FREMONT, Calif. Extending its franchise into an unexpected new direction, Avant! Corp. has announced its intent to purchase Xynetix Design Systems Inc., a provider of IC packaging tools. The purchase suggests that advanced packaging tools may become an important part of the deep-submicron IC design tool suite, in spite of their origins in the pc-board CAD world.
Xynetix, the latest incarnation of one of the pioneers of pc-board CAD, appears at first glance to be a strange partner for Avant! But the need to merge packaging tools with IC extraction and analysis tools actually makes the match a "perfect marriage," according to Thomas Beckley, president and chief executive officer of Xynetix (Fishers, N.Y.).
Xynetix is the former Harris EDA, which got its start in the 1970s with the Scicards pc-board CAD system developed by Scientific Calculations. Xynetix got out of pc-board CAD last year to focus on the emerging packaging market. The privately-held company has three product lines: the Encore IC packaging tools; the EDAnavigator "virtual prototyping" tool; and the EDAvalidator data-management tool.
While Xynetix once dominated packaging, Cadence Design Systems Inc. took over the number one position in the market in 1997, according to Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Dataquest Inc. (San Jose, Calif.). A primary reason, he said, is that Cadence also sold IC layout tools, which are purchased by the same people who buy packaging tools. "Cadence had instant access to that marketplace, and Xynetix didn't have a large enough sales force to compete," he said.
Xynetix' revenues were around $23.8 million in 1998, showing just one percent growth over 1997, Smith said. The company employs around 100 people. Terms of the Avant! stock transaction were not revealed.
Chi-Ping Hsu, executive staff for technology at Avant!, described the purchase as a "strategic" technology acquisition. "We see that complex system-on-chip technology is going to make packaging more demanding, and more and more packages are going to be customized," he said.
In addition to gaining entry to the packaging business, said Hsu, Avant! will get Xynetix' placement and routing technology, which was specifically developed for packaging. It's challenging technology, he said, given the number of layers on packages.
Hsu said Avant! is also interested in the EDAnavigator and EDAvalidator tools, even though the company has no plans to move into pc-board design. "We see these more from the system design point of view," he said.
Avant! hasn't decided how the Xynetix tools will be bundled or named in the future, but will continue to sell and support them as standalone tools for now, Hsu said.
Beckley said Xynetix agreed to the purchase because the company's packaging and virtual prototyping tools needed to be enhanced with IC extraction and analysis technology. "The choice we had was trying to do partnerships, which is not easy, or marrying up with a strong, up-and-coming firm with a lot of technology," he said.
But linking packaging with IC design tools solves only half the problem, said Dave DeMaria, vice president of marketing for pc-board solutions at Cadence (San Jose, Calif.). It's just as important to tie packaging tools to board-level, signal-integrity analysis, and Avant! has no solution in that area, DeMaria said. "Our customers are finding their biggest problem is package-board codesign," he said.
Cadence is already a year ahead in linking packaging and IC design tools, DeMaria said. In addition to Cadence, Avant! and Xynetix will face competition in packaging from Zuken-Redac and PADS Software.
Beckley said that Xynetix will become Avant's IC packaging and systems division, and that he will join the company's CEO staff to run that division. He expects the merger to close in late May or early June.
Xynetix derives about half its revenues from the Encore packaging tools, which are sold to package suppliers, semiconductor providers and a small number of systems companies that have brought packaging in-house.