February 19, 2007
Fast-SPICE with Nascentric
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On December 28 EVE announced that it had acquired Tharas Systems. On January 11 Nascentric announced the appointment of Rahm Shastry (former Tharas CEO) as its new president and CEO. This was less than 2 weeks including XMAS and New Years. Tharas is a hardware accelerator company while Nascentric is a software company with offerings in the Fast-SPICE simulation market. I had an opportunity to talk to Rahm along with Dennis George, Nascentric Director of Marketing.
My thesis advisor was Kandula Sitaram Sastry. I couldn’t remember whether there was an h’ or not in his last name. I had to look it up.
Shastry is spelled both ways. But it is always pronounced with an h’ in it. In different parts of India they spell it differently. But where I come from, it is pretty much Shastry. There is also a variant Sastri. If you want to be politically correct, I don’t think it matters.
Would you give us a brief biography?
I joined Nascentric in December. Prior to that I was at Tharas for 5 1/2 years. Tharas Systems was a Santa Clara based company doing hardware acceleration for Verilog designs. Our unique value proposition was a processor based system, a massively parallel system. That was something we sold to a lot of the big companies who did not want to spend all their money on emulation. I was there 5 ½ years. We sold the company last December to EVE (Emulation Verification Engineering). EVE has an emulation product and Tharas has an acceleration product. It is a great marriage for the two companies. The EVE and Tharas combination can now effectively compete with Cadence who has everything. Prior to Tharas I had gone on my own outside of EDA for about a year. I dabbled in mobile internet and e-commerce type of businesses. But I had been in EDA for a long time since 1988. I veered back into EDA in 2001. Prior to that I was at Cadence for 3 years. At the time I left Cadence I was managing the hardware functional verification product line: NC Verilog, equivalence checker, formal checker and so on. Before Cadence I started a company in 1995 called Triquest Design Automation. I was CEO of the company. Our goal was to develop synthesis tools to go against Synopsys who was good at it. It was a brutal one. It was pretty hard. We had domain based synthesis. We were focused
on control logic, data path and behavioral synthesis. In 1997 we decided it was very hard to against Cadence so we got acquired by a company called Summit Design who has since become part of Mentor Graphics.
Prior to that I was Viewlogic for 7 years. I was the technical marketing manager. I also managed the Asia Pacific and Japan operations in the early 90s. It was more of a marketing oriented role starting at the application level.
Prior to my EDA career I earned a masters degree in computer engineering from Stony Brook. From ’82 to ’88 I worked in chip design (MOS, CMOS and NMOS) and then at Apollo Computer on system level design for network chips. That’s my background.
Quite impressive. So EVE and Tharas were in the same overall market but still complementary.
Correct. We did not compete. We were adjacent. In the design flow when the RTL code is not stable but large enough where you can not really use software simulation, you use an accelerator. With an accelerator you can compile and get the design running. You can only do this with an accelerator. When the RTL is not stable, changing on a daily basis, you use an accelerator. But accelerator performance is limited by Amdahl’s law. If your testbench is 5% of the total time, the maximum performance you can typically get is 20x because you can not accelerate the test bench. The testbench could be all C, C++, e, Vera or whatever. As the RTL stabilizes, there is a different mode of
operation which historically is emulation. At that time you are not testbench bound, so you can run 100x faster than an accelerator. That’s where EVE excelled. That’s the reason why they are extremely complementary products and we rarely competed with each other. EVE’s product is FPGA based. FPGAs have their own peculiarities. Compile time is horrendous while performance is awesome. The Tharas accelerator is processor based and like a software simulator it has very fast compile times but the performance is limited by Amdahl’s law.
Tharas was about 20 people at the time of the acquisition by EVE?
Yes. There was also a team in India. They were not Tharas employees but worked full time for Tharas as contractors. There were 9 to 10 people there.
How big was EVE?
EVE was about 60 to 65 people worldwide before the acquisition. They are probably about 80 people now.
How did the two companies get together? Who approached whom?
I know Lauro (Rizzatti GM of EVE-USA) and Luc (EVE CEO and President). This is how it works, especially in the Silicon Valley. Luke, the CEO of EVE, had approached me about a year or a year and a half ago because they wanted to have our compiler. The compiler that Tharas had was extremely fast. But that deal didn’t go anywhere for a multitude of reasons. We didn’t know how to license it to them. This year after DAC I approached them. Of course the VCs are always involved. The last thing that happened was I approached EVE and said “Let’s sit together. A year ago we did not do a deal but let’s talk about what we can do, figure out how to
effectively compete against our common enemy, Cadence, in this market.” That resulted in the acquisition.
When large companies acquire smaller companies, the CEO of the acquired company often ends up heading a division. Perhaps, when the acquiring company is small, there is no room for another executive.
Luc actually wanted me to stay at EVE. He offered me to become the general manager of the accelerator division. I looked at myself and my career. That was not what I wanted to do. EVE required a GM who was more operational. I am okay at operations but what I am most interested in is the strategic vision and how to realize the vision and parlay that into a successful company for the founders and employees. That’s what I feel good about. That’s when the Nascentric opportunity came about. I thought it was a very interesting opportunity and that’s how I started talking to the principals at Nascentric.
For the last 5+ years you have been with a company whose principal product (Hammer) was hardware and now you have joined a software company. Is there any significance to that shift?
If I look at my career, my first company was a hardware based company. Cadence, ViewLogic and Triquest were all software companies. After I left my chip and system design jobs, I went to EDA. That made sense to me because I knew the chip design process and the system design process so that I could add value into the EDA market. I have always been interested in software companies except at Tharas. At Tharas we did functional acceleration and Verilog. Gate level was the lowest level you could go. We were focussed on RTL and behavioral whereas at Nascentric the challenge is more at the SPICE level. That’s exciting to me. It’s a slightly different value proposition but
nevertheless extremely important. Since I had done chip design before, I know what it takes to characterize the various components on a chip accurately. Once it is characterized then of course it will go to hardware accelerator. I see this more of a challenge.
Like I said to Dennis “I need to understand what we are doing and the players in the market in order to run the business.” The strategy and the operation are just the same. It is just that you have to put your ear to the ground and figure out what you can do, prioritize things. There are the same challenges. We are competing here in the Nascentric world against the same big companies. They all have a presence and product lines with certain capabilities. What we are trying to figure out is how can we be better than them. Build better, faster, more capacity and address the sub 65 nm issues. Then they come with a whole set of priorities. That’s all we have
today. That’s pretty exciting to me.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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