they make it truly open by allowing third party tools to plug into their flow, they can own the high ground in the upcoming revolution.

What do you think?

harry the ASIC guy

The Revolution is Coming Sooner Than You Think

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Last week I predicted a Revolution in EDA. I said that “the sooner the EDA companies learn to swim with the tide, the better off they will be after the revolution”. 

Well, today Cadence just jumped into the water and started swimming. Like Michael Phelps!!! You can read the traditional Cadence marketing speak on this new offering here.

In a nutshell, Cadence has made public what it has been offering select customers for some time … hardware, software, design flow, and applications support as a Software-as-a-Service model.  Pay per use … pay as you go.

If you are a small startup that can’t afford the upfront costs for software and hardware and the part-time IT guy…

If you are a small-medium sized design services firm that wants to do turnkey design but can’t afford to keep idle software lying around in between client projects…

If you want to do place and route from your iPhone

This may be for you.

More next week….

harry the ASIC guy

Birth of an EDA Revolution

Friday, September 5th, 2008

I can’t sleep at night.

This Idea has been bouncing around in my head for the past few months. I can’t shake it. If you know me, then you’ve probably heard me talk about the Idea or ask your opinion about the Idea or whether I’m crazy. I’ve been itching to blog about this Idea, but haven’t been able to figure out the right way to approach it.

Then, the other day, Ron Ploof gave me a way to approach the Idea in my blog. Please read Ron’s post on the Birth of a New Media Revolution first before continuing. It’s damn good, you’ll get something out of it, and it gives context to this post.

OK … done? Good.

Ron’s main point is that a revolution can’t happen until all the enabling pieces are in place. New media required easy-to-use publishing tools, simple syndication (i.e. media distribution), and low-cost bandwidth.  Once those were in place, new media hit the tipping point.

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb today with a prediction:

The pieces are coming together for a revolution in EDA. Like most revolutions, it is starting small, hardly noticed by the big guys on the block. In the next 5 years, it will change our industry forever by leveling the playing field, allowing smaller EDA companies to compete with larger ones, giving customers greater flexibility on how and when they access tools and which vendor’s tools they use.

It’s going to happen.  And just as with new media, there are three barriers that will need to come down before we hit that tipping point.  They are:

  1. The high cost of sales, marketing, and support.
  2. Licensing models that lock-in customers.
  3. Lack of comprehensive standards for tool interoperability.

If you’ve been staring at the EDA horizon like I have, you’ve already seen that all of these barriers are starting to come down:

  1. A week ago, a company called Xuropa launched an online tradeshow platform that could greatly reduce the cost of sales for EDA companies and enable greater access to designers to evaluate tools.
  2. For several years now, Cadence has provided access to short-term licenses through their eDACard model and Synopsys will introduce a similar offering before the end of the year. Cadence also provides a service through their consulting organization called “hosted VCAD” whereby customers can access software and hardware on a Software-as-a-Service basis. How long before the other vendors follow?
  3. As Karen Bartleson noted on her blog yesterday, the EDA industry has moved into an “Age of Responsiveness” with regards to tool interoperability where tools are expected to be open and inclusive.  As witnessed in the latest OVM / VMM standards war, open standards are required as the price of admission and “woe be to those” that do not heed this call.

I’m a realist. This EDA revolution is just beginning and will take some time.  It won’t happen without a fight from those who stand to lose out. But I believe that the revolution is inexorable.  And the sooner the EDA companies learn to swim with the tide, the better off they will be after the revolution.

There’s a lot more that I need to say before I can sleep at night, but too much for one post.  Stay tuned.

harry the ASIC guy