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.