The Business of DFM


Chenmin Hu, Anchor Semiconductor -- I believe there are no easy-to-use and efficient in-house DFM tools. Historically, larger EDA venders have been mostly unable to develop highly technical products such as the DFM tools. Due to the close connection to manufacturing, the top equipment venders may also play critical role. The DFM market will not be limited in existing EDA space.

Dale Pollek, ChipMD -- Yes, as long as EDA startups stay focused on what over 20 years of history has proven -- deliver new, superior technologies that address current or now-emerging needs. There is always room for growth regardless of channel and marketing Sure, the big three (I have respect for Magma in that they sell value and not just via bundles, FAM's and discounts) have made it hard for small companies to compete on pricing of similar or like solutions -- including actions that have resulted or at least encouraged customers to delay decisions to try new solutions from startup companies.

But that is just a normal part of our market evolution, like Walmart is for retail -- commodities will keep coming down in price, while those customers are just looking to deal with keeping spending reduced, but the commodity sources cannot afford to invest to make anything significantly new. Besides, if the pricing keeps going down (EDA used to be a much bigger percentage of semiconductor market), then who can afford to build the next solution the user needs? Maybe the semi industry needs to be a bit careful here, but fortunately, we know of enough smart ones in the semi industry who understand this and are willing to work with us, so I am bullish on DFM and our company. We will do just fine and our customers will do even better.

David Thon, Cadence Design Systems -- We believe that in the long run, major customers prefer to buy advanced, reliable, commercially-supported tools from suppliers with a full range of design solutions.

Dwayne Burek, Magma Design Automation -- Only big design flows (e.g.; Magma) make sense for DFM. Point-tool solutions for CAA, CMP, and LPC, are okay for initial investigation, but do not provide value to the designers. In the end "DFM" for designers will be a check-box item for everyone's 65/45-nanometer solutions. Other traditional metrics will be what decides a customer's tool choice for physical design, physical verification.

It's important to note that you have to account for all effects in the DFM design flow -- not just CAA, CMP or litho, but also statistical variation. Statistical timing and statistical power analysis are necessary, as is design/optimization driven by this. So you need to model systematic effects (like CMP and litho), and random/statistical effects to provide a real solution.

There will continue to be a strong market for OPC tools used by the fabs, but the incumbents are being replaced by a new wave of hardware-assisted tools. Selling a "box" to the fabs makes a lot of sense; it fits nicely with their model of buying fab equipment. Plus these new boxes outperform traditional software only solutions in terms of accuracy and TAT.

Joe Sawicki, Mentor Graphics -- Many of the new players in EDA have pitched their story to me by telling me that DFM is going to be a billion-dollar industry, and they're going to get their share. That's not reality because Mentor, Synopsys, and Cadence already own so much of that market. The average revenue associated with an IPO is $21 million. I don't see too many of the current DFM start-ups ever reaching that point. [Comments paraphrased from my phone call with Joe Sawicki.]

Mike Gianfagna, Aprio Technologies -- Yes, and Yes. Today, most production tools probably are built in-house at the larger IDMs. As for the future, there is *always* opportunity for innovation from small companies. When a new approach is needed, these companies have a built-in advantage over the big EDA players. That advantage is a lack of legacy code to support and quarterly EPS goals to achieve.

Naeem Zafar, Pyxis Technology -- History has answered this question for us over the last 40 years. If there is a big enough pain, people will solve it and there will be people willing to pay for this solution. Few can name the last 5 technical breakthroughs that came from the big 3 or 4 EDA vendors. What makes us think that now it will change? It won't. The rules are written in a way that makes it very hard for a large company to truly innovate.

Nitin Deo, Ponte Solutions -- Yes. Almost all IDMs, and many foundries, have their own way of dealing with the DFM issues. They have been buying services from vendors like PDF. But, for design tools -- they had their own.

I strongly believe that the EDA industry works on two engines - innovation and automation. I also believe that the big 4 EDA companies simply provide automation. Innovation comes from start-ups - not due to lack of ideas or smart people, but simply because of focus.

Riko Radojcic, Qualcomm -- Most of the current activity in this space is, in fact, not with the big 3 or 4, but with the many start-ups. As usual, nascent markets are not necessarily very attractive to the existing big entities. Having said that, it is clear that as the technology matures and it is mainstreamed, there will be considerable consolidation, and we will probably end up with a few big players.

Thomas Blaesi, SIGMA-C -- The innovative cycle in EDA requires new solutions, and DFM issues have initiated such a cycle. History has shown that semiconductor companies buy from whatever companies can best solve their design problems. Best-of-breed solutions often are provided by small innovative startups that have a single focus and apply the best resources for that single subject.

Srinivas Raghvendra, Synopsys -- There are a few very large leading-edge companies that have some internal DFM solutions, and this is completely consistent with how EDA tools have always been developed. Leading-edge companies create some internal tools, but over time move to commercial tools as they mature and as the ROI for internal tools becomes less justifiable.

Won-Young Jung, Nanno SOLUTIONS -- NO, because the current main stream technology is co-development and IP reuse in SoC design.

Yervant Zorian, Virage Logic -- I think there is space for even more DFM companies to come in. There is lots of interest and lots of need. I believe today there are 40 companies with offerings in DFM. We need all the innovation, so this is good. However, after a while, the technology will become more stable. Over the long run, after it's stable, these companies will be absorbed and there will be a consolidation in the industry. The IDMs today do have in-house tools, but they are interested in innovative solutions from third-party vendors. If there are no good tools available, if they do not see options that are of interest, they will continue to develop in-house solutions.



8) Will the next generation of designers not need to worry about DFM because they'll be working more and more on reconfigurable or programmable platforms?

Jacob Jacobsson, Blaze DFM -- We don't believe that the design world will be taken over by programmable devices. Leakage power is just as critical a consideration in programmable devices as it is in ASICs. Electrical DFM solutions dramatically reduce the leakage in ASICs, however, no corresponding solutions exist for programmable devices. So, power is a major limiting factor in this trend.

Atul Sharan, Clear Shape -- No, this won't make a dent in their DFM problems.

Chenmin Hu, Anchor Semiconductor -- Just like Xilinx, designers on reconfigurable or programmable platforms are required to be early users of most advanced technologies. They need to worry more about DFM in order to have quick yield ramp up.

Dale Pollek, ChipMD -- No, there are continued new problems arising at every IC technology node; it is just the focus that shifts. A few years back, everyone claimed to be a Signal Integrity (SI) solution, for now it seems the spin needs to include DFM even if not doing anything during the real design stage of the flow.

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  • Dont trust naeem November 28, 2006
    Reviewed by 'anna'
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  • Informative and to the point July 24, 2006
    Reviewed by 'Ronald'
    I've been following Peggy's article for more than three years. It is always fresh and informative. This article gives you a quick history (see NTI section) and future vision (see OPC/RET section).

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