What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
49DAC Unplugged: Methodics, Synaptic, Instigate, ProximusDA, Fractal
June 6th, 2012 by Peggy Aycinena
Each year, both Gary Smith and John Cooley provide a “Must See” list of companies they recommend attendees seek out and talk with at the Design Automation Conference. DAC 2012 was no different: Gary’s 2012 list had 27 companies and Cooley’s had over 80. Short of one, all of the companies on Gary’s list also appeared on John’s.
However, there were almost 200 exhibitors at DAC in San Francisco so clearly many companies exhibiting were not on these lists, which made for an interesting exercise: Go out onto the Exhibition Hall floor and only talk to companies who are not on the lists.
That’s what I did each day in San Francisco, walking up to booths without an appointment and in the process finding a host of articulate technologists, and their enterprises, which seem to exist under the radar at DAC. On Tuesday, June 5th, I spoke with 5 of them.
Fergus Slorach is CTO and co-founder of Methodics (San Francisco, CA). He founded the company in 2006 along with CEO Simon Butler. Slorach is based in New Zealand, Butler in San Francisco.
Slorach told me the two founders have known each other since 1994, and are both veterans of Cadence and TransMeta. Their initial product was called VersIC. Now the company has 4 products, and has recently acquired Missing Link Tools.
Slorach explained the business model: “We do an IP management and release methodology, and are presenting a paper tomorrow here at DAC with Altera.”
I asked him what prompted the decision to found the company. He said, “A customer asked us to develop some software, and that’s how we started. VersIC is an interface between Cadence Virtuoso and Subversion (CollabNet) and Perforce. Our other 3 products came out of our desire to expand our reach, and customers were asking for additional features: a workspace management and replication service, an IP catalog and release management tool, and a regression managment tool coming from the Missing Link acquisition.
And the competition? Fegus said, “Dessault Systrems and ClioSoft.”
I aksed Fergus how Methodics succeeds at DAC when they’re not on one of the “Must See” lists? He said, “It’s easy. Word of mouth and our customers’ testimonials.”
Anna Karapetyan is Software Director at Instigate Design, a company based in Armenia.
She told me, “Our services are in the U.S. and Europe, and our customers are from EDA and the semiconductor sphere. We do verification of their tools, helping to verify the user interface and the logic within the software. Our involvement may also grow to include additional development of the tools.”
I asked Anna if Instigate looks at the actual source code of their customers. She said, “We may or may not look at the code.”
What if Instigate is working with several tool companies who are developing similar products? Anna said, “We tell the companies about the possible conflict and let them decide. This is about full disclosure.”
And why are there so many software developers in Armenia? Synopsys, for instance, has an entire team there. Anna said, “There are a couple of very good universities in Armenia, including Yereven University and the State University of Armenia. These [schools] specialize in teaching computer science, and in a general way, so the graduates can go on and be trained by the companies that hire them.
“Also, students there often study applied math or physics and then go on to study computer science, so the employees in Armenia are often very well education. And there is one more plus. Our salaries are lower than here in the U.S.”
I asked Anna why Instigate Design come to DAC. She said, “To meet possible customers and to get to know the other companies in the EDA area.”
Philippe Metsu is Marketing Director for ProximusDA (Munich, Germany), a 2008 spin-out of Armenia-based Instigate Design, mentioned above. I spoke with Philippe in the cavernous lobby of Moscone Center, along with company CEO Enno Wein, a conversation augmented by a follow-on email from Phillipe.
Philippe said the reason Proximus doesn’t appear on the “Must See” lists is because parallel programming – at the core of the Proximus technology – requires a new way of thinking.
“The DAC community is fundamentally a hardware community,” Philippe said. “The vast majority of the ‘gurus’ at DAC have [very little understanding of software issues], so they are not engaged in the debate. But the revolution in [parallel programming] is definitely upon us. Trust me! Proximus has two of the top ten semiconductor IDMs seriously talking to us, with one now engaging with us on a production project.”
Phillipe noted that from Proximus’ point of view, there are factions within EDA who want to maintain the status quo, the traditional CAD tool market that’s all about RTL for single-core design. Going forward, however, Philippe said this is not where the money will be.
The architectures of today and the immediate future are and will be massively multicore, he said, and not just homogenous. They are heterogeneously multicore, according to Phillipe, so the EDA industry needs to stop pretending that’s not the case: “We need to leverage the technology available today for the next generation of designs. If we are serious about software virtual prototyping, we need to fully leverage the technology for the next generation of designs!”
When you forge out onto the DAC Exhibition Hall, you never know what you’ll find and that was particularly the case when I wandered into the UFRGS booth and met Prof. Andre Reis from the Federal University of Rio Grande du Sul in Brazil. It took a few minutes to get my bearings as to what the folks from UFRGS are doing, but finally I understood.
Thanks to funding from the European Commission, and with leadership from Copenhagen-based Nangate, there are 8 entities participating in the Synaptic Consortium [Nangate, STMicro, Thales, Imec, Politecnico de Milano, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, UFRGS, and Leading Edge], an organization with a bold, aggressive focus.
Per Prof Reis: “What we are doing with this design flow is to deal with regularity for advanced technology nodes. We start with commercial libraries that are not regulated, then make versions with more regularity. This will be good for manufacturability, because by providing more regular layouts we will produce better yields.”
Having grasped the intent of the Consortium, I asked Prof. Reis why UFRGS participates at DAC. He said, “We participate here as part of the European project. The EC is funding The Seventh Framework Programme, FP7, and the Synaptic Consortium is part of that.”
And who is the competition? Reis said, “Possibly PDF Solutions, but they don’t work on the complete flow, and perhaps Tela Innovations. But not Cadence or Synopsys, because this research is for advanced technical nodes and these companies are not looking at this – only the startup companies in the Consortium.
“The project started in November 2009, when I was living in Denmark and working as chief scientist for Nangate. Now I am back in Brazil, teaching digital design and design automation at UFRGS.”
I asked Prof. Reis why there are so many software developers in Brazil. He said, “Brazil has invested a lot in its universities since the 1950s. Since that time, there has been a great deal of funding, and now two or three generations of scientists have come and gone.
“By the end of the 1990s, a lot of emphasis was being made on bringing PhDs to settle in the universities and developing a more scientific approach to teaching. That has been the source of our software industry.”
Rene Donkers, Partner, and Johan Peeters, Founder, are with Fractal Technologies (San Carlos, CA), founded 2 years ago.
Donkers said the company does “checks and validation of standard cell libraries, I/O libraries, and IP. Fractal started off with digital IP and then moved into other areas, depending on the needs of our customers, which range from IDMs to foundries and fabless companies.”
And what prompted the company? Donkers said, “We took over the existing technology from Phoenix Design Automation. We’re based in Silicon Valley, but have offices in Eindhoven in The Netherlands, and work with distributors in China, Taiwan, Korea, and India.
I asked Donkers why a customer would go with Fractal Technologies. He said, “The big EDA companies only care about their own formats, but we are above that. We cross-check consistency on all of it.”
And why is the company exhibiting at DAC? Donkers said, “Because it’s in San Francisco, and it’s definitely been worth the money. The [traffic] has been far better than we expected.”
Tags: Andre Reis, Anna Karapetyan, Enno Wein, European Commission, Fergus Slorach, FP7, Fractal, Imec, Instigate, Johan Peeters, Leading Edge, Methodics, Nangate, Philippe Metsu, Politecnico de Milano, ProximusDA, Rene Donkers, Simon Butler, STMicro, Synaptic Consortium, Thales, UFRGS, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Yereven