SAN JOSE, Calif.Mentor Graphics and Avanti Corp. are moving into each other's tool territories again. Last week, Avanti announced it is moving deeper into the full custom tools market. And this week, Mentor announced it is stepping up efforts in the IC physical design arena and will very soon release a new placement tool.
Heretofore Mentor seemed content with watching Synopsys and startups such as Monterey Design and Magma Design Automation fight with physical design juggernauts Cadence Design Systems and Avanti for market share in next-generation physical design tools.
Mentor president and chief executive Wally Rhines said Tuesday (Feb. 8) that the company is going to jump into the physical design market with its own timing-driven placement tool called TeraPlace.
Mentor quietly purchased TeraPlace two years ago from CLK CAD and since then has been busy making the tool ready for prime time. TeraPlace, developed by Chung-Kuan Cheng, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California at San Diego, was used as the placement engine of SVR's SonIC 3.0.
Rhines, who tipped the tool direction at last year's Design Automation and Test Europe conference in Munich, declined to give technical details of the revamped TeraPlace but said the tool incorporates fast synthesis technology, embedded SST Velocity static timing analysis integrated with the CLK CAD placement technology.
Rhines said the tool, which is running at beta customer sites, will fit into the current physical design flow and will run with logic synthesis and perform timing driven placement, leaving the routing to traditional P&R tools from Cadence and Avanti.
"In the future, physical design may require a completely new tool suite and methodology, but then again it may not," said Rhines. "In the meantime, people still are having trouble getting their designs to market and they need a solution that they can use today with their current tools. I think TeraPlace will help them immediately."
Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at research firm Dataquest Inc., said that the TeraPlace tool will likely be competitive in the "RTL virtual protoyping" space with optimization tools from Tera Systems, Aristo, silicon perspective and Sapphire. He doesn't think the tool will pose a threat to they physical design tool vendors like Cadence, Avanti, Magma or Monterey.
"It is really a point tool solution," said Smith. "I think they would have to add a lot more to the tool to make it compete with the new tools from physical design guys."
Mentor also announced that it has created a back-end visualization tool called IC Station StreamView and announced that it is making its entire full custom suite available on Linux. Jon Gelsey, director of marketing of physical design and visualization tools at Mentor, said IC Station StreamView is a memory efficient, high capacity physical layout database visualization and debugging tool that allows users to quickly locate and debug errors found with the Calibre physical verification.
Previously, designers had to invoke layout editors like Cadence's Virtuoso or Mentor's IC Station editor to see where errors occur. These tools, according to Gelsey, take hours to load very large designs. The StreamView allows designers to pull up multi-gigabyte layouts in minutes. With full 64-bit file support, the tool can handle a 1-terabyte layout database, Gelsey said. The tool reads GDSII and as such can link with other third-party environments. Gelsey said the tool is mainly targeted for Calibre users.
StreamView, which supports Red Hat 6.0 as well as Solaris and HP-UX, is $15,000. Mentor said it expects to release Linux versions of the rest of the full custom IC Station products in Q2 of this year.
Meanwhile, Avanti Corp. at its Vision 2000 conference last week said it is stepping up efforts to compete with Cadence and Mentor in the full custom market. Officials said they will release more offerings this year to complement the company's Enterprise full custom layout toolformerly known as the Discovery.
Dataquest's Smith said huge system-on-chip designs are creating several new tool opportunities in full custom.
"Its amazing," said Smith. "These custom designs are so big you need special tools. You need a $15,000 tool like StreamView just to look at your design and guess what people will pay it, gladly. That's how hot this market is."
Smith said the full custom tool market was $59 million in 1998 and he predicts the market grow to $73.8 for 1999 and $92.2 million in 2000. Smith said Cadence held the highest share of market in 1998 with 61 percent, Mentor was second with 22 percent, and Seiko was third with 17 percent. Smith also warned that the size of these large designs will likely "break" the older tools.
Chi-Ping Hsu, Avanti's head of product management, said for this reason the time is right for a new entrant in the full custom market.
"As you move below 0.25, designs are so large that the current full custom tools don't have the ability to handle the complexity and speed of these designs, and they are not responsive," he said.
Chi-Ping would not disclose details of Avanti's new offerings but said the new full custom tools will be linked via the 64-bit Milkyway database, which will streamline the full custom design process.
He said Avanti has licensed 500 copies of Enterprise since its release roughly three months ago. The additional tools will give Avanti customers a complete full custom environment.
In addition to announcing that it is working on a full custom tool, Avanti also announced it is currently developing "Gigahertz" and "Hierarchical" product lines for the networking and communication design markets. The first product in this area the Star-RC XT product, announced earlier this year.
In addition Avanti, said it will create mixed-signal product suite based on products it recently gained the its acquisition of Analogy and packaging tool company Xynetix.