Oasys for FPGA Synthesis? Hmmmm….

A friend asked me what I thought about Oasys’ announcement last week that Juniper Networks was now a customer of theirs. I’ll admit that I was lukewarm. On the one hand, a large high-end networking chip is exactly the sweet spot for a fast synthesis tool. On the other hand, it did not change the fact that the number of these large designs is dwindling and that the industry is looking more towards the front-end of the design cycle than the back.

So, today he asked me what I thought about Oasys’ announcement of it’s partnership with Xilinx. Now this was interesting. Here is what I wrote back:


I’m not surprised. I had heard from some people that they had funding from Xilinx all along. Of course, they don’t say that in the press release 🙂

Truthfully, I think the FPGA market may be a better play than ASIC for a few reasons:

  1. FPGA design starts are growing while ASIC starts are shrinking
  2. Do not have to compete with Synopsys and Cadence for market share. These would be bloody battles requiring a lot of resources that Oasys does not have. Synopsys would win by attrition.
  3. FPGA synthesis is truly a bottleneck for FPGA designs. The debug loop for most people is design => synthesize/place&R => debug => fix error => synthesis/P&R….. It’s not uncommon for there to be dozens of these loops to get an FPGA working. And synthesis on a large FPGA can be an overnight run. If they can turn that into a half hour, then that changes the whole method of debug and can save weeks of schedule.

On the down side, ASPs for FPGA synthesis tools are $0 since Xilinx and Altera give theirs away for free, although Synopsys (Synplicity) and Mentor sell FPGA synthesis tools. This was discussed very recently on Olivier Coudert’s blog.

Will be interesting to watch.


What do you think?

harry the ASIC guy

P.S. Oasys, can you get some real blogging software on your blog so people can leave their comments and thoughts there on your site and not on my blog. I don’t mind the traffic, but you are missing out on building a sizable following. Just some friendly advice.

7 Responses to “Oasys for FPGA Synthesis? Hmmmm….”

  1. Adam Sherer says:

    Hi Harry,

    This move does not surprise me at all. We have quite a few FPGA users, and not just mil/aero. Many folks in the networking segment are using FPGA as well.

    There has been a trend during the past few years away from simple “burn-and-churn” development for FPGA to a more rigorous verification flow even as the synthesis and floor planning for FPGA move deeper into the FPGA vendor’s domain. We’ve seen that at the high-end and I hear that Aldec is seeing that in the middle-tier FPGA space as well. When you add to this the shift from Windows to Linux and the use of more and more design and verification IP, you can see FPGA development moving right into the EDA360 spotlight.

    =Adam Sherer, Cadence

  2. Sean Murphy says:

    I am not affiliated with Oasys but find your lukewarm assessment off the mark.

    I have no inside information on the Xilinx Oasys deal but I would have to believe that Xilinx is paying Oasys something to have them support their product line. So an ASP of $0 is probably not accurate.

    So now Oasys has endorsed offerings both for ASIC and FPGA and is competing against Synopsys synthesis offerings across the board.

    Harry: what would it take to get you to re-assess? I admit I put them in the category of “interesting if true” earlier, but with two significant deals in different segments they appear to demonstrating staying power, if not growth. This gives users one solution for both, what other vendor offers that?

    At some point they have to be taking share from Synopsys and Cadence. In fact that mile marker may already be in the rear view mirror, perhaps at EDA361 or EDA362?

  3. Hi Harry,

    Missed your post by a day. I agree that Oasys will make Xilinx’ synthesis much faster, and that will please the FPGA design crowd used to the “design => synthesize/place&R => debug => fix error => synthesis/P&R” loop described by your friend. I would also say that Oasys’ technology will make RTL-to-gate verification much better (see what I wrote there http://bit.ly/bSgpjb).

    As for the $ aspect, FPGA synthesis tools provided by EDA may suffer a bit from the partnership, but that’s really up to them to show they can match or better Oasys’ tool. As far as I know, customers pay for Altera’s Quartus II, Synospys’ Synplify, and Mentor’s Precision because it produces better results, period. Whether that market is large enough to sustain all the players, that’s a different question. I am more concerned about Xilinx and Altera’s huge investment in their tools, which dwarf most of what EDA companies can afford for their FPGA solutions.

    — Olivier

  4. harry says:


    Thanks for keeping me honest. I can always count on you for that 🙂

    My comments regarding Oasys for ASIC have nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with the industry. For all I know (and I have not used Oasys, so I don’t know first hand) they may have a tool that does everything they claim. Still, how many companies / design teams are looking to do a point tool replacement for logic and physical synthesis? There are some at the high end (Juniper, Renesas) but I don’t think it’s the big headache right now.

    Honestly, I hope that I’m wrong and Oasys can challenge Big Purple. It would be nice to see some competition in an area that has been monopolized for 20 years.

    – harry

  5. Sean Murphy says:

    Most customers are on an annual license agreement, or perhaps a three year license agreement. So it’s not a question of do they want to switch and “pay for the tools all over again.” With these announcements by Juniper and Xilinx Synopsys customers are going to pay less money to Synopsys when they renew because there is now a viable competitive alternative.

    The real issue is whether, after twenty five years of evolution, the DC architecture is being obsoleted by Oasys. That will likely take 3-5 years to see but Oasys appears to have at least achieved a “co-existence” strategy where customers would do well to buy one license. Because of anti-trust concerns Synopsys cannot mandate that 100% of EDA purchases be from them (it’s called a tied sale). In the near term it could be that Cadence’s offering collapses since it used to serve that purpose.

    So I would say we are least in phase two of a potential market transition, where a new entrant has demonstrated viability and staying power. Given that they have not taken VC, they can contemplate a sustained campaign (vs. being six or eight years into a ten year fund that would soon start to force an exit). If they force Synopsys back to the drawing board for a better DC architecture that alone is an overdue benefit for EDA customers.

  6. Sean Murphy says:

    Oliver Coudert reports “Xilinx is an investor into Oasys” in http://www.ocoudert.com/blog/2010/06/11/who-should-worry-about-xilinx-and-oasys-partnership/ which puts a very different complexion on this deal. Juniper had earlier invested in MicroMagic, ultimately acquiring them and then spinning them back out. I wonder Juniper has an equity stake in Oasys, if they do it would put a very different slant on that relationship.

    In that same post Coudert asserts that the Oasys architecture is based on And Inverter Graph paradigm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And-inverter_graph (see for example http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~alanmi/abc/ ) so Synopsys should be able to incorporate similar technology into DC.

  7. Lori Nguyen says:

    To add to the earlier comment regarding Aldec providing Middle Tier FPGA/RTL Simulation products, we have recently released our latest middle tier RTL and gate level mixed language simulator, Riviera-PRO 2010.06, here’s a brief about Riviera-PRO:

    Aldec, Inc. now provides Riviera-PRO™: a simulator supporting OVM (Open Verification Methodology) and UVM (Universal Verification Methodology).

    The simulator is able to handle the most advanced verification and debugging technologies at levels ranging from RTL to ESL: Transaction-Level Modeling, Assertion-Based Verification, Constrained Random Test, Functional and Code Coverage, etc. The latest release supports the Open Verification Methodology, providing pre-compiled libraries for OVM 2.1.1, 2.0.3 and UVM 1.0. The OVM methodology aids engineers in developing reusable, interoperable verification IP and create re-configurable, hierarchical environments that facilitate “plug-and-play” approach to creation of high-level testbenches. Riviera-PRO users can turn on all available optimizations to achieve maximal simulation speeds, or use advanced design analysis and debugging features to quickly hunt bugs that managed to sneak into their projects. The tool uses separate compilation and simulation approach, and can be controlled from the console, scripts or via flexible yet powerful GUI.

    Riviera-PRO provides full mixed language simulation, including standard VHDL, Verilog®, SystemVerilog, SystemC/C/C++ language support. It comes with an optimal waveform toolset, ultra-fast debugging tools, code coverage, and includes our high-speed mixed-language simulation engine. Riviera-PRO has methodologies for Advanced Verification Inside; such as ESL, TLM, OVM, VMM and Assertion-Based Verification (ABV) methodologies Riviera-PRO is enabled for HES™, Hardware Embedded Simulation technology, for significant boost of performance, including emulation, acceleration and prototyping. Riviera-PRO 2010.06 is a multi-platform Simulator, supporting Windows® 7, Vista and XP – both 32 and 64 bit, and Linux 32/64 bit operating systems.

    Product Information: http://www.aldec.com/products/rivierapro

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