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Mentor Graphics: Designeering Partnerships

Jaya Smitha Menon
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Jaya Smitha Menon
It was the bold vision of Walden C.Rhines, the CEO of Mentor Graphics that made him decide to set up the company’s India operations. The semiconductor industry in India in the early ’90s was quite similar to alchemy in the Middle Ages. Everybody could envision a possible evolution of an entirely new industry, which in those days was a part of the electronics industry. But very few could find an optimal answer for the complex search which required understanding the application, the system domain, digital function and control, the fundamentals of circuits, and IC fabrication technology. But the man who during his tenure has more than doubled the revenue (projected revenue of current fiscal year to be over $850 million) over the last five years and has taken his company forward to be the fastest growing among the ‘Big 3’ EDA companies could not have been wrong.

Today Rhines is a happy man. With three centers in India (Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Noida) and 435 engineers, his design tools for Scalable Functional Verification (including Verification of Power-aware designs), hardware-assisted Verification of full-chip ASICs an SoCs, FPGA design and synthesis, printed circuit boards, co-verification, design for test, intellectual property cores, and embedded systems products amongst many others developed out of these centers by the engineers are ruling the roost with strong market positions. In the PCB design tool market, Mentor Graphics leads with 37 percent market share.

However, the going is getting tougher for Rhines and Mentor Graphics with the multi dimensional challenges the industry is facing today. The challenges start from the sheer complexity of managing more transistors on a chip, which requires newer tools, databases, and product power consumption rate. “We are actually limited in how big we can make our designs by the amount of power they dissipate, rather than by the number of transistors,” he explains. As the industry moves to nano dimensions it brings yet another challenge of device physics. Today, physics-based simulation and design have become a completely new area for EDA. The way we simulate, verify, and analyze the device structure has also undergone a sea change. “We have had to move from a rule-based verification to a model-based optical simulation of the whole manufacturing process in order to determine how a person should design a product,” explains Rhines.

All these challenges notwithstanding, Rhines is undaunted. His confidence abounds due to two reasons. One because of the unique strategy Mentor Graphics follows to tackle the challenges, in identifying critical areas or problems in the industry and work towards solving them and finding new areas of growth. The second reason is his research team that consistently pursues research activities in niche areas. When it comes to design spectrum, he relies greatly on the recommendations of his design engineers in India as they are quite known for their prowess. Forty-five design engineers from India work in collaboration with the global research team in resolving some of the key challenges the industry is facing today.

Explaining on the increasing influence of India design centers on multinational design flows and tools Rhines said, “Designers in India were early adopters of C-based design, and it was their willingness to try new approaches that caused multinational parent companies to accelerate their own adoption. Now there is a compelling pool of expertise here in India for us to leverage”. Cashing in on this vast repository of resources in India and to meet the growing customer base in the country, Mentor Graphics recently announced its expansion of India operations during the inauguration of its new facility in Bangalore.

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