CHAPTERS ONE AND TWO
This is the September 14, 2012 edition of the EDACafe.com COMMENTARY, entitled, “The EDA & MCAD/MCAE Almanac – Nominal Q2 2012.”
The minimum level of contents of these “Almanac” Commentaries consists of reports on the financial results on a quarterly basis of a number of publicly-held EDA and/or MCAD/MCAE vendors selected by the author.
Where feasible, certain vendor companies have been consistently included for a report every three months since the inception of these commentaries in 2003. Examples of this category are Cadence, Mentor Graphics, and Synopsys on the EDA side; and ANSYS, Autodesk, Dassault Systemes and PTC on the MCAD/MCAE side.
The EDA & MCAD/MCAE series is complemented by similar but separate quarterly reports that cover selected vendors in the important EDA subset of Electronics Intellectual Property (IP) Industry vendors, such as ARM Holdings plc and Rambus.
Beginning in 2003, each of the three categories (EDA, MCAD/MCAE, and IP) of vendor reports initially included other companies as well, but each category has since been gradually reduced in terms of the number of vendors covered over the last 10 years, mostly by virtue of a very active acquisition culture peculiar to this general industrial category.
Indeed, nine  vendors were chosen in early 2003 to represent the MCAD/MCAE market space. The entities initially covered were (1) ANSYS, (2) Autodesk, (3) Dassault Systèmes, (4) UGS PLM, (5) ESI Group, (6) Moldflow, (7) MSC.Software, (8) PTC and (9) Tecnomatix.
Likewise, in 2003 the junior circuit consisted nine  EDA software companies for ongoing coverage. Alphabetically they were (1) Altium, (2) Ansoft, (3) Cadence, (4) Magma, (5) Mentor Graphics, (6) Nassda, (7) Synopsys, (8) Synplicity and (9) Verisity.
Today the MCAD/MCAE space for reporting purposes consists of only (1) ANSYS, (2) Autodesk, (3) Dassault Systèmes, (5) ESI Group, and (8) PTC, often referred to as the “MCAD/MCAE Group of 5” or simply as the ”MCAD/MCAE G5.”
Likewise, today the EDA space for reporting purposes consists of only (1) Altium, (3) Cadence, (5) Mentor Graphics, (*) SpringSoft and (7) Synopsys, occasionally referred to as the “EDA Group of 5” or simply as the “EDA G5.”
All the vendors in each original G9 list that have permanently disappeared over the years since 2003, have been acquired and absorbed. For example, previously-independent EDA vendors Magma, Nassda, Synplicity and Verisity have since been acquired by Cadence, Mentor Graphics or Synopsys; Ansoft was acquired by ANSYS; and still independent Altium was temporarily eliminated from the reports by the writer before earning back an EDA reportage position after a year’s absence. During Altium’s absence from the list, the writer chose to add and report on SpringSoft,* but the latter will likely be removed soon from the quarterly reports as well as it is slated to be absorbed by Synopsys.
The MCAD/MCAE space has likewise been diminished. As a result of the acquisition of Tecnomatix by UGS that closed April 1, 2005, Tecnomatix was eliminated from coverage thereafter as a separate entity. Then on May 7, 2007 UGS itself announced the close of its acquisition by Siemens AG effective May 4, 2007. Thereafter, the business went to market as UGS PLM Software (and later as Siemens PLM Software), a global division of the Siemens Automation and Drives (A&D) Group. Over the years UGS itself had bounced back and forth between being a public company and a private company under different ownerships. Regrettably, we have been able to gain very little separate insight into UGS' financial performance from public Siemens' corporate reports after the Siemens acquisition. Occasionally we will include isolated Siemens PLM Software news items that bear on the industry as a whole. Then, on June 25, 2008, Autodesk completed its acquisition of Moldflow Corporation, so thereafter Moldflow was eliminated from separate coverage.
Finally, on July 07, 2009 MSC.Software announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement with affiliates of Symphony Technology Group (STG) under which a company controlled by STG would acquire all of MSC's outstanding shares in a one-step cash merger transaction. This acquisition of MSC.Software by STG was finally consummated on October 14, 2009. No financial results for MSC.Software were published for Q3 2009, and none since. Unless and until such data are subsequently made available, MSC.Software has been dropped from financial reporting coverage herein, although occasionally MSC.Software news items that bear on the industry as a whole will be mentioned. Readers may be interested to see for example, the MCAD/MCAE Commentary about a late August 2011 interview with STG-selected CEO Dominic Gallello of MSC.Software at this URL:
While covered in an independent quarterly EDCafe.com report issued by the writer, the EDA Electronics IP Industry Commentaries started in 2003 with eight (8) publicly-traded IP companies from around the world (called the "Group-of-8" or "G8"), as representative of the financial state of the nascent Electronics IP Industry. Subsequently, ARM absorbed Artisan Components in 2004; Mentor Graphics acquired LogicVision in 2009; and Synopsys bought Virage Logic in 2010. So nowadays, when we report on the Electronics IP Industry quarterly financials, the IP G5 listed here are included: ARM Holdings, CEVA, MIPS Technologies, MoSys and Rambus.
Recent History of Combined Commentaries
In December 2011 a comprehensive report that combined financial data from both the EDA and MCAD/MCAE industries for the third quarter of 2011, was the EDA WEEKLY initially posted in EDACafe.com and MCADcafe.com on December 12, 2011, entitled,
April 23, 2012
Next in the sequence was a “Mini-Almanac” summary report posted as a BLOG-ONLY version on April 23, 2012, which carried the masthead as follows:
Dr. Russ Henke
The writer of the following article has posted over 100 articles on EDACafe.com since 2003, in the form of Quarterly Commentaries on the worldwide EDA. EDA IP, and MCAD/MCAE Industries as well as monthly editorials covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Beginning April 2012 these … More ».........
“New Commentary: EDA & MCAD/MCAE Industry Mini-Almanac – Nominal Q4 2011”
June 25, 2012
Next was the full-fledged June 25, 2012 edition of the COMMENTARY, entitled,
which covered in detail vendor financial reports issued by the relevant vendors between April 25, 2012 and May 23, 2012.
This June 25, 2012 Nominal Q1 2012 issue was a full-fledged article that stood on its own, but it contained the seeds of a potential cross-referencing ENTRY that would characterize subsequent quarterly Almanac issues to come:
Namely, it contained an “Important Message” relating to the contents of the previous Q1 2012 Almanac, and it appeared on July 19, 2012 in the daily EDACafe NEWSLETTER. THE ESSENTIAL MESSAGE OF THIS PART II POSTING stated as follows:
The June 25, 2012 Almanac reports in detail on the financial results for nominal Q1 2012 of the following software vendors:
Keen readers immediately noticed that as recent as June 25, the EDA list of covered vendors was only four (4) vendors in length instead of the usual “Group of Five,’’ or “G5;” likewise for the MCAD/MCAE list. Indeed, readers of the June 25, 2012 Almanac and other EDA Commentaries of the recent past surely noticed that a replacement for MAGMA in these electronic newsletters had not yet been named. (MAGMA was acquired by Synopsys late last year).
The July 19, 2012 notice officially informed readers that Altium Limited had been restored as the fifth member of the EDA G5 (Group-of-Five), after a one-year absence.
This led directly to the BLOG of July 27, 2012, which contained an advanced release of one of the CHAPTERS (TWO) of the Q2 2012 Almanac, which CHAPTERS were all originally scheduled for 100% simultaneous September posting:
Dr. Russ Henke
The writer of the following article has posted over 100 articles on EDACafe.com since 2003, in the form of Quarterly Commentaries on the worldwide EDA and EDA IP Industries as well as monthly Editorials covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Beginning April 2012 these … More »
The EDA and MCAD/MCAE Almanac – Nominal Q2 2012 Part II
Altium announces unaudited update on financial
performance for year to June 30, 2012
On July 25, 2012, Electronics design software company Altium Limited announced an unaudited update on its financial results for the financial year ending June 30, 2012.
Nominal Q2 2012 Update
For Nominal Q2 2012, the three months ending June 30, 2012 Altium sales grew to US$20.1 million.
For the Fiscal Year 2012 overall, sales were US$61.2 million, up 21% over FY2011.
The following chart was prepared by the EDA Contributing Editor from data reported for Altium sales after three quarters of Fiscal 2012, which are compared in the chart below vs. three quarters of Fiscal 2011:
The factors in the last column for each area of the world served by Altium are generated by dividing sales totals of three quarters YTD for 2012 by the three quarters YTD for Fiscal 2011, after converting any euro numbers to US$.
POSSIBLE SCENARIOS: The lower right hand corner shows that THRU 9 mo. OF FY 2012, TOTAL ALTIUM SALES WERE 23.13% AHEAD OF 9 mo. of FY 2011.
EVEN IF Q4 ends up AN AVERAGE 2012 QUARTER, SALES FOR 2012 WILL BE AT LEAST $55832 VS $50590, OR GROWTH IN SALES FOR THE YEAR OF 10.45%.
IF Q4 2012 SALES MATCH THE ABSOLUTE TOTAL OF Q4 2011, WHICH WAS 50590 – 33398 = $17192, THEN 2012 COULD TOTAL $58316 = 15.27% GROWTH YEAR OVER YEAR.
IF SOMEHOW ALTIUM WERE TO CLOSE $20,000 SALES IN Q4 2012, GROWTH FOR THE 2012 YEAR WOULD BE 61124/50590 = 20.82% GROWTH IN SALES FOR YOY 2012 VS 2011. (RFH 6-20-12).
NOTE: ACTUAL ALTIUM SALES FIGURES FOR 4th QUARTER to be eventually posted in the SEPTEMBER Almanac for NOMINAL Q2 2012) ACTUALLY REPORTED BY ALTIUM ON JULY 25, 2012 WERE $21.2 MILLION!
Finally, today’s COMMENTARY dated September 14, 2012 contains the next CHAPTER OF THE EDA & MCAD/MCAE INDUSTRY ALMANAC – NOMINAL Q2 2012.
Note: As THIS SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 issue is posted, current plans are for the total Q2 2012 Almanac ultimately to have four (4) separate chapters, each with its own initial publication date. As each new chapter is posted, the new chapter is published in full, and any previous chapters will be easily referred to by inclusion of the previous chapter’s URL. This will permit the full almanac to be conveniently presented when each chapter at last becomes available.
HAVE FOUR CHAPTERS WHEN IT IS EVENTUALLY COMPLETED:
CHAPTER TITLE FORMAT FIRST POSTING
ONE A Profile of Forte Design Systems COMMENTARY Sept. 14, 2012
TWO ALTIUM PIECE BLOG July 27, 2012
THREE MCAD/MCAE RESULTS Q2 2012 COMMENTARY TBD
FOUR EDA RESULTS FOR Q2 2012 COMMENTARY TBD
Note the order of chapter posting dates may not be chronological. Indeed, CHAPTER TWO appeared weeks prior to CHAPTER ONE.
A Profile of Forte Design Systems
As this issue goes to press, we are now in the ninth month of the third consecutive year in which the Contributing Editor has posted Feature Articles, Industry Commentaries, Quarterly Almanacs and yes, even Blogs, in the EDACafe.com daily Electronics newsletters.
Appearing every few weeks during the current year-to-date, topics chosen have ranged from detailed financial reports on the quarterly performances of selected public software vendors in Electronics Design Automation (EDA) and Mechanical Computer Aid Design and Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAD/MCAE), to profiles on people, vendors and products from both private and public sources.
Along with separate quarterly reports on financial results within the context of the then-current worldwide and national economies, emerging trends have been identified and explained, such as certain visionary vendors beginning to offer software tools in multiple technical disciplines toward the goal of correctly simulating real-world multi-physical effects, as well as reporting on the steady march of start ups, acquisitions, conferences, stockholder challenges and the rise of electronics intellectual property in these two disciplines.
Prior to the broader range of articles and topics presented during the last 38 or so months, the writer and certain colleagues at Henke Associates contributed six years (2003-2009) of quarterly reports focused solely on the financial results of certain EDA, Electronics IP and MCAD/MCAE Vendors.
Since January 2012
Extra spice was added during the last nine months by frequently inviting guest experts to contribute articles that would often cover areas related to disciplines in which the Contributing Editor alone may not be as well versed. Such articles have included a piece on the blurred line between EDA and electronics test equipment; the ways that the Silicon Valley lures people and companies from multiple worldwide locations and backgrounds; and many other similar topics.
We have been particularly delighted with the efforts of one Nanette V. Collins as a contributor to articles of increasing value to our readers. Nanette often tackles article topics on esoteric technologies developed by extremely smart people, and as the year has unfolded, frequently introduces EDA technology, talented entrepreneurs and remarkable theoreticians that the Contributing Editor alone might otherwise not often encounter, yet all are critical to the advancement of smaller and smaller, more complex circuitry and electronics products. We look forward to Nanette’s continued contributions.
Contributed by Ms. Nanette V. Collins
Edited by Dr. Russ Henke
Let’s start with a picture of a building that’s likely to appear familiar to a lot of readers – the front of the New York City Public Library.
Did you know that the two marble lions prominently visible out front of the famous library are named “Patience” and “Fortitude?” We shall see how these words might also describe many of the people of Forte Design Systems, and perhaps similarly named statues should be placed in front of Forte’s headquarters at 100 Century Center Court in San Jose, CA.
The tale of this high-level synthesis company starts with the successful 2001 merger of two companies, CynApps and Chronology. Executives of the newly formed company wisely chose a descriptive name for the combined company, since “forte” means “well at” or “strength” though patience and fortitude, and the people of Forte have both in abundance.
Forte’s long-time vice president of marketing and sales Brett Cline said the following: “Forte’s been around for many years now and is the major driver of a whole new market segment. I consider us to be a definer of the high-level synthesis market. And, we’re good at it.”
The Forte Corporate Culture and its Founder
Let’s pause here and define from 10,000 feet, the term “high-level synthesis software.” From all accounts, it enables electronics hardware engineers to work at a higher level of design abstraction.
Any story about Forte must start with Dr. John Sanguinetti, the EDA luminary noted for launching Chronologic in the 1990s and developing VCS, the Verilog Compiled Simulator, which is still in widespread use today.
After Chronologic was acquired by Viewlogic in 1994, he started looking for his next adventure. (As an aside, Viewlogic was itself acquired by Synopsys in 1997). Since Dr. Sanguinetti’s expertise was performance analysis and design verification, he understood that there were two basic problem areas in EDA –– logic verification and logic synthesis. He already had tackled logic verification; a closer look at logic synthesis seemed in order. For more than a decade, he had known that a change in abstraction levels from gates to RTL (Register Transfer Level --> see ”Acronyms” at conclusion of article) would improve design and verification efficiency, and that such a change might be enabled by logic synthesis.
Dr. John Sanguinetti
A true entrepreneur in every sense of the word, John is Forte’s CTO today. He is also a 2011 ACM Fellow for contributions to hardware simulation. He serves as a role model and mentor for many entrepreneurs and engineers and has been quoted as saying: “In a technical field like EDA, understanding the problem, and understanding the technology, are prerequisites.”
Since John’s name is synonymous with the word entrepreneur, let’s find out how that came to pass. “I was caught up in startup fever from my first year in the Valley (1982). Ardent was my first real startup (1986), but it was a big-time operation –– I was #24. After that, I knew I wanted to start something, but it took a while to figure out what.” That something was Chronologic.
John has been and continues as an active angel investor in the EDA industry, helping drive EDA technology and businesses forward. He has put “seed” funding into many EDA companies that have had successful exits, including Ambit, Magma, Moscape, CoDesign, Surefire, Hier Design, Innologic and, most recently, Nextop. John has been or is actively involved in more than 20 other ventures as an angel investor, mostly in EDA and many still going.
Becoming an Angel investor started innocently enough. “I was introduced to Rajeev Madhavan right after selling Chronologic to Viewlogic. Rajeev was trying to start Ambit, and I was interested right away.”
“I spent lots of time with Rajeev trying to pitch Ambit to interested VC’s. I not only made money on the investment, but gained a good friend, and felt like I had made a contribution to a worthwhile venture.”
John said he had no investment formula when he got started and referred to his early choices as “haphazard.” Many entrepreneurs approached him after his success with Chronologic and he found it hard to say no. After five or six years and a string of failures of promising ideas and technology in divergent fields, John restricted himself to EDA. “So far, none of my non-EDA investments had a positive return. All of my successes have been EDA.”
Influence on Forte
John’s technical vision, business acumen and hard-earned experience are strong parts of the corporate culture at Forte Design Systems.
Telecommuting has long been another hallmark of Forte’s corporate culture, something that’s far more common today with other companies than it was in 2001. Forte may be headquartered in San Jose, but it also has offices throughout the United States, including Pittsburgh PA, and Redmond WA, and international offices in England, Japan and Korea.
As Brett Cline, who works from Boston, pointed out, “It’s a small world. We may be in different states or on different continents, but we make use of all the available collaboration tools.” And it seems to be working.
The Forte team at DAC 49 in San Francisco in June 2012
Carving Out the High-Level Synthesis Market
In 1998, John Sanguinetti and two other engineers founded CynApps to create a higher level design environment, along with a synthesis product that would produce RTL code from higher level designs. A tool challenge and one not easily solved, and it took a long, long time, but Forte finally did it.
In this achievement we realize that this is where patience and fortitude paid off. Forte succeeded where other companies haven’t, by exhibiting dogged determination, winning over design teams one at a time, while the industry as a whole struggled to define the market category.
Long-time EDACafe readers might well recall the names of other companies with behavioral synthesis that morphed into architectural synthesis, ESL and algorithmic synthesis. None of the names stuck and their tools eventually failed. But Forte stayed on course with high-level synthesis, a term now widely adopted by the EDA industry, as the production-quality tools themselves go mainstream.
Success has finally come to Forte. John gives loads of credit to investors who believed in Forte and didn’t give up. In particular, Sam Lee, managing director at Infinity Capital, has been an investor since December 1999 and holds a board seat. Likewise, another EDA Luminary Lucio Lanza of Lanza techVentures participated in Forte’s Series A funding way back in November 1998 and has served continuously as chairman of the Forte board. “Stalwart” is the word John uses to describe both.
As an aside, investors in Forte’s first round of funding reads like a Silicon Valley Who’s Who: Andy Bechtolsheim, who was that series’ largest investor; Gordon Bell; Steve Blank; Paul Huang; and Jon Rubinstein.
Meet Sean Dart of Forte
Sean Dart is Forte’s CEO and is highly technical, an unusual combination in today’s business climate, but vital to an emerging EDA company. Sean grew up in a small town 400 miles north of Sydney, Australia, and moved to Sydney to study computer science at New South Wales University.
Forte CEO Sean Dart
His decision to study computers was a curious one, considering Sean had never seen a computer. The decision came after talking to career counselors. He was a good student in all subjects but preferred scientific studies. The advice he received was that computing was the up and coming field. This appealed to Sean because he could combine his interest in math with the practical, giving him an opportunity to merge the intellectual with a job. And, he loved it.
Today, everybody has a personal computer, so it’s difficult to imagine the days of computer centers. [Maybe for Nanette, but not for others, such as your Contributing Editor]. Sean said that he and his colleagues used hand-marked cards, not even key punched cards. He mused that even later, the 30 VAX terminals from the computer lab at his college had one-thousandth the capabilities of an iPhone.
Sean’s first job out of college was working for STC (Standards Telephones & Cables) in Australia designing embedded programming for PBX systems. After two years, he was designing operating systems for small business computers and then moved on to Olivetti. He was subsequently transferred to Colorado to work with AT&T to customize telecommunications equipment for the Australian market. Once that project was abandoned, Sean and his American wife moved to Switzerland where he worked for a company that second-sourced ASIC designs. His role was to manage the network and develop tools and utilities to support the design services team. The company needed utilities, especially for verification, to help retarget designs.
After a fashion, the company decided it was making more money in the tools area and became an ESDA company, Sean’s introduction into EDA and a forerunner to high-level synthesis. The company, Speed Electronics, was sold in 1997 to Mentor Graphics.
After 10 years in Switzerland, the Dart family, that now included two children, relocated to Silicon Valley in pre-Internet 1997 but quickly discovered that the SF Bay Area was an expensive place to raise a family. After looking around the EDA companies in the Seattle and Boston areas, he liked what he saw at Chronology in Redmond, Wash., less than 20 miles from Seattle.
So in 1997, after only five months in Silicon Valley, he and his family moved to a town 15 miles east of Redmond. “It’s a great place to live,” he noted.
It’s at this point that we need to hear more from Brett Cline, who truly has his finger on the pulse of the high-level synthesis market and someone who has been a major contributor to Forte’s success. Brett may be a bit more informal than the consummate executive of old, but one is not fooled by the informality. Anyone who talks to him will pick up on his competitive streak. “Massively competitive,” he admitted, “I hate to lose and don’t accept losses that well. I push myself to do things better and I try to encourage others to exceed as well.” He admires winners, but firmly believes that it’s important to be a team player as well, something that’s apparently important as well to the 35 or so Forte employees.
You may have also heard that Brett is one marketing executive willing to dress in costume, as the situation calls for it. In 2003, he donned a hockey goalie uniform to present a DVCon paper titled, “Why You or Your Replacement will Use SystemC for System Design,” claiming he needed the padding for his defense in front of a room of skeptical RTL designers.
In 2005, Brett dressed in a chicken suit at DAC after losing a bet to John Cooley, editor of ESNUG and DeepChip. They agreed to a “Gentlemen’s Bet” over whether SystemC adoption would be more than 50% in the results of the DeepChip Verification Census. Brett said it would, John Cooley said it wouldn’t. John Cooley ruled that day, “but he was counting the votes,” laughed Brett. “It would be interesting to see if he is willing to make that bet again now.”
Brett Cline in the chicken suit,
© 2012 Forte Design Systems/Brett Cline
Brett Cline still in the chicken suit talking with John Cooley
© 2012 Forte Design Systems / Brett Cline
Brett is a friendly New Englander who grew up in Manchester, CT. He moved to Boston to attend Northeastern University and worked at GE as a co-op student. EDA has a few Northeastern grads, but younger readers may not know that Northeastern is renowned for its five-year co-op program where students get real-world experience by working in companies before graduating (Other schools of course offer co-op university programs, such as the University of Cincinnati where the Contributing Editor obtained his engineering degrees).
After graduating, Cadence in Massachusetts came calling because Brett’s background included both hardware and software. Brett was put to work on a waveform project, then VHDL simulation graphical tools and was tasked to work with the SimVision team. He enjoyed working with the sales and FAEs, and eventually moved into technical marketing for many of the same products he had spent time building.
SimTech recruited him in 1997 to be the East Coast application engineer, before SimTech was acquired by Summit Design that same year. In 1998, he ran marketing for the ex-SimTech products, then picked up corporate communications responsibilities as well.
It was in November 1999 that Brett called a friend at CynApps about joining. He knew the legend of Dr. John Sanguinetti from late nights at Cadence working with the Verilog-XL and NC-Sim teams to compete with VCS and Brett was eager to meet Dr. Sanguinetti.
Brett liked much of the CynApps story, especially the verification piece, but he remained a bit skeptical about behavioral synthesis, a still unproven technology. He wasn’t certain the electronics industry was ready for behavioral synthesis, but he became more and more excited about CynApps’ entire product portfolio, including a simulation library that could be marketed as an open source product with C++ simulation, services and debug and analysis tools that captured his imagination. He signed on and then CynApps acquired DASYS in January 2000, which further cemented the focus on behavioral synthesis.
Concluding remarks about John Sanguinetti
The first thing one learns about John Sanguinetti when talking with him, is his modesty. The second is his candor.
When asked what influenced him to study computer science, John said, “After my freshman year of college, I had a summer job in the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. where I wrote output reports in Fortran for a shipyard simulation program that was being developed. I learned Fortran from a self-study course that the government had. After that, I took as many programming courses as I could. This was 1967-70, when Computer Science was not much more than programming courses.”
While many of us associate John with Michigan and the University of Michigan, he’s originally from Silver Spring, MD, a suburb of Washington, D.C. “I went to college at University of Michigan for 11 years, so it’s fair to say I’m from Michigan, too.”
His fondness of the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor is strong. He met his wife in college and his daughter Anne was born in Michigan. “I still go back to there to play in the alumni Marching Band at homecoming,” noted John. A fine trombone player since he was a teenager, he has also performed with the Peninsula Symphony for 25 years.
We talked as was getting ready to leave on a vacation at the Maryland home he owns, a home that has been in his family for many years. It sits on the beach of the Chesapeake Bay, giving him ample opportunity to sail his Sunfish sailboat off the beach or take the wooden kayak he and his wife built several years ago.
Yes, a wooden kayak. John recalled finding a company that sells kits for building wooden boats. Over the course of two summers, two weeks at a time, they built a kayak now housed at Chesapeake Bay. He said, with characteristic modesty, that the experience was like any other woodworking project, which meant following directions. It was straightforward, though he recalled lots of sanding. And definitely a bit of patience and fortitude.
The Wooden Kayak
Merging Chronology and CynApps
The 2001 merger of CynApps and Chronology created an interesting dilemma and one that was debated all the way to the board room. The question was how to make Forte Design Systems both a verification company and a synthesis company. Chronology was making money as a verification provider, but was not doing as well as Verisity (now part of Cadence).
CynApps was making a little money in the synthesis area, though not enough to pay all the bills; however, it was able to secure funding to grow the company. The decision was made to continue to focus on high-level synthesis and to utilize the plethora of verification tools to build a high-level synthesis environment with verification at its core.
And in that same year, Sony, Ricoh and Fujitsu became high-level synthesis customers of the newly combined Forte and the push was on.
Moving to a high-level synthesis business model was practical. Cynthesizer, Forte’s high-level synthesis software, was gaining traction, though Brett Cline said that the first few years of the merger were killers as Forte honed down at least five products into essentially just one with add-on capabilities. (Chronology’s TimingDesigner was still around in a separate division and ultimately sold to EMA Design Automation in 2007.)
Asia adopted a high-level synthesis methodology ahead of other world regions, willingly making a huge investment in a methodology shift. John, Sean and Brett all credit this turning point to the large number of consumer electronics companies. The high-level synthesis trend started in Japan because consumer device designs were a natural fit for this kind of software. High-level synthesis can implement image-manipulation algorithms, for example, into hardware. Japanese hardware engineers saw high-level synthesis as a way to stay ahead of the design curve from challengers in Korea and China. Moving up the abstraction level and adopting SystemC was a way to leapfrog ahead.
Brett acknowledged a few key and savvy individuals who led this methodology shift, many of whom are still in the business.
At this point in our interview, Brett opened up a spreadsheet and noted that Japan accounted for 99% of 2004 HLS revenue. Over time, it’s become about half of Forte’s revenue and still remains a large and important region.
United States, Korea and Japan, in particular, are design centers where Cynthesizer is in use for all kinds of applications. The USA is Forte’s fastest growing region, designing everything from custom processors to wired and wireless communication devices.
As we’ve seen in this profile, acquisitions have been good for Forte and it did another in 2009. It acquired Arithmatica to complement its product offerings with a portfolio of IP and datapath synthesis technology that has been integrated directly into Forte’s Cynthesizer product.
A look at a typical Cynthesizer design flow
Today, Cynthesizer is chosen primarily by design teams that want to reduce time-to-market pressures by designing at a higher level of abstraction and who require substantial improvements in circuit size and power. In many cases, teams create designs that would be impossible using RTL with their given resources.
The long-term benefit is generally not well understood. The value of SystemC-based IP and the ease at which it can be retargeted and reused is at the beginning of a project, are some things Verilog RTL has never achieved.
A Long Trek for Forte
“It’s been a long trek, in terms of finding the right set of customers who need a flexible format for IP reuse for the future,” said CEO Sean Dart. “Getting a product to that point was much harder than we expected. In 2000-2001, we never expected it to be this difficult. People shrug their shoulders and say, what’s so hard about a translator with clock cycles, far under-estimating what’s involved. The high-level synthesis tool needs to be able to handle different kinds of design styles, implementation methods and coding styles. It must be able to work with all of the downstream tools and libraries. It’s hundreds of things. Everybody underestimates the project.”
Many designers still hand code RTL for most of their designs, even now. Sean noted there’s a bit of inertia in the designer world, and Brett agreed. After all, any new change in the design flow can create more problems. For a designer, it introduces something new –– risk. They need to write in another language at another level of abstraction and change from what has been comfortable for them. “For a company like Forte, we need to prove we can make people successful and show a flexible format for reusing IP where a designer can get great results,” remarked Sean.
And, it finally happened with Cynthesizer. “We created a groundswell of support,” Sean stated, with Brett nodding his head in agreement. “Designers came to understand the utility. Otherwise, their product will miss the time-to-market window. IP development is so much shorter. Once people have the experience, then a second experience, that’s when the groundswell happened.”
He continued: “IP must be compatible and it should be automatically implementable. It’s a key selling point for us. There are reasons to buy the first time and a reason for change. Design teams don’t go into high-level synthesis for IP that will give them two or three times performance. However, as process geometries get smaller, fully timed RTL IP may not be reusable. That’s where high-level synthesis can make a difference.”
At this point, Sean became even more animated and noted: “High-level synthesis offers a way for designs to be retargetable for the next level and an optimal solution for technology, speed and longevity of the design. A key selling point for Cynthesizer is that the IP can be used on another project with almost zero effort.” Forte estimates that while the productivity gain on first development of an HLS-based IP may be five-10X, reusing that IP block next time around yields over 25X.
“Design teams are experiencing that reuse benefit,” he concluded.
The Career Opportunity
A small company like Forte can offer loads of opportunity, as Sean and Brett found.
Sean’s moved into the CEO position in 2006 and yet is completely comfortable talking with engineering teams and understands their technical challenges. He can see their point of view and feel the pain of their daily lives.
Meeting customers, setting product directions was something Sean did as vice president of engineering. He was involved in many high-level meetings and traveled to Asia quite often. When he moved into the role of CEO, he learned more about the financial side of the business and working with the board and investors. Since assuming the CEO role, he sold a division (Chronology’s Timing Designer in 2007) and acquired a company (Arithmatica in 2009).
“I’ve had three different jobs at Forte and watched about 30 competitors come and go,” affirmed Brett. He started out in marketing at CynApps and was sidetracked in 2005 to work in an operations role for Forte. His task was to set up a post-sales support organization to make sure that Forte serviced its customers to ensure their success. That meant an explicit focus in post-sales support rather than an implicit one. “I’ve always tried to dive into whatever needed to be done and deliver to the best of my ability and, at the time, this was extremely important,” he reported. “Small companies must work closely with every customer to make sure each design project is a success.”
With that mission accomplished, Brett went back to marketing and took over sales in 2006. “We have grown each year since 2006 and we are proud of it,” he said. He also takes pride in having done a lot of things to merge new companies into Forte.
At this point, Johnuinetti interjected: “It’s gotten a lot easier than it was before. I take a step back and see the market coming around to understand the need for high-level synthesis.” From there, he described a more mature product and a codified sales process that helps identify and better qualify opportunities, something Brett’s done over the past four years.
Sean concurred. Forte’s doing well and, from his perspective, keeping the momentum going is all important. His goal and one shared by Brett and John is to keep the team executing. “Our charter should be to create relationships with customers to get paid fairly for our products. The real trick is to deliver enough value and to be paid fairly for what we do.”
The EDA Industry
As the interview came to a close, Sean was asked for his perspective on EDA. He paused for a moment and answered: “Often the goals of the large (EDA) companies are different from those of the small (EDA) companies. Disrupting the status quo isn’t such a bad thing,” he added and believes that the need for continued innovation comes from small companies. “EDA is a small industry, but an important one. What would happen if everyone in EDA quit to build web pages? It would stop the world economy. We do have an important place in the ecosystem and should be recognized. We need to foster small EDA companies.”
John Sanguinetti, of course, agreed and had one final comment about Forte: “Patience and fortitude really do characterize Forte. We’ve kept at it and appreciate our success.”
So ends our current profile of Forte Design Systems. If personalities are the foundation of a successful company, Forte has them in spades. Forte’s people clearly exhibit the qualities from the names of the two lions in front of the New York Public Library: Patience and Fortitude!
Note: Forte has been the sponsor of a live bagpipers’ performance at DAC since 2001. EDACafe’s Peggy Aycinena captured this year’s performance. Her video is posted on her blog, “49DAC Unplugged:
ACM: Association for Computing Machinery
CEO: Chief Executive Officer
CTO: Chief Technical Officer
DAC: Design Automation Conference
EDA: Electronic Design Automation
ESDA: Electronic Systems Design Automation
ESL: Electronic System Level
GE: General Electric
IP: Intellectual Property
RTL: Register Transfer Level
SoC: System on Chip
STC: Standards Telephones & Cables
VAX: Virtual Address eXtension, an early mainframe computer from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)
VCs: Venture Capitalists
VCS: Verilog Compiled Simulator
EDN: “Sage words of advice from Forte Design Systems founder John Sanguinetti” by Brian Bailey
EDN: “Time to rethink EDA flows and tool infrastructure” by Brian Bailey
EDACafe’s What Would Joe Do: Forte: “Anchor Tenant in the ESL Mall” by Peggy Aycinena
EETimes: “2012 will be the year of power, again” by Brett Cline
EETimes’ EDA DesignLine: “Control dominated design” by Mike Meredith
EETimes’ EDA DesignLine: “Gearing Up for DAC – Above RTL” by Brian Bailey
Electronic Design: “Implement Abstraction By Encapsulation In SystemC” by Mike Meredith and John Sanguinetti
GABEonEDA: “Bagpipers a DAC Tradition” by Brett Cline
About the Contributing Editor:
Since 1996, Dr. Russ Henke has been active full time as president of HENKE ASSOCIATES, a San Francisco Bay Area high-tech business & management consulting firm. The number of client companies served by HENKE ASSOCIATES during those years now numbers close to fifty. Engagement lengths have varied from a few weeks up to ten years and beyond.
During his previous corporate career, Henke operated sequentially on "both sides" of MCAE/MCAD and EDA, as a user and as a vendor. He's a veteran corporate executive from Cincinnati Milacron (Research Scientist), SDRC (President & COO), Schlumberger Applicon (Executive VP), Gould Electronics (President & General Manager), ATP (Chairman and CEO), and Mentor Graphics (VP & General Manager).
Henke is a Fellow of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and served on the SME International Board of Directors. Henke was also a board member of SDRC, PDA, ATP, and the MacNeal Schwendler Corporation, and he currently serves on the board of Stottler Henke Associates, Inc.
Henke is also a member of the IEEE and a Life Fellow of ASME International.
In April 2006, Dr. Henke received the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the CAD Society, presented by CAD Society president Jeff Rowe at COFES2006 in Scottsdale, AZ. In February 2007, Henke became affiliated with Cyon Research's select group of experts on business and technology issues as a Senior Analyst. This Cyon Research connection aids and supplements Henke's ongoing, independent consulting practice (HENKE ASSOCIATES).
Dr. Henke was also a contributing editor of the EDACafé.com EDA WEEKLY from November 01, 2009 until March 31, 2012, posting thirty-two EDA WEEKLY articles during that period; URL's available. Effective April 01, 2012 he contributes to EDA COMMENTARY and MCAD COMMENTARY, and also writes a periodic blog for EDACafe.com and/or MCADCafe.com.
Since May 2003 HENKE ASSOCIATES has also published more than 100 independent commentary articles on MCAD, PLM, EDA and Electronics IP on IBSystems' MCADCafé and EDACafé. Such Commentaries are now part of the EDA and/or MCAD COMMENTARY entries.
Further information on HENKE ASSOCIATES, and URL's for past Commentaries, WEEKLIES, etc., are available at
March 31, 2012 marked the 16th Anniversary of the founding of HENKE ASSOCIATES.