MILPITAS, Calif. The recent injunction against Avant! Corp.'s Aquarius product, and the indictment of present and former executives, has not stopped LSI Logic Corp. from replacing its proprietary placement-and-routing tools with Avant!'s Apollo, a tool that Cadence Design Systems Inc. claims may contain stolen source code.
In early December, a civil court banned Aquarius along with a translator used to migrate users from Aquarius to Avant!'s current Apollo product. Cadence said it may pursue a similar ban on Apollo. One week later, a criminal court indicted Gerry Hsu, Avant!'s president and chief executive officer, and seven others on trade-secret theft and securities-fraud charges, and the Santa Clara County deputy district attorney called Avant! a "criminal enterprise".
If LSI Logic's response is any indication, users are not impressed by those developments. "The timing perhaps hasn't been great," said Ronnie Vashista, director of technical marketing for LSI Logic (Milpitas, Calif.). "But this is something we've been working on for some time. For us, the most important thing is to have a complete solution for our customers, and that complete solution right now includes the Apollo tools."
LSI Logic's decision to embrace Apollo and other tools in Avant!'s "SinglePass" design suite marks a turning point for LSI, which until now has relied on its proprietary layout tools. But Vashista said it's part of a larger move to third-party tools that started a while back, and he noted that LSI also uses tools from Cadence, Synopsys, Ambit and Mentor Graphics.
Vashista declined to reveal a dollar amount on the deal, though he acknowledged it's in the "lower end" of the multimillion-dollar range. He also declined to identify which Avant! tools will be used beyond Apollo and the Planet floor-planning tool. "To date, we haven't determined the usage of the tools," he said.
Vashista emphasized that LSI is not adopting an all-Avant! flow, and that its FlexStream design solution will continue to include a broad mix of third-party and proprietary software. In IC physical design, for example, LSI uses Mentor Graphics products for verification and extraction.
Apollo will be used for both customer ASIC designs and for LSI's standard-parts business. Avant! tools have long been used at Symbios, which has been acquired by LSI, and that was the major reason the company decided to go with Apollo, Vashista said.
"I wouldn't say we found one tool to be vastly better than another, but we have an experience base that lends itself to going with an Avant!-based flow," he said.
Vashista said he did not know if the Symbios group has made a complete transition from Aquarius to Apollo. "I understand our legal counsel has determined it's not an issue," he said. However, the court ruling calls on Avant! to require Aquarius users to return the product or destroy it, "to the extent [Avant!] has a legal right to do so." With the translator banned, it's also unclear whether Aquarius users have a legal migration path to Apollo.
Vashista said Avant!'s legal situation "has not played a part in our decision-making process to date, and I can't see it playing a part going forward. We do everything by the book and will continue to do so."
"LSI has always adhered to legal standards in the industry, and that's what we'll continue to do," Vashista said.