Supply Chain Management

The Math Backs Cadence's Forte Acquisition

06 February 2014

Leading EDA software vendor Cadence Design Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) has agreed to buy one of the leading second-tier software vendors, Forte Design Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), for an undisclosed sum. But could Qualcomm's and Imagination's liking for Forte's arithmetic IP be a significant factor behind the purchase?

Cadence said the acquisition, which is expected to close within 30 days, would enhance its high-level synthesis offering. The overlap suggests that Cadence's C-to-Silicon Compiler was finding Forte's Cynthesizer software was providing too much competition.

Last month Forte was named as the number one provider of software to enable design at a higher level of abstraction by Gary Smith, a leading analyst in the EDA field.

In early 2013, Forte unveiled its Cynthesizer 5 product iteration with low power synthesis capabilities, enhanced core synthesis algorithms, and a new SystemC integrated development environment (IDE). According to Gary Smith Forte held on to the number one position in high-level design in 2013 and with market share at 31 percent, expanded its margin over the nearest competitor. "2013 saw continued deployment of our Cynthesizer SystemC synthesis IP across all major regions," Sean Dart, Forte CEO, said at the time.

Charlie Huang, senior vice president of the System & Verification Group at Cadence, said of Cadence's planned acquisition of Forte: "HLS tools are now addressing a broader application space and producing equal or better quality of results than hand-coded RTL, fueling worldwide adoption and production deployment amongst leading companies."

Cadence emphasized the complementary nature of Cynthesizer and C-to-Silicon arguing that Forte's offering is good for highly parallel or pipelined designs with strong support for memory scheduling, while Cadence has expertise in transaction level modeling, RTL synthesis and incremental changes.

Cadence and Forte did not discuss what the integration strategy would be for Cynthesizer and C-to-Silicon Compiler or whether both would continue with the option of being bolted together more easily.

However, one little-discussed aspect of Forte also figured in the acquisition. And that is that Forte has an excellent position in arithmetic intellectual property – or unusual and efficient ways of implementing basic mathematical functions in circits. When deployed throughout a design these can make significant difference when optimizing for performance, power and area (PPA).

Forte bought UK-based Arithmatica for an undisclosed sum in September 2009 with the pledge that it would it continue to market Arithmatica's CellMath IP and support the CellMath Designer and CellMath Optimizer products. Forte also promised to integrate Arithmatica's technology and IP in to Cynthesizier. That was probably not a hard decision.

Although Arithmatica had struggled to work out its business model – IP cores or EDA software – it's approach had gained some traction, particularly with GPU and FPGA developers, where designs tend to be math-intensive. Arithmatica added Qualcomm to its customer list in 2007, which at that time included AMD, Atheros, Imagination, Mediatek, and Nvidia.

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