SAN MATEO, Calif. Countering threats to its bread-and-butter business in IC implementation tools, Cadence Design Systems confirmed Wednesday (March 13) that it has acquired IC routing start-up Plato Design Systems for an undisclosed amount.
The companies would not disclose the details of the acquisition. When EE Times broke the story Monday, sources said Cadence paid $50 million upfront and will pay to Plato an additional $25 million upon completion of certain goals. Cadence though said that number is incorrect, but would not say whether is higher or lower.
In the acquisition Cadence gains Plato's young but very promising NanoRoute technology to add to its 130 nm and below IC implementation flow and counter threats such as Synopsys' pending acquisition of Avanti Corp. and newcomers like Magma and Monterey.
Eric Filseth, Cadence's vice president of marketing for digital IC solutions, said Cadence will license to customers the NanoRoute technology as an upgrade to its seasoned WarpRoute router. That strategy strengthens its Silicon Ensemble and new SoC Encounter flow, to which Cadence recently added the First Encounter designer planner it gained last year in its acquisition of Silicon Perspective.
Filseth said that NanoRoute offers much better performance and can handle higher capacity designs than WarpRoute, but admits that WarpRoute is more mature having all the extraneous features and thousands of design wins under its belt.
Joe Xi, vice president of marketing at Plato, noted that Plato has been gradually working on improving the tool, and recently announced it is adding signal integrity and timing to the technology.
"We are a very young company and we have come very far in a short time, but we think that with Cadence's R&D staff and its sales channel, the technology will really take off," said Xi.
Some observers said the acquisition will make a great match with the design planner Cadence gained last year in its acquisition of Silicon Perspective, while industry observers are more cautious.
At the Design Automation Conference last year, before Cadence acquired Silicon Perspective and Plato, Silicon Perspective and Plato's respective offerings received great praise from engineers evaluating the technologies. John Cooley, host of www.deepchip.com , documents several evaluations which claim Silicon Persepective's First Encounter and Plato's NanoRoute exceeded commonly used place and route products on the market today.
And prior to Cadence purchasing Silicon Perspective last year, Plato and Silicon Perspective users at Banderacom had recruited one-man EDA company StabieSoft, run by Mike Stabenfeldt, to create a link between the Silicon Perspectives design planner and Plato's router. Terry Hulett, vice president of engineering, reported success with the combined flow.
Apparently inspired by user requests, the companies followed StabieSoft's efforts and developed their own links to tie the tools together in a single flow. The companies were in the process of marketing the tools as a single flow when Cadence purchased Silicon Perspective.
This essentially left Plato as an orphan and an obvious acquisition target for Cadence, which, according to Laurie Balch, senior analyst, design and engineering at Dataquest, needed to counter Synopsys' December acquisition of Cadence's arch-rival Avanti Corp.
"Cadence is pushing hard to build a strong base in the IC Implementation market and is struggling against the perception that its tools aren't for power users," Balch said. "To break its way out of playing just in the mainstream market and penetrate the power users, Cadence needs to remold its image to attract leading-edge customers."
Incorporating Plato's next-generation routing technology in the Cadence tools is a step in the right direction, she said. "It will help Cadence equalize its footing against the Synopsys-Avanti tool flow."