I couldn’t say for sure that Mentor Graphics CEO’ Wally Rhines tracks the EDA market numbers more closely than his rivals, but he is generally willing to share his conclusions more publicly. At his company’s User2User event in Santa Clara, he reinterated his long-standing concern that once a methodology achieves wide adoption, revenue growth in that segment slows to a crawl. You have to bring something new to the table – improving quality and productivity – to keep building the business, either by growth or innovation in-house.
Right now, Rhines picked out five areas in his U2U keynote.
- Low power design at higher levels. Mentor already has Vista for doing this at the architectural level, but in future, Rhines wants to increasingly leverage his company’s presence in embedded software to build a bridge between hardware and software decisions on power. In particular, he sees Mentor’s push on open source embedded development, particularly through its Sourcery Code Bench suite, as a way of enabling the software team to look at how its code affects power dissipation in a familiar environment.
- Functional verification beyond RTL simulation. Rhines noted that the Accellera-backed Universal Verification Methodology (UVM) is set to grow by 286% in the next 12 months – a healthy looking number, but remember we are still in the first stages of its adoption. Mentor specifically is rolling out what it calls ‘graph-based verification’, the goal there being to use analysis to elminate simulation redundancy – “Most stimulus is restimulating what’s already been simulated” – and to drive more intelligent test. One advantage of these techniques, Rhines added, is that they can be scaled linearly by adding CPUs to boost productivity. This could be particularly important in a third area, simulation, where today’s high costs could be mitigated with moves to cloud-based multi-user access.
- Physical verification beyond DFM. Much of this may be for the longer term future, particularly where it applies to 3D chip stacking, but already technologies such as programmable electrical rule checking are adding more to the post DRC/DFM arsenal. 3D will also bring with it a greater emphasis on overstressing and ESD.
- DFT beyond compression. Again 3D IC test is going to be an issue… eventually (Rhines takes a realistic view that widespread implementations are still some way off, despite hype around the technology). However, there is already scope for moving towards more reuse within advanced hierarchical test methodologies.
- System design beyond PCBs. A particularly interesting one, since PCB is one of the most mature markets (overall, it’s hardly grown significantly in 20 years, though remains an important volume area for Mentor), but Rhines argued that Mentor – particularly after its acquisition of Valor – can now offer much richer dataflows and more abstracted views. Then, there are also the challenges posed by packaging, burgeoning interconnects and, again, the impact of 3D.
It’s an interesting list, a mixture of technologies that are in many cases available now, but have yet to move beyond the power user market (or are only just beginning to) as well as others that will require some innovation. We got a chance to sit down and go through some of these ideas in more detail with Wally at U2U, so consider this some high-level trendspotting and food for thought before we post the full interview next week.
Meanwhile, given that multi-disciplinary design is a hot topic right now, the keynote added a sixth “And even beyond…” theme, reflecting areas beyond electronic design where Mentor is getting some pull. These include potentially huge opportunities such as thermal management and the design of electrical systems in vehicles, aerospace and a host of other markets.
Perhaps a more limited, but just one of those very cool examples though, is that Ping has been using Mentor simulation technology to design a better golf club. What’s the opposite of a Mulligan?