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 What Would Joe Do?
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.

SI: What comes after CDNS acquires Sigrity?

July 5th, 2012 by Peggy Aycinena

The SI landscape is a confusing one: What is the true value of a signal integrity analysis tool, and if you’re an EDA vendor, do you need to offer an in-house SI solution to be a true end-to-end provider?

Although Cadence has had a position in signal integrity with their OrCAD Signal Explorer [pre- and post-route topology exploration and transmission line analysis, conceptual, pre-design/schematic topology exploration and simulation, routed or unrouted board topology extraction and analysis] …

… this week Cadence announced it has acquired Silicon Valley-based Sigrity and will now incorporate Sigrity’s PowerSI [full-wave electrical analysis for IC packages and PCBs, identifies trace and via coupling, power/ground bounce, and design regions that are under or over voltage targets] and SystemSI [chip-to-chip signal integrity analysis, including parallel bus analysis and serial link analysis, frequency domain, time domain and statistical analysis] into Cadence’s flow.

This all sounds great as a strategy for beefing up Cadence’s SI offerings, but what does it do to Sigrity’s current set of partners: Apache [owned by Ansys], CST, Mentor Graphics, Synopsys’ HSPICE, TSMC, and Zuken?

According to Cadence Exec AJ Incorvaia [see interview below], Ansoft [also owned by Ansys], Mentor Graphics, and Zuken are deemed to be competitors of Sigrity’s in the area of signal integrity, so will Sigrity’s partnering with Apache/Ansys, Mentor and Zuken come to an end with the Cadence purchase?

For instance, Zuken’s Lightning Verifyoffers a complete concurrent and post-layout signal integrity solution that enables engineers, layout designers and specialists within a development team to collaborate, organize, constrain, and verify their design in a seamless process.”

While Mentor Graphics’ HyperLynx Signal Integrity [part of the HyperLynx suite] does pre-layout analysis, post-layout analysis, and PCB layer stack-up editing and trace impedance planning.

One online user lists a price range for HyperLynx from $3K to $50K, depending. But you can buy an older version of HyperLynx 7.5 for $15, so perhaps signal integrity tools aren’t that valuable?

Nonetheless, Cadence is paying $80 million for Sigrity, while back in 2008, Ansys bought Ansoft for $832 million. Of course, Ansys got a lot more product than just a signal integrity tool with the purchase – not the least being Ansoft founder Dr. Zoltan Cendes, who joined the BoD at Ansys.

Cendes is no longer on the board, but the Ansoft SIwave software still “analyzes the PCBs and IC packages prevalent in modern electronic products [including] packages merged onto boards for complete channel analysis … [aiding] in the identification of signal- and power-integrity problems … using a full-wave electromagnetic simulator that realizes coupling effects between packages and boards.”

Clearly this is an exercise in comparing apples and oranges – comparing companies, offerings, and acquistion prices – but the point is that the landscape of tools and offerings in SI analysis is confusing and hard to unravel.

Meanwhile, Synopsys partners with Massachusetts-based SiSoft, via HSPICE, to provide signal integrity solutions to customers, but currently, SiSoft is a member of the Cadence Connections program.

After this week’s news, however, and given that AJ Incorvaia also lists SiSoft as a competitor to Sigrity, it remains to be seen what the next step will be now that Cadence, Mentor, Zuken, and Ansys all have strong in-house positions in the area of signal integrity.

Perhaps the next step in this complex multidimensional game of SI Chess is for Synopsys to purchase SiSoft. Not a given, of course, but I’m just saying …


Interview …

I spoke with AJ Incorvaia, Cadence VP of R&D for PCBs & IC Packaging, on July 5th.

WWJD: Are there some redundancies between the Sigrity offering and the existing Cadence signal integrity analysis offering?

Incorvaia: Yes, there are. Sigrity has a set of IC packaging tools, so there is some overlap.

There is also a little overlap in the signal integrity area, although Cadence primarily focuses on the front-end of the process with tools for solution space analysis – tools that do signal integrity, set up your constraints and things of that nature. Sigrity tools focus primarily on the back-end of the process in the post-layout area where they do a lot of sign-off validation. Where there is overlap in that space, we can mitigate the overlap.

Where Sigrity has tools for design, in the power analysis space or in the area of looking for capacitor optimization, we don’t have tools in that space.  For the most part, we feel the Sigrity technology fills an important role in our flow.

WWJD: In the past, what were designers doing with a Cadence flow that lacked the features now being added by way of the Sigrity acquisition?

Incorvaia: Typically, customers had both sets of technologies, ours and Sigrity’s. They might use the Cadence flow on their engineering desktop, and then use the Sigrity flow to do sign-off validation. It’s not unusual at all in today’s market to have multiple tools in this space. One of the reasons they had to do that is because historically the integration between the tools was not very good, with a lot of hand-off in the flow.

We believe this acquisition is valuable because we can now take the Sigrity technology and integrate it seamlessly into our design flow. It will allow customers to use these tools from the beginning of the design process all the way to sign-off. Integrating the flow won’t have to include a cumbersome process outside of the product line to do specification validation.

WWJD: Will it still be easy, however, for customers to use other options if they would prefer not to use the Sigrity solutions?

Incorvaia: Customers always have the option to extract data from our environment and into a foreign environment to do their analysis, and then come back into [our flow]. Sometimes customers do want to mix and match their tools, but it’s still cumbersome. They have to leave an environment, do the analysis, and then come back in to make changes that the tools have found are required.

Most would prefer to take best-in-class tools such as Sigrity’s – these are market-leading tools – and make them a seamless part of the flow. This way they can do their analysis and design at the same time.

WWJD: If all of this is so important, why hasn’t Cadence done it sooner – either through acquisition or through internal development?

Incorvaia: You could always take a look at things and ask: Why do we do things when we do it? This was an opportunity and the right time to do it.

We believe that the signal integrity market is a problem that’s getting worse and worse. Our customers are asking: As we design large SoCs , connecting them with other SoCs or FPGAs in these very complex designs, how do we meet the connection [requirements]? We need to get the implementation correct, but that’s harder and harder to do. How do we solve these problems?

At Cadence, we know that as devices get faster, as SoCs get bigger and draw more power, power analysis is becoming an intrinsic problem, with signal integrity becoming a critical problem.

Before you could get away with using rules of thumb, but today it’s very difficult to design high-performance designs like DDR memories or PCI Express – the connections and implementations are becoming more and more difficult. Getting the complex high-end designs right is becoming impossible without an integrated signal integrity solution as part of the design flow.

WWJD: Who is going to be concerned about Cadence acquiring Sigrity? Who’s the competition?

Incorvaia: There are two sets of players in this space.

Clearly, there are the companies we normally compete with, front to back – Zuken in Japan and Mentor Graphics in North American and Europe, and sometimes in Asia, as well. Clearly, these companies provide a complete front-to-back flow, like we do, so there will be competition there.

In the signal integrity space, companies that primarily focus in this area would include players like the Ansoft Group at Ansys and SiSoft in Massachusetts, which is focused on channel analysis

WWJD: Cadence used to be the King of Acquisitions, but we haven’t seen that much action of late. Is there a larger message here with the Sigrity purchase?

Incorvaia: Yes, it reinforces our message: While Cadence historically has been know for primarily focusing on silicon design, we do have a very good PCB and IC packaging line.

The Sigrity news reinforces the fact that we believe this area is important for us. It’s a growth area moving forward and it’s why we’re making this level of investment.


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