Back to the Future

The acquisition of Veribest relieved Mentor of its dependence on Cadence for routing, and soon the acquired Expedition router was replacing that of Cadence (CCT) in the marketplace. 

The Veribest acquisition also added skilled headcount to the MGC PCB Division, and of course its Colorado location proved irresistible as a Division HQ.

As Potts continued the division’s own R&D, he remained persistently watchful for strategic acquisitions to fill other gaps in Mentor’s total PCB solution. 

Indeed, the ink was hardly dry on the Veribest deal, when Potts’ eyes fell on Innoveda, Inc., then a public company based in Marlboro, MA.

Innoveda had been created by the merger of Viewlogic Systems, Inc. and Summit Design, Inc., and then the subsequent merger of that Innoveda and PADS Software, Inc. These unions formed the foundation of a comprehensive electronic product line for system level design, design capture, board design and electromechanical design that could help engineers visualize, design and build advanced electronic systems for customers participating in the telecommunications, transportation, computers and consumer electronics markets – all the words that were interesting to Henry Potts.

The April 2002 price paid by Mentor for Innoveda ($160 million in cash) [3] was somewhat more dear than the bargain-basement $19 million paid for Veribest, but consider what Mentor realized from the Innoveda deal:

PADS—A Desktop PCB Design System:   
At this juncture, Mentor already possessed world-class mid- to high-end enterprise systems in Board Station and Enterprise Expedition, but in 2002 Mentor could offer no low cost system. Competition was attacking Mentor from the bottom with their low end systems. Mentor could definitely benefit by offering its own low-end alternative as well as expand its revenue potential by addressing small companies that could use a system like PADS, which offered good technology but without the need for the infrastructure system and large-team design capabilities.

HyperLynx--for Signal Integrity: 

Now the world’s most popular simulation & analysis system for high speed net design.  Mentor already had a signal integrity offering, but HyperLynx was much easier to learn and use, and it was already installed in many Mentor competitors’ accounts.  

DxDesigner – An excellent Design Entry System:

Same reasons as HyperLynx.  Excellent technology plus it was also already installed in many competitors’ accounts. DxDesigner would redefine front-end design engineering through a process of "design definition" that combines four key process technologies: component information systems; design entry and sharing; simulation and planning; and enterprise connectivity within a single, comprehensive solution. This enables better communication among geographically dispersed engineering and manufacturing teams, resulting in more efficient component selection, less post-layout re-work, fewer design defects, and shorter prototype-debugging cycles.

Still, the Veribest and Innoveda acquisitions could be viewed mostly as catch-up actions, necessary to restore Mentor’s ability to compete in the market niche it once led.

But Potts knew better. He already had articulated his vision of  “collaboration, co-design, concurrency” in words, and then he had made two acquisitions that he knew would further his goals. At this juncture he started using visuals to punctuate his points, such as the last two panels on the right side of this illustration:

Concurrency and Collaboration

But Pott’s vision went further than adding productivity and additional functionality to the PCB core design process.  When one can turn serial processes into parallel processes, it’s like turning lead into gold, since designers can make significant gains in design cycle reduction and time to market improvements. 

In 2004, the Systems Design Division (renamed from PCB Division) delivered one of the most significant breakthrough technologies to the industry addressing the design cycle reduction issue, in the form of “XtremePCB!” 

allowed multiple layout designers (up to 15) to simultaneously edit the same database (without any database partitioning) and view each other’s edits in real time on a LAN or WAN network.  Sort of like a video game for CAD designers.  This enabled designers to reduce their layout design cycle times by up to 70%. 

“By using XtremePCB, we reduced our layout time from 13 to 5 weeks. We more than doubled our design productivity.” – Alcatel Shanghai Bell

This technology was patented by Mentor and has not been duplicated.

But the concurrency did not stop at the layout process.  In the same fashion, Mentor supplied true concurrent design (no partitioning, real time viewing of peers’ edits) into schematic and high speed constraint entry.  This not only improved design cycle time but improved quality and reduced changes.  Engineers could instantly see their peers’ edits and thus stay more in sync with the rest of the design, than if they each operated separate workstations and had to periodically re-synchronize the design database.

Combining ECAD with MCAD

As previously stated, designing a product these days is usually more than an ECAD challenge.  Other disciplines such as MCAD are equally as important.   But for years, these two domains had grown up as separate silos of design technology.   Interfaces have existed that were able to transfer databases between the respective design domains, but these were en masse transfers and did not really enable real time collaboration.  

In 2005, Potts initiated a task force, with the cooperation of key European users and of the ProSTEP standards organization, to define an interface standard that could communicate incremental change proposals between the ECAD and MCAD systems.  This standard was developed, approved and then published by ProSTEP in the spring of 2008.

In 2008 Mentor Graphics and Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) were the first vendors in their respective domains to implement the standard.  It allowed a proposed change to originate in either domain and be communicated to the other electronically.  A negotiation process can follow and once agreed upon, each database updated to reflect the agreed-to change.  True incremental collaboration between ECAD and MCAD! If you would like to see a 15 minute demo of this capability by PTC and Mentor, go to ECAD/MCAD.

Other Potts’ Acquisitions

Potts didn’t stop there in his determination to improve the entire PCB development process.   As mentioned earlier, in 2008 he persuaded MGC to acquire the 74% of Flomerics plc that MGC didn’t already own, for about $60 million. Finally MGC had access to Flomerics’ IC package, its PCB and systems level thermal analysis, and its general purpose Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology.  Potts named this business unit the Mechanical Analysis Division, making a clear statement that electronics do not live in a vacuum.  Again this brought the mechanical and electrical co-dependencies to light and provided users with yet another bridge between the two domains. For more details, see the EDA WEEKLY of December 2009:

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