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Kathryn Kranen: The Problem with EDA is…

Kathryn Kranen: The Problem with EDA is…
by Paul McLellan on 06-25-2013 at 5:35 pm

 Kathryn Kranen, CEO of Jasper Design Automation, got to give her view of the future of EDA on the Thursday of DAC. For many years she has been on the EDAC board and is currently chair. When she first was on the board she talked to many of the stakeholders in the EDA ecosystem: EDA companies, IP companies, semiconductor companies, academics, consultants, everyone who is involved in getting semiconductors designed and manufactured.

Many of them would say “The problem with EDA is dot dot dot.” Of course, always someone different from the speaker.

  • the problem with EDA is big companies blocking small companies with all-you-can-eat deals
  • the problem with EDA is customer CAD is now just about procurement and not methodology
  • the problem with EDA is that it doesn’t invest in academia any more
  • the problem with EDA is that academics don’t understand EDA’s need to keep things proprietary
  • the problem with EDA is startups are hurt by all those expensive tools
  • the problem with EDA is that it is an aging industry out of fresh ideas
  • the problem with EDA is all the innovation comes from small companies

In fact big EDA companies have to upgrade virtually every tool in their chain, sustaining innovation in Clayton Christensen’s terminology. This is even more true from about 28nm onwards: HKMG transistors, double patterning, FinFETs; every node has a new discontinuous change. And then there are disruptive innovations which can occur anywhere.

Kathryn picked the subscription model as an innovation that came from big companies. I thought it a curious choice. Firstly, the true subscription model was pioneered by Gerry Hsu at Arcsys when it was still small but it is true that big companies perfected it. If you want to have an all-you-can-eat model then it helps to have a lot of food on the buffet, for a startup not so much. But to be fair to the complainers, when people say all the innovation comes from small companies I think they mean technical innovation not business model innovation.

But EDA is a great industry. We have to work together to solve problems. We get to see results on a very rapid timescale, not having to wait 10 or 20 years for a full learning cycle. We have the highest IQ of any industry. So the future continues to be bright.

There is a video of Kathryn’s vision on the DAC website here.

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