Analysis: Cadence+Invarium deal seems a “win-win”

by James Montgomery, News Editor

July 16, 2007 – On the surface, the latest DFM-industry consolidation appears to be a win-win for both Cadence Design Systems Inc. and Invarium Inc., though interviews with WaferNEWS suggest much work still has to be done to figure out the exact combination and roadmap going forward.

The key to this deal is Invarium’s second-generation DFM tool, which unlike most other DFM tools in the market built for 130nm/90nm processes, was developed with 65nm/45nm node challenges in mind — e.g. using a parallel architecture to handle 100+ million gate designs — and should be able to handle 32nm/22nm designs as well, noted analyst Gary Smith of Gary Smith EDA, in a Q&A with WaferNEWS. “Mentor has updated their tools but it still gives Cadence a leg up on most of the market,” he said, “and they needed it — they have been playing catch-up for five years now, and this was a critical piece they were missing.” DFM has been one of the only technology areas in which Cadence hadn’t made much progress vs. competitors (e.g. Synopsys), and “this really helps their position in the market.”

Cadence had been lacking (through M&A or in-house work) any OPC or internal litho modeling capability, relying instead of partners like ASML Masktools and Brion (recently bought by ASML), while competitors Synopsys (Precim, Numerical Technologies) and Mentor Graphics (OPC Corp. and its own Calibre division) had been busily tending to their knitting.

“For our requirements in the manufacturing side, lithography/etch/mask modeling, Invarium was definitely the technology that made the most sense,” Mike McAweeney, Cadence VP of DFM marketing, said in an interview with WaferNEWS, because it adds a next-generation manufacturing technology that can address 45nm node-and-beyond manufacturing requirements, and extract that information and make it available to designers. He wouldn’t comment on specific relationships (e.g., what happens to ties with Brion), but said generally Cadence “intends to continue to have interfaces with tools in the DFM space.”

Invarium, meanwhile, had found itself at an inflection point to grow its business from R&D into distribution, and saw a “tremendous opportunity” to leverage Cadence’s technology assets and strength in business capabilities (marketing/sales and customer access), “far more than anything we could hope to build via venture capital,” noted Roy Prasad, president and CEO. In fact the company was actually poised to complete a third round of VC funding and was wooing Cadence as an investor when the M&A discussion heated up, he said. McAweeney added that “the vast majority” of Invarium’s 30 employees (~90%) have come over to Cadence, now reporting through its signoff and silicon optimization group headed by Dipu Pramanik, VP of R&D.

Invarium also will continue its small niche business of providing its technology under a services model, sort of an “OPC foundry” that was initially cooked up to help mature the software while helping customers ship chips with OPC and RET, Prasad noted. “A segment of our customer base actually likes the model, it resonates with them,” particularly a big anonymous one, he said, though admitting that most larger customers would rather just have the software in a classical EDA model, and the bulk of Invarium’s revenues will still come from software licensing. — J.M.

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