The third part of an interview with Prakash Narain, CEO of the formal verification company Real Intent.
In part 1, Prakash Narain, CEO of Real Intent, told us about his early career and the primary steps that prepared him to start his own company. Then in part 2, we talked about the early days of Real Intent and the impact that the dotcom boom and bust had on developing technology.
At the end of the last segment, Narain talked about Real Intent's success with implied intent verification, but he wondered if it was a distraction from its broader goals. Now read on.
Prakash Narain: What we were looking to pursue didn't materialize in the form we wanted, and we realized that our goals may have been a little too big. At the same time, success had materialized, and this became the way we were able to sustain ourselves. After that, we built our clock domain crossing tool, but in those days, there was not a big market for it.
We still held the dream of building an automated, scalable, formal verification solution and helped drive standards we thought were necessary, such as SystemVerilog. There came a point where we decided that the combination of things we were trying to put together was not viable, so we had to make a choice. The choice was should we build highly complex systems, or should we build products that were scalable, lower-touch solutions. This changed us from being a technology-focused company to being a product-focused company. We would develop whatever formal technology was necessary to solve specific problems.
EE Times: Do you think the original goal would have been realizable under ideal market conditions?
Narain: We went away from the goal because we don't believe that it was realizable. Under perfect conditions, with the knowledge that I now have, I would have made course corrections earlier. I would have been less married to the technological concept. I now believe that it will never be attained, and that formal verification will only complement simulation, not replace it. Static applications provide a lot of value, but they are only part of the solution.
EE Times: Designs these days are based on IP blocks that combine existing content with a small amount of new content. Does this change your strategy going forward?
Narain: There is an evolution in the methodology. As I mentioned [in part 1], the value of an engineer is in bridging the gap between what we have and what is to be attained. In the past few years, the size of designs has doubled, and this will happen again. There has been improved resolution in the verification characterization problem. I call these the known unknowns -- things such as the CDC problem, cache coherency problems. If solutions are known, static solutions are always superior to dynamic solutions, and there is a new set of static solutions that is emerging, and we are targeting a set of those. Then there are the unknown unknowns, where simulation still plays an important role. The increasing complexity has created new failure modes, such as needing multiple clock domains, so new opportunities are always arising, and static tools are capable of solving some of these.
EE Times: What is the next chapter?
Narain: Right now, it is about completing the endeavors we have picked up. We are making some new bets, and hopefully this time with better wisdom, but the focus is on execution. For the future, opportunities come, but you don't know when. Right now, I am focused on the challenges in front of me.
EE Times: Do you ever regret having gone into EDA?
Narain: No. Hindsight is always 20/20, but you have to take responsibility for making the decisions and accepting them. I have learned not to be married to anything -- well, I am married to my wife and very committed there. Water flows and finds its own level, and I have learned to change my thinking based on new information.
In the final part of this CEO profile, Narain talks about the larger challenges and opportunities facing the EDA industry. Readers, how many people are now using formal technology in some way to solve their verification challenges, and what other problems do you wish formal verification could solve?