CUPERTINO, Calif. -- A 16-month-old startup here, called InTime Software Inc., believes the electronics design automation industry has completely missed a vital point while creating more powerful EDA tools for development complex ICs. Human design engineers still must perform much of the work despite the growth in automated software tools and reusable design cores, argued J. George Janac, president and CEO of InTime.
"Bigger and larger IC designs such as systems-on-chip still require bigger and larger teams of engineers," said the founder of InTime, which has raised $5.5 million in private funding to launch enterprise engineering management software that links people and design data together in real time. InTime's first products will be released in the second half of 2000.
"There is nothing on the horizon that will remove the need for lots of people in design projects for complex ICs," Janac insisted.
Much of the industry's EDA efforts have been focused on improving specific tools and employing reusable intellectual property (IP) cores as a way to reduce the "design gap"--or the growing difficulty of achieving maximum performance and integration from leading-edge process technologies. "The whole drive to bigger, faster designs has focused on IP, but IP makes up less than a third of the designs," said Janac, who was the chief technology officer at Cadence Design Systems Inc.'s High Level Design Systems unit and the CEO of HLDS before it was acquired by Cadence in 1996.
"You still have a lot of stuff to design by engineers to close the "design gap"," Janac argued.
Another key aspect of InTime's strategy is to improve the implementation of design concepts in register transfer level (RTL) files, which are used to generate physical layouts of integrated circuits. "Most designs really start when the RTL is finalized, and that's late in the game," Janac contended.
To tackle the RTL design issue and engineering management, InTime plans to offer software that "not only helps create and track data, but also predicts performance and estimates results of tasks not yet completed," according to Janac. InTime's software will provide managers with visibility into design projects involving many engineers without having to receive e-mail or messages back from those involved with development. The system also will allow engineers to perform register balancing while RTL descriptions of product concepts are still evolving.
InTime's Engineering Enterprise Management Software (EEMS) consists of "Data-smart desktop" systems that provide "Auto-piloted flows" for user inputs and specifications throughout the entire development cycle. Managers can look at the progress with "Data-mining agents," which are linked to engineering data for real-time resolution of issues during the IC development project.
"We are trying to bring everything together. It seems to me that one of the things EDA has missed is that the network is about collaboration and information exchange," Janac said.
Janac estimated that about 15,000 IC are designed a year by about 115,000 engineers worldwide at a cost of $20 billion. Of that, about $1 billion could potentially be served by an automated design management package. A portion of the $3 billion non- reoccurring engineering (NRE) charges by silicon foundries could be reduced by easing the design of ICs, according to Janac.
And then there's the design gap issue, where microprocessors performance is 10 times that or EDA-crafted ASICs. Microprocessors, designed with greater levels of "hand crafting" by engineers than other products, are reaching 1-GHz speeds, but generally ASICs are still in the 100- to 200-MHz frequency range. Janac believes this underscores the need for collaborative IC development among teams of engineers, and improvements in frontend design, such as the creation of better RTL files.
InTime's concepts will initially be focused on IC and system design, but Janac said the EEMS approach will be applicable to other engineering projects, such as software development.
In addition to Janac, other InTime managers include: Tom Spyrou, vice president of engineering; Arklin Kee, vice president of business development; and Lori K. Groat, who is the company's acting chief financial officer. To date, $5.5 million has been raised from investment banker Haywood Securities, The Angels Forum, and several private investors.