SANTA CRUZ, Calif. Magma Design Automation is about to leapfrog its competitors with the first IC design system aimed at 65 nanometers and below, according to Rajeev Madhavan, Magma CEO. At Magma's quarterly earnings conference call Thursday (Jan. 27), Madhavan offered a surprise preview of Cobra, an internal development effort that promises a number of technology breakthroughs.
Madhavan said that Cobra will include the first commercial statistical timing engine, the first "interconnect synthesis," a signoff-quality static timing engine, and a lightning-fast design rule checking (DRC) and layout-versus-schematic (LVS) tool. Cobra will give Magma as broad and full a product line as "traditional" EDA companies, Madhavan said.
"It's a massive development. This is probably the largest development any EDA company has done," Madhavan said. Cobra will be rolled out in stages over the next 60 to 90 days, he said, and will run with, and broaden, Magma's existing IC implementation flow.
By offering a statistical timing engine, Cobra will bring to life a technology long viewed in academia as essential for sub-90 nanometer designs but not yet deployed by major EDA vendors. Statistical timing analysis takes process variations into account, allowing designers to predict and optimize yields. It's been the subject of numerous papers and has been deployed with internal tools at large companies like IBM.
Madhavan also promised a "signoff timing analysis" engine integrated with its implementation flow. He said it will be able to take inter-die and intra-die variations into account, and analyze multiple circuit modes simultaneously. This product will apparently compete with Synopsys' PrimeTime product, which holds an overwhelming market share lead in static timing analysis.
Incorporating technology acquired from Mojave Design Automation, Cobra will also include a physical verification tool designed to compete with Mentor Graphics' Calibre, the clear market leader in its category. Madhavan described the new offering as a "shape-based, multiprocessing, DRC/LVS engine."
In one benchmark, he claimed, the new tool ran in under 3 ½ hours for a 20 million gate design, compared to 44 hours for an unnamed "competing" tool. "We have a lot more work to do, but our goal is to do any chip in a couple of hours," he said.
But what's perhaps most important of all, said Madhavan, is a new technology called "interconnect synthesis." This technology, he said, understands not only cell and wire delays, but also shapes and the interactions of neighboring wires.
"We believe interconnect synthesis will do for physical synthesis what physical synthesis did for logic synthesis," Madhavan said. "It moves much of the optimization to the routing phase. To combine optimization and routing requires a new flow with a new approach."
Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest, said Cobra appears to be the first true 65 and 45 nanometer design system. "If this is real, it really puts Magma ahead with the whole connection to manufacturing," he said.
The Cobra DRC tool is a direct challenge to Calibre, Smith observed. "With Magma jumping in and challenging Mentor, you've got a toolset that is ahead of Synopsys and Cadence if it works," he said.
Meanwhile, Magma is seeing rapid customer adoption of its Blast Create synthesis tool, according to both Madhavan and Roy Jewell, Magma president. Jewell said that Magma is taking market share away from its "major competitor," implying that the company is chipping away at Synopsys' near-monopoly in synthesis.
Madhavan also used the conference call to direct some harsh words at Synopsys, which is currently suing Magma for patent infringement. He said Synopsys has launched "a campaign to spread confusion and doubt among Magma customers, and to avoid competition on the merits of each company's products."
Magma reported record revenue of $37.3 million for its fiscal 2005 third quarter, ending Dec. 31, 2004. That's an increase of 20 percent over the prior year quarter. However, Magma reported a GAAP net loss of $700,000.
Greg Walker, Magma CFO, said the company expects a 15-20 percent bookings increase and 20-25 percent year over year revenue growth in fiscal 2006. "We're feeling more positive about the economic outlook for the EDA industry next year," he said.