San Jose, Calif. - In a further adjustment for head-to-head combat with Synopsys Inc. on digital implementation tools, Cadence Design Systems Inc. has handed the marketing and development of its electronic-system-level tools to CoWare Inc.
"From now on, if a Cadence customer asks for ESL tools, we will refer them to CoWare," said Penny Herscher, executive vice president and general manager at Cadence (San Jose, Calif.).
In a deal finalized Sept. 5, Cadence has granted CoWare an exclusive license to sell and develop Cadence's Signal Processing Workstation (SPW) tool, and Co-Ware has taken over Cadence's ESL group. CoWare will pay Cadence a royalty for SPW tool sales.
Cadence is also taking an equity stake of an unspecified amount in CoWare (San Jose), and a number of Cadence's SPW developers will now be employed by CoWare as part of the deal. Herscher would not quantify the number of employees affected by the shift but said no workers from Cadence Berkeley Labs would move to CoWare. The labs have been focusing on ESL tool development, as has Cadence co-founder and director Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Another part of the agreement will see CoWare develop a hardware/software co-verification front end to Cadence's Incisive Verification platform, which debuted this year.
"We will use CoWare as the R&D engine and the distribution engine but will team our sales force with CoWare's because we have a broader reach," said Herscher, noting that Cadence will sell the Incisive platform and CoWare will sell SPW. "We'll team up for customers who are trying to do system-IC design. The Cadence-CoWare team will look like one team in terms of support."
The companies said Cadence will retain intellectual-property rights to SPW. They declined to say whether Cadence was given the right of first refusal in the event CoWare is approached by a third party as an acquisition target.
Cadence officials downplayed the reductions the agreement will bring to the company's bottom line. But the resultant removal of some employees from Cadence's payroll and the shift in oversight responsibility for a tool that, while profitable, has not been a huge contributor to top-line growth should leave the company fitter for battle with Synopsys in the RTL-to-GDSII implementation-tool market.
Cadence asserts that the SPW technology will have a better opportunity to evolve into a pervasive, important technology at CoWare, which focuses solely on system-level tools.
Alan Naumann, chief executive officer of CoWare and a former head of marketing at Cadence, said he jumped at the chance to add SPW to CoWare's product line.
"We think there are three fundamentally important technologies in systems design," said Naumann. "One is SoC [system-on-chip] assembly, which we started with CoWare and made SystemC-centric; and [then there are] the processor design tools we acquired vis-a-vis LisaTek [Inc., purchased earlier this year]. Algorithm design is the other big task system designers are doing, and that is where SPW has a leadership position."
With SPW added to the lineup, the number of CoWare's installed seats jumps from 1,000 to 5,000, Naumann said. And with the additional SPW workers, Co-Ware now has roughly 160 employees, making it the largest privately held EDA company, he said.
The agreement also increases CoWare's standing as a player in the ESL design market. According to the 2002 Market Statistics Survey by Gartner Dataquest, CoWare was the second-largest EDA vendor in ESL design in 2001 with 17 percent market share, well behind Cadence's 55 percent.
CoWare is not currently profitable, but Naumann predicted it will be next year. The company's 50-person sales force focuses solely on ESL tools, he said.
System-level tools have been available since the early 1990s but have yet to become widely used or highly profitable. All of the leading EDA vendors-Synopsys, Cadence and Mentor Graphics Corp.-have fielded ESL tools, with marginal success.
System-level tool startups flourished in the late1990s in anticipation of the market's need for a new design language that could describe hardware and software simultaneously for system-on-chip designs with gate counts in the millions. CoWare was launched in 1998 and positioned the SystemC system-level language as a successor to Verilog and VHDL, today's mainstream hardware description languages.
The weak economy took its toll on ESL tools and their providers: Two of CoWare's competitors, C-Level Design and CAE Plus Inc., were sold or revamped, while the largest EDA vendors focused on more immediately lucrative tools.
CoWare, however, has not only kept its head above water but has thrived, according to Naumann. Having acquired LisaTek for its processor design tools, CoWare is now rounding off its system-level environment with SPW, he said.
The company has taken these steps as the hardware design community has rallied behind SystemVerilog as the successor to today's HDLs. Synopsys bought CoDesign Automation Inc., the creator of SystemVerilog, over a year ago and has been backing that language as the immediate successor to Verilog, although Synopsys maintains that SystemC may in time become the successor to SystemVerilog.
SystemC is largely seen by hardware designers as an SoC concept and architecture tool, not an implementation tool with a path to direct hardware design. Naumann said system-level design environments will become more prevalent as behavioral-optimization and -synthesis tools mature.