A few notes on some interesting discussions about third-party FPGA design tools that have come up over the past couple of weeks.
As you may know, I took over as editor of the Programmable Logic DesignLine this week. I'm well aware that I have big shoes to fill. Clive Maxfield (or Max as he is known to all) is one of the true professionals in this business and an editor with deep technical knowledge and a great sense of humor. I shall do my very best to uphold the standard he set as editor over the past several years.
I've heard some interesting discussions about third-party FPGA design tools over the past couple of weeks. First, at the Semico Summit 2009 in Scottsdale, Ariz. last week, Mentor Graphics Corp. Chairman and CEO Walden Rhines questioned Xilinx President and CEO Moshe Gavrielov about cooperation with EDA vendors who sell FPGA tools.
Gavrielov said Xilinx is all for cooperation with the EDA vendors in the interest of beefing up the ecosystem around Xilinx parts. He said EDA and IP vendors are an ideal source for providing customers with tools to get to higher levels of extraction and that he sees a transition happening now that reminds him of what ASIC vendors went through with proprietary tools in the 1990s.
"We believe it [FPGA] could be the growth vector for EDA as the number of complicated, advanced designs declines," Gavrielov said.
But he cautioned that, for EDA vendors, the FPGA market is a completely different, much more highly fragmented channel, requiring more sales to smaller customers. "It's not about selling $100 million worth of tools to Intel," he said.
Afterwards, I spoke to Rhines, who acknowledged that the FPGA segment is a tough business for EDA. It's not an easy area for EDA vendors to make money, Rhines said, partly because FPGA vendors provide design tools to customers for free or close to it. He described FPGAs as a growing market that has different competitive dynamics compared with other markets.