Scott Sandler is the President of Springsoft USA. He began his career as a verification engineer at Intel, where he quickly learned that he liked the tools a lot better than the designs. He entered the EDA world in 1986 as the first AE for Verilog at Gateway Design Automation, and had stints at Cadence and Chrysalis before arriving at Novas in 1999 and leading it to its merger with Springsoft last year.
When purchasing decisions for complex, high-tech products are made based mainly on price, users get the short end of the stick. They often end up having to get the job done with tools that are less capable than others on the market. This means they have to work harder to hit schedules, or that schedules slip and their company doesn’t make as much money as it could. Decisions based on value instead of price often yield better results for those organizations prepared to make them.
Buying based on value doesn’t always mean paying a high price, but it does mean looking beyond the idea that tools are an expense, and finding ways to reduce the overall effort of designing and verifying chips. While price-based decisions are relatively easy, decisions based on value are more complex. Determining the value of a product requires looking beyond its price, and really understanding the return on investment (ROI) the organization can get by acquiring the product. Will the tool save time? Will it free up engineers to work on things that are more valuable? What will be the impact on the overall output of the organization?
These analyses take time and energy, and some organizations find it easier to buy based on price, which is unfortunate for everyone involved. Engineers often end up using inferior tools that make their jobs harder and their work less rewarding. Organizations put out products that are late or less capable than they could have been. Suppliers end up with lower profits, and thus innovation in automation slows down. This is a losing situation all the way around.
The value of automation (the most important word in EDA!) comes from redirecting engineering effort toward adding value to the chip, rather than just getting through the process. For an organization that designs complex system-on-chip devices to give up on driving its own methodology, instead relying on a supplier of bundled tools because they ostensibly “work together in a flow” or cost less, is potentially a grave mistake. By looking for ways to save time and add more value to their products, in other words investing in unique automation technologies that interoperate based on open standards, these organizations can better satisfy their employees, customers, and investors.