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 What Would Joe Do?

Archive for April, 2015

PCB Tools, Part 1: Zuken, Mentor, Cadence, Altium

Thursday, April 30th, 2015


Board design is evolving quickly: The vendors who sell CAD tools to the people who design boards are working hard these days to keep up with the changing needs of their customers. That’s the unqualified conclusion I came away with after a number of phone calls over the last several weeks with the four of the biggest companies in the PCB design-tool industry: Zuken, Mentor Graphics, Cadence, and Altium.

These conversations were not only interesting, they were inspiring as well. The folks I talked to have been in the industry for a long time, and have a seasoned and intelligent understanding of the evolution of board designers and the tools that support their efforts. Here are the people I spoke with for this lengthy article:

Zuken: Bob Potock, VP Marketing; Humair Mandavia, Executive Director, SOZO Center
Mentor Graphics: Dave Wiens, PCB division business development
Cadence: Hemant Shah, Product Management Group Director
Altium: Dave Reed, Director of Product Marketing


Moore’s Law @ 50: Will it never end?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015


If there’s something missing in your personal or professional knowledge of Moore’s Law, you should have spent 5 hours at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View on April 17, 2015, although even then you might not have learned anything new. For people in technology, seriously, what more is there to know?

The ‘law’, penned by Gordon Moore and published in an Electronics article on April 19, 1965, was based on his many years’ experience in the nascent-to-ferocious semiconductor industry, and has since been interpreted, re-interpreted, mis-interpreted, and zealously lionized – both the law and the man – over the last 50 years. Which brings us back to April 17th and the 3-part program at the CHM.


Dr. Rhines: EDA’s charm & intelligence reflected in Q4_2014

Monday, April 13th, 2015


Quarterly, as many of you know, the Market Statistics Service of the EDA Consortium reports out on the health of the industry. Quarterly, as well, Mentor CEO Dr. Walden Rhines makes himself available to the Press, to comment and elaborate on the EDAC results.

And so it was last Friday that I had a chance, yet again, to speak by phone with Rhines, always a conversation to look forward to. If you want to know how the EDA industry did in Q4_2014, you can scroll to the bottom of this blog. If you want to read a paraphrased snapshot of a wide-ranging discussion with Wally Rhines, however, it follows here.

WWJD – This debriefing thing must be quite tedious. How’s it going, and how’s EDA doing?

Rhines – This is only my second Press meeting, so not bad. The EDA industry [booked] record revenues for the fourth quarter of 2014, and the entire year, and showed a substantially higher rate of return than the semiconductor industry. The industry’s doing very well, with hiring up 6 percent on the year, and strong reporting from companies in IP and physical design and verification. There is some weakness in the numbers out of Japan, but they were offset by strong results in the PacRim and the Americas.


Cadence Emulation: Schirrmeister articulates Both Sides of the Equation

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015


Frank Schirrmeister, Group Director of Product Marketing for the System and Software Realization Group at Cadence, had just returned from DATE in Grenoble when we spoke several weeks ago about the philosophy and technology behind Cadence’s emulation business unit. First, however, we spoke about Grenoble.

I asked Frank if DATE had been a success this year and he said, “Absolutely, yes. It was very interesting as it has transformed from a generic show into more of a technical conference. So the focus now is on the sessions.

“Particularly interesting for me, I was chair for a session about tools for the IoT. Jan Rabaay from U.C. Berkeley, always a good speaker, gave a great presentation on wearable trends. NXP also participated, talking about the connected car, and ARM spoke about their embed OS for the edge nodes. Also among those topics, we talked about debug. It was all very good.”

Having enjoyed DATE many times myself, I asked Frank what he thought distinguished the conference from DAC. He said, “First of all, DATE was in Grenoble, which is always a great destination. Then, of course, at DATE you see the European point for view.

“For instance, I had a presentation for my session regarding automotive issues, and included material of interest to our customers in Japan and Europe. The share of semiconductors in cars from those markets focuses more on the mission-critical pieces in the design. The focus is different for automotive customers in North America, where it centers more on mobile connectivity within the vehicle.”

All of this being very interesting, I turned the conversation to the real reason for our phone call: To allow Frank to clarify emulation at Cadence.


M&A: Mentor triumphs, Tanner customers not so much?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015


Last October, I had a lively conversation with Tanner EDA President Greg Lebsack. He was enthused about the company’s tools, technology innovations, and future. For that reason, it seemed surprising to hear that Tanner was acquired by Mentor Graphics. A close reading of the March 3, 2015, press announcement suggests Mentor intends to continue to support Tanner’s products despite a possible overlap between some of the tools of the two companies, fully acknowledged in the press release.

Mentor Graphics today announced it has acquired the business assets of Tanner EDA, a leading tool provider for the design, layout and verification of analog/mixed-signal and MEMS integrated circuits. With this acquisition, more designers will now have access to Tanner’s AMS products based on the strength and reach of the Mentor Graphics global sales organization. All Tanner EDA products as well as existing AMS products from Mentor will continue to be available and supported.

A quote from Greg Lebsack was included: “Tanner EDA has built an outstanding reputation as the price performance leader for the design, layout and verification of AMS ICs, MEMS and IoT devices. We are excited to join Mentor Graphics where we can leverage their extensive technology leadership and global footprint. We view this transaction as very positive for Tanner EDA’s customers, employees and the industry as a whole.”

I have no doubt that President Lebsack backed the sentiments attributed to him, but it’s hard to understand how melding the tools from Tanner into the Mentor armamentum is good for Tanner’s customers, or the industry as a whole.


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