You have probably already seen the news: Cadence is acquiring Tensilica for $380M. Cadence has been relatively late to the IP party compared to Synopsys. In contrast, Mentor was early, got into the IP business before it was really profitable and ended up shutting down the business.
Tensilica is quite sizable. It has over 200 licensees, including 7 of the top 10 semiconductor companies. They announced earlier this year that they had shipped over 2 billion cores. Somebody asked me how this will affect Cadence’s relationship with ARM but I don’t really see them as equivalent. People use Tensilica’s dataplane processors for specialized functions such as audio, voice recognition, video and wireless modem, where the ARM processor is not especially well-suited. Synopsys’s ARC processor, acquired in the Virage deal, seems a closer match. Many chips use an ARM processor as a control processor and then have Tensilica cores for offloading, normally to reduce power or, sometimes, to get bring more processor horesepower to bear on a complex problem. And, in fact, the press release announcing the acquisition even has a quote from Simon Segars, the President of ARM, that this is positive for the industry.
It will be interesting to see whether Cadence’s large sales channel is able to get more design wins than Tensilica could as a small company. After all, it is not as if customers didn’t know Tensilica existed. I had the same questions about the Denali acquisition but everyone in Cadence seems to think that worked out well.
With Imagination acquiring MIPS, the processor world is getting a shakeup right now. it is going to be interesting to how this all plays out.