SANTA CLARA, Calif. In a move likely to shake up an already rattled third-party physical-libraries business, Synopsys Inc. is expected to announce at the IP 2000 Conference this week that it is joining the free-library movement and will roll its Odyssey family of standard-cell libraries into its DesignWare package of commodity cores.
Moreover, the EDA heavyweight plans throughout the year to add higher-value-added cores to its DesignWare. Phil Dworsky, director of marketing for the design-reuse group at Synopsys (Mountain View, Calif.), said these will support floating-point arithmetic, PCI-X, USB version 2.0, MPEG-2 decoding and memory built-in self-test.
Dworsky said that, based on the revenue gained from DesignWare subscriptions, his unit within Synopsys is the third-largest vendor of silicon intellectual property (IP) in the world, trailing only ARM Holdings plc and MIPS Technologies Inc. "We ar e self-sufficient and highly profitable," he said. "We want to drive it home that not only [is Synopsys the revenue] leader in EDA, but we are a very serious IP player the biggest in the commodity IP space."
Meanwhile, Mentor Graphics Corp. (Wilsonville, Ore.) will announce at the conference that it is tailoring a portion of its Inventra commodity-core package to programmable-logic architectures, initially to FPGAs from Actel Corp. The new IP strategy comes on the heels of the sale last December of Mentor's Warren, N.J.-based physical-libraries business to Virage Logic Corp.
The move by Synopsys will give thousands of DesignWare IP subscribers access, at no additional cost, to the latest libraries from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) as well as to qualified complex cores Synopsys will be adding to the library over the coming year.
Synopsys introduced DesignWare two years ago as a library of commodity IP components packaged with the company 's flagship tool, the Design Compiler logic synthesizer. Since then, it has expanded the offering to include more complex blocks such as PCI cores and a version of the 8051 microcontroller. Synopsys now offers DesignWare packaged only with the high-end version of Design Compiler, or separately on a $16,000 yearly subscription.
Synopsys said the offering will command royalties from the foundries that produce chips for library users. So far, only TSMC has signed up for the program, but Synopsys claims other fabs are lining up to join even though the foundries will have to pay to have their libraries ported.
Not all observers last week were sanguine about Synopsys' deepening move into IP. Taylor Scanlon, president and chief executive officer of physical-library startup Virtual Silicon Technology Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), said larger companies, especially those not solely focused on the libraries business, tend to offer "lesser products and poor services.
Size doesn't matter
"One of the truths in the library business is that bigger is rarely better," said Scanlon. "EDA companies like Mentor, Avanti and Synopsys have tried to offer libraries in the past and they can't compete against smaller companies which live and breath these very complex physical libraries."
Jordan Selburn, IP analyst for Dataquest Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), doesn't believe adding physical libraries to DesignWare is enough to prompt engineers to get a copy, but it might sway those who had been strongly considering picking up the subscription. "If you already use a free library that works, why would you buy a new one?" Selburn asked. "On the other hand, if you have DesignWare already, you might be tempted to try [the cores] out."
And if enough DesignWare users start using the Synopsys libraries, he said, it could have an impact on library and commodity IP vendors. "Artisan or even an inSilicon can probably withstand a million-dollar hit, but [the Synopsys move] could put some of these smaller library and core players out of business."
The move serves as Synopsys' trump card to the free-library scheme laid down two years ago by Artisan Components Inc. (Sunnyvale). The third-party libraries business was caught off guard when Artisan, working with TSMC, introduced a business model that gave customers access to physical libraries at no cost. Artisan instead got a per-device royalty paid by the foundry.
That new model was powerful enough to nudge the host of physical-library startups into following suit, developing labor-intensive libraries without the usual up-front fees and in some cases pacifying investors until the royalties started arriving. Several companies, including Duet Technologies, Aspec Technology and Mentor, were unable to weather the storm and sold their library businesses.
Dworsky said Synopsys, already the revenue leader of the EDA industry, is set to strengthen its position in the IP market.
"Mo re than 15,000 DesignWare IP customers now have access to TSMC's newest libraries and we are giving those who don't currently subscribe a compelling reason to get it," he said.
The DesignWare library contains more than 600 standard cells, including special cells optimized for Power Compiler and Module Compiler, I/O cells and memory generators for RAM, ROM and register files.
Dworsky said Synopsys has added customized libraries for TSMC's 0.15-micron process to DesignWare and plans to add libraries for TSMC's 0.13-micron process as it becomes available.
One advantage of DesignWare, he said, is that customers can be assured the libraries comply with Synopsys tool offerings and with the OpenMore core-rating system, which addresses, among other things, conformity of cores to Design Compiler. Although the libraries have been tuned to work with Synopsys tools, the company claims they will also support third-party EDA software.
Dworsky said Synopsys has roughly 130 people dedicated to building an d improving DesignWare. He said that Synopsys does not intend to harm the third-party IP business and that there is plenty of room for other vendors to offer mixed-signal and analog libraries to complement Synopsys' library.
For its part, Mentor Graphics is set to announce its new thrust in the commodity IP space. Mick O'Brien, general manager for the Inventra intellectual-property division, said Mentor is offering cores specifically targeted for Actel's SX-A FPGAs. The move represents a new direction for Mentor, which till now aimed its Inventra offerings for end implementation on ASICs.
"FPGA devices are maturing rapidly," said O'Brien. "We believe FPGA users moving to these new devices will have to use ASIC methodologies and will need quality cores from a reliable source such as Mentor Graphics."
The company said the partnership with Actel is the first strike in a strategy of making cores for the surging FPGA market available risk-free over the Web. The cores which are OpenMore-rated and preverified are intended to aid designers of telecommunications infrastructure, networking gear and electronic appliances.
Users can review and download the selection of cores targeting Actel SX-A FPGAs from the Mentor Web site.
Chris Edwards is a contributing editor to Electronics Times, EE Times' sister publication in the United Kingdom