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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Methodics: Integrated IP/Lifecycle Management Tools for the Enterprise

 
December 21st, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena


San Francisco-based Methodics
has been addressing both the enterprise data management and IP reuse/lifecycle management markets for over 10 years.

The company’s strategy of integrating their lifecycle management tools with products like Perforce version control software and Subversion from Apache, means they dovetail with industry standard solutions. As a natural outgrowth from that, Methodics’ IP-related offerings also work at the enterprise level, helping the customer’s distributed team coordinate and catalog IP use, and keeping track of third-party IP use as well.

In my recent phone call with Methodics CEO Simon Butler, it was clear the company is seeing the fruits of their many years of hard labor come to fruition.


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Q: How are things going with the company?

Simon Butler: We are doing very well, doubling our revenue and expecting to double that number again.

We are offering design data enterprise management and IP reuse capability to our customers. It’s taken a few iterations to perfect the system, but all along we’ve had the right concept and vision and have never wavered from that optimism.

The enterprise environment is a tough one, with a lot of infrastructure issues that are unique to each of our customers, compared to working with individual design teams. Yet at the same time, these customers have many problems in common.

Our new products really dial into each customer’s enterprise infrastructure and provide the solutions they need.

Q: In the past, it’s seemed the enterprise customer was under-served by the EDA and IP vendors. How did you decide to target this market?

Simon Butler: Yes, enterprise customers have unique needs. These are the types of customers who require a high-performance data base, and that connects them with our Percipient product.

To meet their needs, we have re-written the client’s infrastructure, and are providing a new infrastructure technology and appliances.

As a result, what we offer is an enterprise, a strong enterprise optimization product that reduces the amount of data needed [to find a solution].

Our other product addresses the IP quality management space. We’ve been basically executing massively parallel jobs, particularly for customers who are dealing with large blocks of IP.

And our IP management tool is a synergistic technology with our enterprise infrastructure product.

Most importantly, in the last few months we are definitely taking customers away from our competition. So, of course, we feel that things are going great!

Q: Who is your competition?

Simon Butler: Rather than answer that, let me just say there will be a press release coming out in the near future that will be a joint marketing opportunity between Methodics and an important new customer, who previously was engaged with our competition.

Q: Yours seems like a unique type of technology from the point of view of IC design, and one that requires developments skills from someone other than a hardware engineer. Where do you find new employees? From the IT industry, from the IP industry?

Simon Butler: We’ve been hiring systems engineers folks, not just people with an EDA background.

We need people who know how to scale our tools over busy networks in often hostile conditions. Enterprise software development is very different to EDA tools development and bring a new set of problems.

Q: Do they need to understand the complexities of chip design or IP development?

Simon Butler: Certainly that helps but it’s more important that they understand how to manage complex libraries of data, version control, design iterations, traceability, etc.

Interfacing with other design tools and databases is also important. That’s what our platform enables so understanding how each piece of data is designed is not necessarily as critical as knowing how to keep it all organized, up to date and accessible

Q: Data management and design have moved to the Cloud in what some might call a mad-cap manner – trusting the Cloud to not mess things up and have perfect security. Are your tools in the Cloud, and how do you guarantee secure access to your customer’s nascent designs and IP blocks?

Simon Butler: We do have a Cloud “strategy”, but frankly most of our customers prefer to host the kind of data that we manage locally to minimize the possibility of theft. For our customers, the better solution is to take the Cloud to them and install on their network, and data centers.

Q: Speaking of security, it must take a great deal of trust for a customer to allow your software to integrate with their tools. How do you reassure customers that your software is secure enough?

Simon Butler: Our tools are as secure as the environments in which they are being used, which in the case of world-class semiconductor companies is pretty secure. We don’t expose their data or IP to any additional risks.

Q: As the huge semiconductor companies further consolidate, does it create opportunities or difficult challenges for Methodics. Are those customer more likely to resort to in-house solutions for version control and/or IP reuse management?

Simon Butler: Actually, it probably helps us as we address one of the biggest problems companies or organizations have when they combine. They need to standardize on a common platform and methodology to manage design data, and also deal with distributed design teams.

When a merger or acquisition happens, there’s always a lot of legacy IP and design data to deal with, so we can help bring some structure and organization to what often is a very complex situation.

We actually get a lot of traction with companies that have been through a recent merger or acquisition and are looking expedite the transition. Discovering design assets across the corporate entities and making it easy for the two teams to collaborate helps maximize the value of the M&A

Q: Are all of your customers IC design houses? Could your tools also be used by industries completely unrelated to IC design and IP reuse?

Simon Butler: At the moment, all of our customers are involved in electronic design of some sort, and our core value is in the area of IC design.

But our core competency is in managing design data, which could be applied to other areas where there are a lot of moving parts, like design reuse and exchange, design iterations, and disparate engineering teams.

Software development, for example, or games design. The nuances are slightly different, but the general concepts are similar from a design management point of view.

Q: How did you decide to locate the company in San Francisco?

Simon Butler: We hire a mix of experienced software developers and interns/new-grads. San Francisco is a center of excellence for these kinds of folks and fosters innovation.

Q: Do you have to travel a lot to interface with customers?

Simon Butler: Our customers are in the typical locations where most EDA customers are, and its important to have relationship with the key decision makers and influencers. So yes, travel is part and parcel with building a company like ours.

Q: You’ve been in business for over 10 years. What’s the exit strategy?

Simon Butler: We don’t think about that much, to be honest. We’re proud of our longevity and think it demonstrates the importance of what we are providing to the IC design market.

Being in the EDA space, there are some pretty well proven ways we could go in terms of an exit or new business direction – acquisition or merger with another EDA company, acquisition by large customer, combine with another like-minded but possibly tangential company, or even an IPO.

We are certainly aware of all those options, but for now we are focused on the business at hand of developing great products and meeting our customers’ needs

Q: Why belong to the ESD Alliance?

Simon Butler: We believe electronics design at all levels is all about the ecosystem, and the ESD Alliance is a good forum for the range players involved in the EDA and IP sector to interact.

I don’t know of any EDA customer that uses a single vendor, so we have to be collaborative as result of market requirements. The ESD Alliance makes that a bit easier, and also provides a platform for discussion of important issues, trends and standards that impact all suppliers in this value chain.

It gives everyone a voice, regardless of their size or focus area.

Q: It seems like many, if not all, of the companies in the ESD Alliance are potential customers. Is that additional motivation for belonging to the Alliance?

Simon Butler: Actually, a lot of them are partners. As a provider of a data and IP management platform, we have to work with all the major tool suppliers to ensure compatibility for our mutual customers.

We have to be a Switzerland in terms of being agnostic about design environments and working with everyone.

Q: What conferences are important to Methodics?

Simon Butler: The major IC design shows are important – DAC, of course – and we tend to work with the major suppliers like Cadence and Mentor around their big user events.

We are also looking at more focused shows in certain market segments, like automotive, and are also looking at PLM types of events.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

Simon Butler: Building something valuable and being part of a great team. That’s what gets me up in the mornings.


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Bio …

Simon Butler is CEO of Methodics. He co-founded the company in 2006, after founding IC Methods in 2000. Butler has 20+ years of engineering experience with ICs. His design/EDA background includes DSP/FFT processor core development, 64-bit MIPS processor development, x86 methodology consultant, physical floorplanning EDA tools, and mixed signal/analog layout EDA tools.

Butler has held various technical lead and engineering management positions at High Level Design Systems (acquired by Cadence), Sandcraft, Cadence, Sabio Labs (acquired by Magma). He is a graduate of the University of Manchester.

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