The Business of DFM
Srinivas Raghvendra, Synopsys -- Designers are seeking tools that help them accelerate time to yield. With foundries such as TSMC announcing the availability of DFM data for designers, we expect this to be an interesting and growing segment of the DFM market.
Thomas Blaesi, SIGMA-C -- It's all about yield. At 65 nanometers, lithography-related yield issues are becoming more and more prevalent. Maximizing yield is a key effort especially for high-volume designs. Designing with all the necessary margin to meet all the design rules makes it almost impossible to achieve the performance targets (area, speed, and power consumption) of a design. Therefore, an iterative Design-for-Manufacturing methodology is required, including a whole set of DFM implementation and verification tools to make sure any given design can be optimized for yield.
Won-Young Jung, Nanno SOLUTIONS -- OPC/RET and wire spreading are not new; it's just the new interfaces to the existing design flows which are important.
Yervant Zorian, Virage Logic -- OPC/RET and wire spreading are important solutions, but they are only a part of the total DFM on-chip. Their impact is on the design and lithography optimization stage. Other critical DFM capabilities and resulting yield improvement can be performed at the back-end manufacturing stage, such as during wafer sort, repair, packaging, final test, and silicon debug.
4) Why did Numerical Technologies get acquired by Synopsys? Why wasn't there enough of a market to offer an opportunity to IPO, or at least to stay an independent entity?
Jacob Jacobsson, Blaze DFM -- We don't have any insight into Synopsys' motivation for purchasing Numerical.
Atul Sharan, Clear Shape -- Numerical did an IPO. They were acquired by Synopsys because they could not overcome their CEO-transition issues and the Board -- as is often the case -- may have lost patience at the wrong time. Indeed, Numerical should still have been a stand-alone company. It was, however, a great move by Synopsys as it completely locked out Cadence from having any meaningful OPC/RET solutions and consolidated a lot of the technical lithography expertise at Synopsys -- at least for a few months
Dale Pollek, ChipMD -- No specific comment on Numerical but please note there are a lot of companies that have left the earth or been acquired for pennies on the dollars invested -- and this is across all of EDA, not just in DFM. That is also something NOT NEW in EDA that I have known for over two decades. Just consider it the Darwin Theory of EDA, the select few survive and thrive, even in the worst of market conditions.
Also, some (I do not know if this applies to NT) of those in EDA who did “bail out” were just “too early.” In the 25 years I've been involved with EDA, I've seen many companies just not get enough traction in a short enough timeframe, because the users were able to fend off the problem just long enough for them. Often, it was the next vendor who came in with a new product (sometimes using the original assets) at the time the market finally really needed a solution.
David Thon, Cadence Design Systems -- Synopsys and Numerical Technologies are probably best positioned to respond to this line of inquiry, but in any case we believe this acquisition reflected the need to bring more DFM into the traditional design flow as mentioned above.
Dwayne Burek, Magma Design Automation - There could be several factors not necessarily related to a company's viability as a stand-alone entity. Certainly there is a trend to provide more complete solutions and the major EDA vendors need to either acquire or develop DFM technology.
Mike Gianfagna, Aprio Technologies -- Can't say; I wasn't involved in the deal. As I recall, Numerical was public before the acquisition, however. (Traded on the NASDAQ as NMTC.)
Naeem Zafar, Pyxis Technology -- Numerical DID have an IPO. Synopsys saw the strategic value and paid a premium. But there were other companies that brought our similar and newer technologies. And, the technical founders of Numerical are now at new DFM start-ups.
Srinivas Raghvendra, Synopsys -- Numerical had technologies in RET, PSM and CATS, the mask data preparation (MDP) tool, which were complementary to Synopsys' design strengths. The combination of Synopsys and Numerical gave us a very strong position in DFM. In general, we believe that for DFM solutions to be effective, they need to be part of a larger, more comprehensive solution.
Yervant Zorian, Virage Logic -- I would make your question more general by asking, is a company that offers only DFM solutions today going to survive as a stand-alone company, or is DFM better if incorporated into an integrated tool flow or IP? My answer would be that, it is natural to have point tool solution providers today, at this early stage. But, over time, these solutions will need to be migrated into integrated solutions. I think, most of today's DFM start-ups will end up like Numerical Technologies.
5) Is DFM still in the 'educational' phase, both with respect to engineers and the VC community?
Jacob Jacobsson, Blaze DFM -- There are always new things that we can learn, especially during and right after a transition to a new process node. So, in that sense, we'll always be in education mode. However, we believe that it is fairly well understood that the first DFM tools were all geometric, or “shape-centric”. The currently emerging solutions are “design-centric” in that they understand the power and timing requirements and know how to use those requirements on the manufacturing side. As far as VCs, they seem to understand that there is not much financial opportunity in backing geometric DFM tools, but that there is significant upside potential in electrical DFM solutions.
Atul Sharan, Clear Shape -- DFM is 'evolving', and like everything else in the semiconductor industry, new technology solving real problems takes one generation longer than what is first predicted.
Dale Pollek, ChipMD -- Yes, DFM still has a lot of education going on and always will, in other niches of DFM than what ChipMD/MunEDA [Munich-based EDA partner of ChipMD] is involved in. It's due to many variables and many new, emerging ideas and technologies. In our specific DFY (Design For Yield) niche of DFM, the education process we are spending our efforts on during pre-sales is mostly helping the designers “recover” from the really bad experiences of the prior attempts to provide circuit-level automation and optimization, since they mostly failed miserably at best.
Now that we have multiple companies on public record of achieving great successes, we are turning that corner from skepticism to more of a perspective of “tell me more” and “let me prove it to myself.” Still and always, however, there will be some “education.” But in our case, it is now shifting more to that of helping the rest catch up to the leaders in the industry who have already proven how well DesignMD works.
David Thon, Cadence Design Systems -- There will always be an educational flavor to the leading-edge concepts in DFM, but the general notion of DFM is widely accepted, and represents a major market segment today.
Dwayne Burek, Magma Design Automation - There will continue to be an educational and learning aspect to DFM since new process nodes are introducing either new manufacturing issues or exasperating current limitations. What is important is that there are real problems and real solutions being worked on or being deployed.
Joe Sawicki, Mentor Graphics -- DFM is complex, but some of us have been working in this area for many years. We are beyond the 'educational' phase. [Comments paraphrased from my phone call with Joe Sawicki.]
Mike Gianfagna, Aprio Technologies -- For engineers, yes. They are kicking tires a lot. For VCs, no. They have chosen the approaches they like and placed their bets.
Naeem Zafar, Pyxis Technology -- To some degree, yes -- but this is an evolutionary process. They are a lot more educated than they were 3 years ago, or even 1 year ago. One has to educate oneself as problems begin to hit us all in the face. Now, designers and customers do not have to be sold on the benefit of DFM (largely speaking).