SANTA CRUZ, Calif. Moving aggressively into the design for manufacturability (DFM) market, Magma Design Automation announced Tuesday (Feb. 24) that it will acquire Mojave Design, a much-awaited startup launched by former Avanti Corp. executives. Magma will use Mojave's physical verification technology to bring DFM analysis into its RTL-to-GDSII implementation flow.
The fact that Magma is willing to pay up to $140 million for a ten-person startup with no products, or prior public announcements, indicates strong confidence in Mojave's technology. But Mojave (Sunnyvale, Calif.) is no ordinary EDA startup, given the makeup of its founding team. The company is headed by Vivek Raghavan, CEO, who was formerly in charge of Avanti's Astro placement and routing system.
Other Mojave founders and technologists include John Lee, former R&D director for Avanti's simulation and analysis products, and Murat Alaybeyi, architect of the StarRC-XT product. Mojave claims to have developed new IC physical verification technology for 90 and 65 nanometer designs that can be integrated into the IC design flow.
"This opens up a significant new market for us the market for tools between GDSII and silicon," said Venk Shukla, senior vice president at Magma. "That's where the bottleneck is now."
Most other EDA companies wait until startups are established and shipping products before acquiring them, but Magma thinks differently, Shukla said. "We tend to acquire technology rather than products," he noted.
Magma will pay $25 million up front for Mojave, with additional payments potentially totaling $115 million if specified milestones are met. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2004.
Raghavan said Mojave made the right decision in selling before the company made its first public announcement. "We think there needs to be a synergy between design and verification tools, and with Magma's success in the implementation space, we see good synergy," he said.
While Mojave's physical verification technology potentially competes with Mentor Graphics' Calibre product, Magma is planning to take it in a different direction, said Nitin Deo, Magma vice president of product marketing. "So far, people have gone through post-processing, but we want concurrent analysis for manufacturability issues during the implementation process," he said. "At 90 and 65 nanometers, there are too many issues to handle if you do it with post-processing."
Product decisions have not been made yet, Deo said, but Magma feels Mojave's technology can help guarantee that structures in physical design will be manufacturable. For example, he noted, manufacturing can be impacted by the number of vias, by wire length, and by structures that cause small jogs or notches in metal.
"What is different about this technology is the way it does the analysis in a hierarchical fashion, handling large chips," Deo said. For example, he said, this allows users to do an all-layer design rule check (DRC) while the implementation process is going on. In addition to DRC, he noted, Mojave has optical proximity correction (OPC) technology.
The Magma purchase is "very positive," said Andrew Yang, Apache Design Solutions CEO and a lead investor and director of Mojave. "I think it's a step towards diversification for Magma, and it shows Magma's determination to be a bigger player in the EDA space," he said.
"We don't know exactly what Mojave is doing," commented Eric Filseth, marketing vice president for IC implementation at Cadence Design Systems. "It must have been truly exciting to command the kind of premium Magma is apparently paying."