September 15, 2003
Two sides to every story
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
Posted anew every four weeks or so, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Editors, at least the ones who admit to being a bit unorganized at times, may occasionally fail to pay sufficient attention to a story that actually deserves closer scrutiny. The recent announcement of an alliance between Cadence and CoWare may be one of those stories. After listening in on a joint phone briefing from folks at Cadence and CoWare, and then unexpectedly receiving a phone call from the folks at VaST Systems Technology Corp. who wanted to point out the 'other side of the story,' I decided to sit up and take notice.

The Cadence/CoWare announcement is actually pretty interesting, principally because it's addressing a “new-ish” business model that may provide renewed enthusiasm for creative partnering across corporate firewalls within the EDA industry.

The Press Release (abridged):

Cadence Design Systems, Inc. and CoWare, Inc. announced a strategic alliance to accelerate time-to-market for SoC design teams through a standards-based system-to-silicon-design solution. This multifaceted relationship includes joint development, cross licensing, a coordinated go-to-market and standards strategy, and a Cadence equity investment in CoWare. The alliance provides a unified solution from electronic system-level (ESL) design through RTL implementation for advanced SoC designs and a new connection in the design chain.

Electronic design companies have long had separate system and IC design teams, each with their own unique development environment. With increasingly complex SoC designs, the gap between system and IC design environments has become a critical bottleneck.

CoWare and Cadence are seizing the opportunity created by the SystemC standard to provide a new level of design capability, speed, and efficiency. The first step is the creation of a system-to-silicon design solution based on CoWare's ConvergenSC and LISATek system-level design products and the Cadence Incisive functional verification platform. The allied companies are working with SoC design leaders such as ARM to ensure this unified flow is supported by interoperable IP.

The [Cadence/CoWare] alliance... leverages each company's technology and business strengths. It promotes the rapidly emerging transaction level of abstraction enabled by the SystemC standard system language, and provides the critical link for unifying the two worlds of system and IC design.

The two companies say they will coordinate their go-to-market activities, with CoWare focusing on the ESL design market, while Cadence focuses on the functional verification market. The companies' field sales and support teams will have shared goals and aligned interests in making joint customers successful.

As part of a special licensing agreement, the financial terms of which were not disclosed, Cadence has transferred to CoWare its Signal Processing Worksystem (SPW) group. The addition of SPW extends CoWare's ESL leadership by adding algorithm design to its processor, bus, SoC architecture, and hardware/software co-design tools. Cadence also has made an equity investment in CoWare.

Simon Segars, Executive Vice President for Engineering at ARM, said: “ARM is committed to working with its partners to develop and promote open technology solutions that accelerate platform-based design of advanced SoCs. Cadence and CoWare bring together leading system-level design and verification tools. Through our collaboration with them on SystemC models, more design teams will now be able explore ARM core-based designs earlier in the product cycle."

Sound bites from the major players:

Mitch Weaver is Vice President of Marketing for Functional Verification at Cadence, which includes the Incisive product line. Alan Naumann is President and CEO at CoWare. They spoke about the joint announcement in a conference call on Wednesday, September 10th.

Alan: “This is a very important announcement because of two things. First, system-level design has been growing in importance, but one principal technology has been missing - verification for designing at the system level. Designers didn't have a way to verify during implementation. This announcement is good, therefore, for early adopters and for mainstream users who are starting to use system-level design. CoWare's going to provide the system design solution for the Cadence customer base, so both companies have decided to take that part of the Cadence design business and move it over to CoWare, where there's a 100-percent focus on system-level design.”

“The second thing is that this is another move by both companies to support the two languages needed today - SystemC at the system level and Verilog plus extensions for implementation and verification.”

Mitch: “From the Cadence side, we're the market leader in functional verification. We introduced the Incisive Platform, bringing [to market] a forward-featured transaction-level verification environment tied to Verilog. The key element here was the standardization of SystemC, but that by itself is not sufficient to satisfy system-level design needs.”

“It's going to take a combination of CoWare's high-level transactional extraction, high performance, and flexible approach, combined with the Cadence tools to bring [the thing] all the way through to implementation. The Cadence/CoWare alliance provides a key element at the bridge between system-level and transactional-level performance to satisfy designs with multiple microprocessors in them that include embedded software and components from a variety of vendors. [As a result], it was also important to bring an IP provider like ARM into the agreement to make the component part.”

Alan: “I'm a strong advocate of really focusing on specific business and customer sets - that focus brings market leadership. This agreement allows Cadence to continue to focus on its five design platforms, while someone else solves the emerging system-level design problems. Cadence can have a partner who focuses on system-level design and customer benefits, without having to invest in that customer channel.”

“There is a second benefit for Cadence. SPW is an outstanding tool for engineers who want to design algorithms for media chips. The installed SPW customer base will be well served by transferring the technology over to CoWare for system-level design and algorithm design.”

Mitch: “So there's a couple of big pieces of news here. First, it's about bridging the transaction/system level and the other news is about a very unique relationship. I wouldn't call CoWare a startup, but the nature of system-level design is that it is for early adopters - the type of technology that is [pursued] at all costs in a start-up. The feature of this unique Cadence/CoWare relationship is to maintain what CoWare's good at. Our best engineers from Cadence will work with CoWare. The uniqueness of this [business] structure is the big news.”

“There have been two flavors of acquisitions over the last period of time. There have been broad acquisitions and integration of a company into a larger company. Verplex and Get2Chip were those type of mainstream technology acquisitions, not early adopter technologies, where Cadence integrated the company's engineers into our own R&D team.”

“The other flavor is this CoWare structure. [We see it as] the best way to serve the customers and to [preserve] the entrepreneurial nature of CoWare. It's very unique and the first of its kind. We're proud of our ability to bring it together.”

Alan: “It's true, traditionally there's been just two or three types of relationships in the industry. One involved acquisitions and the second involved market-level relationships that didn't make an impact. What we're doing takes something from both of these [types of relationships].”

“Cadence recognizes that normally they could assimilate a technology and deploy it for customers. But what we're doing here is for a different set of users. CoWare brings a unique system-level focus, different [from that] inside a normal EDA company. We're [attacking] different problems that require a different solution set.”

“Why doesn't a normal acquisition make sense here? Well, system designers are often in a different part of the corporate structure, and they speak a different language from RTL designers and layout engineers. When you talk about co-design, using MIPS or ARM, tweaking algorithms for instance for wideband CDMA, these are system decisions. Most EDA sales channels across the industry are not focused on that specific group.”

“Clearly, Cadence has been aggressive on acquisitions. However, Ray Bingham, Penny Herscher, and I all discussed what the right relationship should be here and it was clear to everyone that CoWare should remain an independent company. The larger EDA companies have put effort into system-level design, but nowhere near what CoWare has done in the management and R&D efforts. An acquisition by Cadence would have caused CoWare to lose focus.”

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.

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