1. What is EDA software

The full name of EDA is electronic design automation, that is, electronic design automation (English: abbreviation: EDA). It refers to a design method that uses computer aided design (CAD) software to complete the functional design, synthesis, verification, physical design (including layout, wiring, layout, design rule check, etc.) of very large scale integrated circuit (VLSI) chips.

There are two key points here, automation and the whole process.

1.1 automation

It reflects the positioning of EDA. We should know that in the era without EDA software, we can also do electronic design work.

Similar to discrete devices in board level circuits, the number of MOS tubes in the chip was not so large at the beginning. According to device parameters and basic circuit knowledge, especially current equation and voltage equation, the size, connection and corresponding performance of various devices in the circuit can be manually designed and calculated.

As for the layout design stage in that era, it was even more hard to say. After the circuit diagram was drawn with pen and tape by using the method of artificial geometry, there was even a manual inspection link. The experienced engineers carried out DRC (design rule inspection) little by little with a magnifying glass. It would be difficult to think of this magical scene if I hadn’t heard such an example from an old teacher when I was in graduate school.

1.2 whole process

The whole process reflects the scope of modern EDA. At present, EDA software has appeared in all links mentioned in the previous example, such as design, calculation (pre simulation), layout and wiring, post simulation, etc.

At the same time, corresponding to the soaring circuit scale following Moore’s law, the modern chip industry can no longer imagine what it would look like without EDA software (imagine that there are tens of billions of transistors in a chip, the massive work of manually calculating the working state of each tube and the consequent low yield visible to the naked eye).

1.3 an example

To sum up the role of EDA software in the design and production life cycle of a CPU, in the front-end design, the analog circuit part exists in the form of circuit diagram. We need to use cadence virtuoso. In the previous simulation, spectrum, also a cadence family, is a very excellent tool.

In the back-end design and post simulation, we need to use the layout design tool cadence viroso, the layout reference tool cadence QRC and the physical verification tool mentor calibre.

The digital circuit part takes the Synopsys company ecology that the author is most familiar with as an example. In the RTL (register transfer level) design stage, it is in the form of Verilog code. Among the RTL tools, the Synopsys design compiler (DC) is the most representative.

In the pre simulation stage, Synopsys’ VCs will be used. ICC will be used in digital back-end design. In addition, verification tools, such as ICV, DFT compiler and Pt, are also used.

2. EDA software, the three giants in the United States

From the above small example, we can find that the EDA tools used in the chip industry are basically from three companies, Synopsys, mentor and cadence. The common ground of the three is that they are both headquartered in the United States, and coincidentally, they were both established in the 1990s.

First, let’s look at cadence company. Because of its leading position in analog circuit design, the author is most familiar with it. From the company level, cadence has entered the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong markets since 1992, and has successively set up a number of R & D centers in Beijing and Shanghai, with a total number of employees of more than 8000.

Cadence’s spectre is the best choice for Analog IC design. Many practitioners have been using cadence family bucket tools from their school study to their work in analog chip companies.

Synopsys’ business is more comprehensive, and in fact it is the leader of the three EDA giants.

Synopsys, rich and powerful, has held an International Microelectronics Olympiad for young IC design talents in universities and research institutes around the world for many years, which once had a great influence on the campus.

Among the three competitors, Synopsys’ advantages lie in the digital front end, digital back end and Pt signoff.

Mentor graphic ranks third, and its volume is much smaller than the first two. However, it has always had a place among EDA manufacturers, and its flagship products calibre signoff and DFT have made great contributions.

It can be said that under the current market pattern, mentor, which was acquired by Siemens in Germany in 2016, has chosen a development route that is most suitable for itself, not big but comprehensive, but small but beautiful.

Based on the development of the three companies, as the No. 1 EDA company in the world, Synopsys’ business performance scale has continued to expand in recent years. Last year, the company’s operating revenue reached $3.361 billion, an increase of 7.68% year-on-year.

Cadence, the second largest company, had a revenue of $2.336 billion last year. However, mentor was acquired by Siemens without disclosing the revenue data separately. In 2017, the revenue scale was less than half of that of Synopsys.

On the whole, the market scale of EDA has actually developed steadily, but the total amount is still amazing. Last year, it has crossed the threshold of $10 billion. In this $10 billion market, more than half of it is in the hands of the three giants Synopsys, cadence and mentor graphic.

3. Sorting out the current situation of domestic EDA manufacturers

In the case that the global market share is 70% eaten by the big three, the domestic market is no exception.

At present, 95% of EDA sales in China’s chip industry is shared by Synopsys, cadence and mentor graphic. Compared with this pessimistic absolute value, the development trend of some domestic EDA companies is good.

In the domestic EDA market, there are also some domestic companies with relatively outstanding development. The following will focus on two companies, one of which is the current domestic EDA leader, and the other has chosen a very specific application scenario because of its listing process, which can be said to be concerned and controversial.

3.1 Beijing Huada Jiutian

Overall, the most promising one is Beijing Huada Jiutian, which was established in 2009.

It is the largest EDA software market in China. At present, Huada Jiutian can provide one-stop services including analog / digital analog hybrid IC design whole process solutions, digital SOC IC design and optimization solutions, special EDA tools for wafer manufacturing and flat panel display (FPD) design whole process solutions. It can be a well deserved domestic leading enterprise in terms of ecological construction.

Especially in the field of liquid crystal flat panel, both BOE and csot, the domestic industry leaders, are customers of Huada Jiutian. You should know that these two are strong competitors of Samsung and LG in the world.

Therefore, with the introduction of the tablet and the investment from the national fund in 2018, it can be said that the development of Huada Jiutian in the industry is highly expected.

3.2 vision of Beijing core

If you pay attention to the domestic capital market, you must be familiar with this company.

In May this year, Beijing core vision, known as the first EDA enterprise in the science and innovation board, submitted an IPO application to Shanghai Stock Exchange, attracting many people to pay attention to the development of domestic EDA software.

However, after careful analysis, you will find that the core vision known as EDA software manufacturer, in 2019, EDA software licensing revenue was only 4.4207 million yuan, accounting for only 2.85% of the company’s total revenue of 155million yuan.

What is the other 97.15%—— IC analysis services and IC design services of the company.

It sounds tall, but it may be closely related to “reverse engineering”. In particular, the content of “circuit extraction and analysis” can be said to be a subdivision direction, which is not a field of great concern to traditional EDA manufacturers.

3.3 other manufacturers

In addition to the vision of Huada Jiutian Hexin, some domestic EDA manufacturers have developed in their respective directions. For example, Kulun electronics, which acquired Beijing Boda micro and has just completed a round of financing, is in a leading position in China in the direction of semiconductor device modeling and integrated semiconductor parameter testing solutions.

The EDA products of semiconductor giant Guowei group have been in a leading position in FPGA verification and simulation system. It is worth mentioning that Guowei group not only undertakes major national science and technology projects, but also cooperates closely with colleges and universities. The EDA Research Institute jointly established with Xi’an University of Electronic Science and technology, a famous traditional electronic school, is committed to solving the problem of EDA talent training, providing another way to break the industry situation.

Other companies such as Hangzhou Guangli micro, Xingxin technology, Suzhou Xinhe technology, kejingda and Chengdu okas also have their own fist products in the fields of chip testing, power consumption, reliability analysis and process simulation.

4. Why domestic EDA is “stuck”

As an indispensable part of the chip industry, EDA is imperative to break the situation in the context of raising the chip industry to national security. From the comparison of domestic and foreign EDA companies combed above, we have found several problems to be solved:

1. For IC design enterprises, especially for Digital IC design business, the cost of advanced technology is too high, so it is difficult to have the courage to choose alternatives other than giant companies.

2. Faced with the whole family bucket software provided by cadence or Synopsys, the cost for many companies to break away from the whole ecosystem is too high. Design engineers in the IC industry often start with graduate degrees. Many engineers have been using cadence or Synopsys’ products from school to work for many years, and their user habits are strong. In fact, there is no domestic EDA company that can replace foreign giants in the whole process.

3. What EDA software R & D needs most for new entrants is a large amount of capital investment and the accumulation of time and experience. When the market is divided up by giants, I am afraid it is difficult to have enough profits and enough cash flow to support the company’s development step by step.

4. The downstream of EDA is the design company, while the downstream of the design company is the process plant. The bundling of EDA giants and process plants is a big problem for domestic EDA companies. In particular, many domestic enterprises adopt fabless mode, and the 0.18um or 0.13um process of Analog IC is good. Once advanced processes are involved, the downstream foundry does not give sufficient support to EDA company, and the whole industrial chain cannot go through.

5. Thoughts on breaking the situation of domestic EDA

Corresponding to the above-mentioned problems, we also have corresponding suggestions.

1. At the level of EDA company, starting from the relatively simple analog IC, on the one hand, the analog IC market is large and the process is relatively mature, so the monopoly advantage of the giants is not so obvious. On the other hand, the design and production costs of chip companies are not so high. Especially after the wave of Analog IC entrepreneurship in 2009, there are still many small design companies in China, which can cut into the market from one point. It can be said that Huada Jiutian has proved that this road can go through.

2. In terms of EDA talents, China has established 9 microelectronics demonstration colleges in 2015, covering many directions such as technology, design, devices, etc., but the training of EDA talents needs to be strengthened, especially the direction of the combination of industry, University and research is worth exploring. Because there is not much commercial interest, it is more feasible to seek the cooperation of academic circles than to pry some large design companies.

3. The whole industry needs more industry support. Countries including the United States have given great support to strategic industries such as chips and top industries. Especially in the backward situation, if we want to catch up, of course, we cannot do without the help of national policies and capital.

4. The general direction should be the right one. We should not take the wrong path. From the perspective of the whole ecology, copying tools will certainly harm the healthy development of EDA industry and even the chip industry.
Editor in charge: Tzh

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