The fourth part of an interview with Prakash Narain, CEO of the formal verification company Real Intent.
In Part 1 of this CEO Portrait, Prakash Narain told me about his early career and the primary steps that prepared him to start up 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. Part 3 examined the change in company focus from technology to products and the ways in which changing designs are creating new opportunities for static verification.
EE Times: At the end of the last segment, we talked about the specific changes that had affected the company direction. Can you expand on them a little?
Prakash Narain: We have learned to listen to customers very carefully, and we attempt to understand where they are coming from and what they are seeking, and look at ways to solve their problems. Understanding the problem is very important to see if we can deliver a solution for that. So, we are no longer being the evangelist that was going to change the EDA landscape, but now intend to march in tandem with our customers to ensure they attain the maximum value from the tools. We no longer have a vision-dominated approach, but instead an agile approach to EDA development.
EE Times: Does that mean that you are no longer looking for new opportunities that are not driven by your customers?
Narain: While we listen to customers, the key is to not take their words literally. You have to go to the next level of understanding, and that sparks the imagination. From that point onwards is a creative process of crafting a solution. The timescales are very different. When you create a product in this way, the timescales are much shorter and much more agile.
EE Times: So what are the new challenges that designers are facing today?
Narain: I really believe that SoC signoff is going to become a larger and larger problem. The increasing complexity of design and integration is leading to new failure modes. Innovations in the front-end will be more methodology driven compared to backend needs, which are more technology driven. Solutions will be evolving, and tools that we bring to address those needs will be very important.
EE Times: The Internet of Things is being touted as the next new platform that is about hit the industry. What impact do you think this will have on EDA?
Narain: The innovations in devices that allow you to access data will enable a change if and only if the location of the data changes -- that is, a migration to the cloud. EDA is affected by the number of engineers, and licenses are dependent on tool usage and the complexity of the problem. Unless there is a new kind of licensing model, many of which have been tried in the past, the industry will stay in the 2 percent range of the semiconductor industry. The Internet of Things will create opportunities that many devices companies will be running after, and while that is happening there will be a multitude of platforms being created, and that will create an EDA opportunity.
EE Times: Chips these days contain a lot of IP. Tools are needed for IP developers and different tools are needed for integration. Has this changed your strategy at all?
Narain: Yes and no. The IP industry is an extension of the changes happening in the semiconductor industry. What used to be a chip has become an IP core, and then we have larger levels of integration. The issues faced by the IP developers are not the leading edge. The biggest challenges are in the companies delivering product, and that will be the focus of our innovation.
* * *
I hope you have enjoyed this chat with Prakash and that it has enabled you to get a glimpse of the man behind Real Intent.
Do you see IP developers having the same or a different set of requirements when it comes to tools? How different are the expectations for price points?