This past week was full of news and rumors about various EDA companies. Companies in the ESL sector, including those in the hardware/software co-verification area, are reporting good financial results for 2008. Forte Design Automation is the latest of them to report revenue growth in 2008 with a fourth quarter sales jump of 30% over the same period a year ago. Just a few weeks ago EVE reported revenue increase of 40% from the previous year.
The sale of the Agility assets is now concluded and the results emphatically underscore that it was certainly NOT the quality of the products that prompted the failure. In fact two of the leading ESL companies were more than happy to spend money to obtain the products and the existing customers. Mentor Graphics purchased the high level synthesis technology and The Mathworks paid close to three times last year's revenue stream generated by the Agility's MATLAB to C product family. Neither company is nave and neither absolutely needed to fill a gap in their products portfolio. Thus the Agility products are both of superior quality and well accepted in the market place. Unfortunately what happened to Agility might happen again to other small companies that have small cash positions.
It was refreshing to hear a straight forward report from newly appointed Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan regarding the financial prospects of the company. No sugar coating, no unjustifiable plans. The restructuring is in progress, and I am sure the new team will find more things to fine tune as well some things that just will not fit in the new corporate focus.
Speaking of the new team: the departure of Ted Vukurevich should not come as a shock to anyone. A new CEO must chose a new team, and very often those senior executives that have been with the company for long period of time, just do not fit. The reason for the departure can vary from a simple as a different communication style, to a different list of priorities, to a divergence of opinions regarding the directions the company needs to take.
At this juncture, Cadence needs executive managers willing to run a business more than theoreticians that can analyze technical trends. What Cadence needs is to cure its financial problems stemming from what it has in its assets, not plan new products that might come to life in two years. The time is now: two years might be too long a time. So space to Chi-Ping Hsu and Charlie Huang to make the course corrections they find necessary in the short term. Both of them have the knowledge and skill-set to judge the impact of choices for the future, and the time to apply corrections in a continuous manner for a few months. Cadence is a large enterprise: it takes time to change the course. The change cannot be too violent or it will tear the company apart.
There are already rumors of possible acquisitions by Cadence as part of the restructuring. One rumor has Cadence acquiring Magma. This move has merit, it would be a far better marriage than the Cadence/Mentor one, even if it would result in almost instant layoffs. The major advantage for Cadence would be acquiring a synthesis product that works and is well integrated in the design flow and a definite strengthening of its IC design portfolio. The mixed/signal team will also benefit from new creativity and ideas.
Talking about Magma, the rumor of the week is that the company might be taken private by a group of investors that includes Rajeev Madhavan, its founder, Chairman and CEO. This is a move that could be followed by a reorganization or a sale or merger. The timing is right, so we will see.
The by now almost certain demise of Blaze-DFM, entangled in a never ending merger/acquisition discussion, will be another example of how financial issues are the major factor in thinning the ranks of small EDA companies.