MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Eight-month-old Barcelona Design Inc. here today revealed plans to dramatically improve analog design automation by offering new optimization technology through a Web-based EDA service. The optimization technology promises to save days or weeks in the design of op-amps, filters, and other elements for system-on-chip ICs, said the startup.
Barcelona aims to replace traditional computer-based optimization methods--known as "guided searches"--with a set of special-purpose optimization engines, which have been tailored for certain types of analog functions. The fundamental numerical optimization technology was identified by Barcelona co-founder Mar Hershenson, while she was a graduate student at Stanford University. Hershenson and Standford professor Stephen Boyd started Barcelona last summer to exploit the optimization technology, starting with analog design automation.
"Everyone wants to do system-on-chip designs and put a little bit of analog function next to big digital blocks and memory, but there are not enough analog designers to do that work," said Hershenson, president and CEO of Barcelona. "Analog is also more difficult to design and optimize than digital. So, we feel there is a great opportunity to change the way analog design is done."
Instead of selling copies of its software technology to users, Barcelona will offer optimization services on its secured Web site. The optimization software is applied to a customer's design specification in Barcelona's data center and results are returned instantaneously. "We are not selling software, but we will deliver results in real time," Hershenson promises.
The technology and business model has attracted some big names in Silicon Valley as investors. Joe Costello, former president and CEO at Cadence Design Systems Inc., is Barcelona's chairman. Other backers include: Robert C. Dobkin, chief technology officer at Linear Technology; Abbas El Garnal, founder of Actel and Silicon Architects; and Buno Pati, president and CEO of Numerical Technologies. Barcelona has raised $2.6 million in first-round financing.
Costello believes the cost of sales in a traditional EDA company is high, and often 25% of revenues are used to maintain a sales force. Barcelona backers and founders believe Web delivery of EDA technology will dramatically cut costs for the startup and users. Upgrades to the optimization software are made on the Web and customers are charged per transaction.
Barcelona plans to officially announce its set of products and services with pricing information at the end of March, but starting today, users can try the optimization technology for free during the next 30 days. The technology is available at the startup's Web site: http://www.barcelonadesign.com.
Other companies are also pursuing Web delivery of EDA tools, but Barcelona believes it has optimized its software and approach for Internet access. "We understand that the big guys are all working on Web-based tools, but we feel our stuff has a leg up on them because we have architected is from scratch to run on the Web and it's not retrofitted," said Ron Perrotta, vice president of marketing at Barcelona.
The Mountain View company believes its optimization engines are a thousand times faster for analog designs than existing software. Each version of the optimization engine is tailored for specific types of analog circuits. "It isn't general-purpose," explained Hershenson. "There is a compiler for op-amps, a-to-d converters, PLLs, oscillators, filters, and etc." The free trial optimization engine being made available in the next month will allow a designer to produce one op-amp.
While the optimization engines are being tailored for specific analog design functions, the underlying technology can be used in the future on other applications outside of design automation. Barcelona is interested in eventually apply the non-linear convex optimization technology to such fields as network management, networking optimization, financial services, and the pharmaceutical/drug industry.