September 28, 2009
It’s the Customers...
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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Granted that this product is a chameleon and very flexible, are that any sweet spots in terms of end user applications say processors or memory?

In terms of industry segments, we have a strong presents in processors, wireless and consumer segments. We also have networking. We have quite a few processor customers. The ones that have publicly endorsed us are ARM, AMD and SUN. In the consumer area, the company that we may list is Sony Corporation. We have several others that are widely successful consumer companies that we can’t mention. HP certainly. We have a very nice article on the ROI that they have seen from our products. NVIDIA is our oldest customer. Graphics is another industry segment. So processors, wireless and consumer are the three most prevalent with some networking and graphics thrown in. It is
pretty chameleon in terms of industry segments.

You asked if there are any sweet spots, application wise. Verifying critical function that is clearly risky will be the long pole in verification, critical path schedule. When you can take that and exhaustively verify with formal then you have fundamentally changed your risk, schedule and so on. Full proof of critical functionalities that correlate to spec is still the biggest differentiation for our products.

Verification is a big area now. If you could segment this, where would Jasper fit in?

Let me take a stab at that. A lot of this is based on my own history, starting out as the first female simulation user at Rockwell. Simulation I would consider as one distinct subsegments of verification. Then testbench automation. I think that testbench automation and testbenches are a distinct market in verification. However, it does get blurred because a lot of that is now included in simulation or System Verilog Testbench. You see some of the other graph based coverage tools I would put in the testbench area. Emulation hardware assisted verification is definitely a category. Static and formal property domain is another one. I think we see the crossover starting to blend
into ESL type space. Those are getting closer and closer together with the near neighbors getting closer to the implementation side of things. Those are the four big ones in my mind.

Who do you see as your competition?

The big three companies. We compete regularly with Cadence, Synopsys and Mentor. Every single customer who now has a big testimonial on our wall had one, two if not three. Usually, it is two, I do not know why. One or two of the big companies’ tools. We have found looking at our life in the market, there was all kinds of interest and excitement when we the first launched the company in 2003. A couple years later, when all of the big vendors had launched their quote-unquote competitive product, everybody froze us out. They said “We have to see what we already own in our mix and how it fits.” So it took a little while for companies to digest what they
had, understand its limitations and know whether they care about the category to go look for something better. Our turnaround happened when people starting saying “Okay, now we have a handle on what we have. It is time to go look at that product. We definitely want more from formal. Let’s see what you have.”

Our largest customer, in fact, had evaluated Jasper back in 2004 or 2005, selected us technically and gave us a low ball price. We said we cannot take that. We cannot do business at that level. They said we are going to use our existing vendor tool. They used it for a while as well as another big vend or tool. They came back to us after hearing references from other companies and from people they were hiring. The first order we did for them after a very short evaluation I think was over 10 times the price per license of their earlier low ball offer.

It is because the domain was now viewed as essential. We were clearly recognized for our differentiation because they had experience with the alternative. Sometime you just have to outlast the marketing hype out there in the market.

You had mentioned you cover new and interesting technology. I have got a lot of coverage from those types of things. It is great. But when I think of customers and what is relevant to them, it is knowing, which customers have crossed the tipping point of production testimonial usage, more actionable. Sometimes you look and see (yawn) another announcement of a five person startup that does not have funding yet, that may or may not ever get that product working. It actually gets a disproportionate amount of coverage. They need it to open doors and so forth. It was very helpful when we launched the company in 2003; front page EE Times and all that. I think it is so much more
important, customers are so much more interested when they can see the herd effect. Oh boy, companies now come in and walk directly to the Jasper reception desk and sign up for a meeting. They don’t like wandering around looking at who is this company. They say that they are here because they heard from their friends at other companies that you guys are the clear domain leader and we need this. I have a project I want to talk about with you. So it is really a different sales cycle and much more fun now.

It is difficult to judge whether a company has reached its tipping point from the outside when they cannot tell you even the names of some of their biggest customers or their revenue.

When you finally start seeing testimonials from big companies and it is a subset that are even willing to do that. But whether it is my company or not, I am very grateful to the companies that still do sincere endorsements. It is what signals the early majority in the market that it is time to go look at that product.

There was an interesting blog and article that was recently put out that says that this has real changed from my experience at Verisity in the late 90s, where we were very radical, laying a new language and all of that, to now. That set has shrunk and the whole industry has gratitude to the subset that still does speak their minds and cannot be bought. There are some that can be bought for their testimonial. They say they like a product whether they use it or not. That is really not a good practice in my mind.

How do you make the experience of formal better for the customer?

Really, it is about three things. Methodology, in giving the user the hooks to apply their own flows and methodologies. Then, there is clearly capacity. Capacity is king in the world of formal and that is where we have our greatest lead. And the third, not to be shortchanged because it has a factor on capacity, is visibility into the process. All three of the big vendor tools are black box perspective solutions. That is like driving blind. If you get lucky and your property is proven, then great. If not, you have to change the property, change the design, and/or change the constraints. You do very thing from outside the black box.

JasperGold from its initial architecture, one of the things that attracted me to the company and that the founders had done differently, was to say “We want to empower the engineer to take it farther. We want to make the process visible.” Over the last 7 years or so, things that have been added so that people use JasperGold not only for verification per se, that is proving properties. Now they use JasperGold Active Design to understand that design. They get a guided tour through their control flow that helps you identify where complexity is getting out of control and apply some of the techniques that we have taken that from the outer ring, from services and methodology, to now under the hood about handling complex structures like proof accelerators that deal with FIFOs and memory. We have a formal score board, the only company that has a formal scoreboard which is one of the most valuable verification assets. It watches packets going in and packets going out to see if you are dropping, duplicating or corrupting nodes. I think that visibility, capacity and methodology go hand-on-hand. That has been our kind of audacious approach to this formal domain rather than trying to find something simple and small that formal
can do, that is low effort, and where you do not have to teach anyone anything. That does not have any value.

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-- Jack Horgan, Contributing Editor.


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