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Ralph Zak
Ralph Zak
Ralph Zak is business development director at EVE. Zak’s experience with hardware-based verification tools covers both emulation and prototyping systems. He began with simulation accelerators in the 1980s. Zak was the first vice president of marketing at Quickturn, now part of Cadence, and also … More »

Going Against the Big Boys –– Life in EDA

September 18th, 2012 by Ralph Zak

Everyone loves a good underdog story. In EDA, that covers about 98% of the suppliers. There are lots of them. In an industry in which three companies with broad product lines control the vast majority of the revenue, about 200 other companies, with point tools principally, battle the giants head-to-head in their own narrow product space.

Many of the smaller companies with great products and teams behind them manage to carve out a strong position with point tools. With focused resources and dedication, and a make-the-customer-successful-or-die attitude, small EDA companies are able to win, sustain themselves and, in many instances, thrive. The key is a winning strategy, whether a more focused effort on products or specialized support resources or a completely new approach to solving a customer problem.

EVE is one of the companies that has been going against the Big Boys, two of the three EDA major players, with a passion and winning. I see a dedicated team focused on customers, from top to bottom. I work with an engineering team that insists on having customers drive new product requirements and applications specialists working as teams with engineering to meet unique SoC design and validation environment needs.

But the success I see is much more than guts and glory. There is wisdom, vision and intelligence in how the company approaches the difficult problems of validating complex SoC designs across a broad spectrum of applications and does a delicate balance of its resources. This must be true of any player working to carve out a position in the EDA market.

Nearly 12 years ago, the founding team, with years of experience in hardware-based verification, looked at the problem and chose a new path to compete with the Big Boys. Even if real chip companies build fabs, no longer the case, EDA companies do not need to build silicon to deliver the best emulators. The EVE founding team could not envision an EDA company matching chip technology investments for emulation with the big commercial FPGA vendors. While the big EDA companies focused on custom emulation chips primarily to allow them to “compile” designs in less time, EVE’s team saw that the FPGA vendors would provide much higher gate-density parts. This would result in significant headroom for fast compiles in much smaller footprint, faster and lower power consuming systems. Such system combined with compilation software that provided parallel, distributed compilation for many times the gate-cycles per dollar value of custom chip-based, Big Box mainframe emulators.

The founding team also foresaw the impact of Moore’s Law on the explosion in processors and software on SoCs. It recognized the limitations that traditional signal-level RTL verification would have in validating complexities of multiple application processor designs and all the firmware and applications software they would process. EVE focused its resources that were not building custom chips on core system-level debugging, leveraging application-specific, transaction-based verification methodology. Such a methodology uses synthesizable verification IP that allows EVE’s emulation systems to perform at the maximum possible speed. While the Big Boys are now getting religion on transaction-based emulation, and beginning to introduce emulation VIP, EVE has already built-up its library. It has been working with leading-edge semiconductor companies, penetrating about one new business unit a month, often in parallel with installations of the Big Box mainframe emulators.

As a result, as Springsoft, a public company on the Taiwan stock exchange, completes its merger into Synopsys, EVE moves into its position as the fourth largest EDA company.

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