The news that Synopsys wants to bring together the R&D teams and EDA software products from its recent and proposed acquisitions of Magma, Ciranova and SpringSoft puts me in mind of an intriguing and market-changing perspective.
It looks like EDA is going back to where it came from – but with a twist. Synopsys has said it is making its consolidation move, in part, to offer higher levels of automation in custom tools. Custom in-house tools is where EDA started about 50 years ago.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s both chip making, and the EDA tools that enabled it, were the internal R&D activities of the large OEMs; companies like IBM, AT&T, Motorola, Siemens, Philips, Hitachi, NEC and so on.
With the creation of specialist chip firms like Intel and National Semiconductor, a first level of disaggregation occurred. For a long time that disaggregation was only partial and some OEMs kept on competing with the chip firms, gradually spinning out their chip operations while fabbed and then fabless chip companies sprung up like weeds. The fabless trend, starting in the 1980s, was another disaggregation that separated chip manufacture from design.
Meanwhile, and slightly behind this trend, EDA was separating from chip fabrication, giving rise to a series of EDA leaders to sell to those chip makers. Of course just as some OEMs never disaggregated, some chip companies continued to keep a lot of EDA tool development in-house seeing it as a point of differentiation and added value. Intel is perhaps the best known example. But most chip companies, especially the fabless startups, were happy to use third-party EDA software to get chips designed and get to market quickly.
The cycle might take longer, Peter, but we will inevitably hit a standardisation phase. Look at how ARM and Co. are developing standards for server solutions, Android is becoming the dominant Mobile OS etc. Certainly it won't be like before where one technology or a few are standardised but it will be about system standardisation with a variety of nodes with standard interfaces.
I read this more as Synopsys aggregating EDA technology and segmenting it from its other business. That makes sense to me. As far as re-aggregating EDA within a large chip vendor, it's an interesting idea, but I don't believe we are close to that point. There are only a handful of chip companies that could realistically buy Synopsys, and I don't believe there is any real motivation for them to do so. When it gets to the point that only one or two firms are scaling to new nodes, then they might be forced to bring EDA in house.
Makimoto's wave gained some credit ability for a while. But as time goes by it seems to me the wave has failed to repeat....the key transition was from building block components that were never application specific... To soc era where all components are app specific.
Not just soc components.
Even DRAM has become an app specific PC memory these days
As you say Peter there are fewer companies willing or able to buy state-of-the-art million dollar EDA tools..hence your revenue doesn't grow...you have to do something about it...consolidating R&D of various product lines makes sense, I think EDA companies traditionally have spent too much on R&D % wise...Kris
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.