Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mendence, the Merger

We have to come up with a clever name for the combination of Cadence and Mentor. Chris Edwards coined* Cadentor, which is actually a pretty decent name. Going the other way, Mendence is too close to "menace" or "mendacity", so I suppose the PR types won't buy that. (When AMD bought ATI, the irreverent press dubbed it DAAMIT.)

Cadence's unfriendly bid to acquire Mentor Graphics is red meat for the EDA blogoshpere! (Be sure to click on that link. It's a fascinating one-page summary of dozens of EDA news & opinion sources.)

I've read many thoughtful commentaries on the possibility. Frankly, most of them are unfavorable on the deal. Some of the substantial analyses:

Two of the more curious quips I read:

  • Customers don't want the EDA vendor to provide a complete front to back flow. They want best of breed tools, and for third party companies to link them together. I agree that we need best of breed tools, but not that we need third party companies to hook them together. Are there examples of companies that make a good business of that? That sounds like an ASIC company, and they aren't exactly thriving. There also used to be a company called Reshape that had their own physical design flow on top of commercial tools. But they ended up going out of business.
  • Cadence acquiring Mentor could present a big challenge to Synopsys. Well, I don't know. When two established giants come together, what technological advance does that enable? Not much that I can see. A bigger challenge is when a giant acquires a startup with hot new technology: think Cadence with Get2Chip, or potentially Mentor with Sierra Design Automation. One successful big acquisition was Synopsys acquiring Avant! -- I don't know what went on under the covers, but the products were complementary and continued to be successful after the deal was done.

    Of course, there may be "business synergies" -- cutting common administrative and infrastructure costs, and having a bigger menu for "all you can eat" deals. But it's kind of sad if one of the biggest business events in EDA just comes down to that.

*Update: Gabe Moretti lays claim to coining "Cadentor". I'll let Chris and Gabe hash it out.

1 comment:

Chris Edwards said...

The background to the idea of the third-party integrator came from several of the big chipmakers. In recent months, I've been trying to square the circle between claims by Mike Fister and others about customers wanting to buy a flow from one vendor. They were claims that didn't really tally with my understanding of the EDA business. So, when I've had a chance, I've quizzed EDA managers about it.

Some have said they are open to the idea of the third-party tools integrator and were generally supportive of what Reshape was trying to do. However, it's also clear that Reshape didn't get much money. They got used but for specific things, such as getting Magma into an existing flow.

That suggests that the reality is that people want one flow that they don't have to bolt together themselves but they don't trust the EDA vendors themselves to go and do it. Which seems reasonable. So, the only answer you have left is the third party.

Given that Reshape flamed out, it would be a difficult model to do standalone. However, it might make sense for one of the fabless ASIC houses (eSilicon, OpenSilicon) to do it - although it would probably not bring them the margins they'd want versus just selling design services. Or, if they really wanted to upset the apple cart, a foundry.

They are already on the road of reference flows. Does there come a point where they decide that they can capture more customers if they supply the scripts needed to tie together the main tools in a consistent manner? Upside: more contracts, no hassle trying to buy an EDA vendor. Downside: the eternal emnity of whoever gets left out.

What will be interesting over the next year or two will be to see what effect iterations of TSMC's reference flow have on tool sales. They are gradually pulling in more tools from the startups, for things like statistical timing. I'd be interested to know what impact this has on the sales of people like CLK, who got added to the latest reference flow.