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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Austin to ARM: Aristocracy to Meritocracy

September 9th, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena

ARM must be doing something right
when among the eight corporate sponsors for their upcoming Silicon Valley users conference in November, the top three companies in EDA are listed as Diamond or Platinum.

Cadence is Diamond, undoubtedly, because company President & CEO Lip-Bu Tan is co-chair of EDAC, and ARM CEO Simon Segars is on the EDAC Board. But why would Mentor and Synposys spend good money being Platinum sponsors of ARM’s show when they could put that particular chunk of disposable income into their own user conferences, or even DAC? Particularly since Mentor and Synopsys sell IP, as does Cadence, so in some ways the three EDA companies may actually be competing with ARM.

There are three possible answers: A) Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence serve as channels for ARM products. B) Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence want to see, and be seen by, ARM’s enormous worldwide customer base. C) ARM has the winning hand in today’s semiconductor supply chain, so either the Big Three in EDA pony up to help sponsor ARM TechCon, or the UK-based IP behemoth won’t cooperate in the EDA world; they won’t offer pointers or tool-development advice for the third-party design software that EDA vendors sell and ARM customers [might] buy.

In fact, neither of the first two answers are correct. Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence do not provide channel for ARM sales, nor do they need ARM’s bullhorn to make themselves known to the semiconductor supply chain. They already do that for themselves quite well, thank you.

Also, ARM wouldn’t punish an EDA vendor for refusing to sponsor TechCon, because that would be tantamount to ARM cutting off its nose to spite its face. ARM needs the EDA vendors, their tools and consulting services, no matter how patronizing ARM’s behavior towards the Little Folk of the EDA Shire might appear to be, at times.

[Of course, EDA responds in kind: Witness the Mr. Collins to Lady Catherine de Bourgh obsequiousness with which EDA leadership channels Jane Austin and sings the praises of Simon Segars for finding time in his busy schedule to participate on the EDAC board.]

No, none of these are the reasons that Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence help sponsor ARM TechCon.

They do it because today, and even more so tomorrow, the creation of quickly and well-designed semiconductor products requires an ecosystem of providers – design and verification tool providers, IP providers, system integrators, embedded software providers, test and manufacturing providers.

It’s a complex ecosystem, populated by a host of companies whose relationships are characterized at times by intense competition, and at other times by intense cooperation. And it’s this nuanced, ever-shifting zeitgeist of co-opetiton that informs this space.

The ecosystem is not an aristocracy of behemoths whose social commercial position is granted to them at birth. Instead, it’s a tough, sharp-edged, unforgiving meritocracy where the fortunes of ecosystem companies, and their leaders, rise and fall based on the brutal realities of market forces.

ARM may be the behemoth today, easily securing Diamonds and Platinum from their ecosystem colleagues. But next year, or next decade, ARM’s fortunes could change and some other organization could sit at the top of the supply chain, doling out condesensions and advice, and soliciting sponsorships from willing ecosystem partners.

In the swirling maelstrom that is the semiconductor supply chain, it’s never aristocracy over meritocracy. Poor Mr. Collins, he chose his position and his patron badly. Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence, on the other hand, have chosen well.

They’ve chosen ARM, for the time being, to be one of their most important patrons. Or is it ARM that has chosen well, for the time being, in choosing Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence to be patron-ized?

Only the market really knows.


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