Does Tela-Blaze M&A spell end of DFM consolidation?

by James Montgomery, News Editor, Solid State Technology

In a move that combines two DFM startups, Tela Innovations has acquired Blaze DFM. Terms of the deal weren’t announced, but a Tela spokesperson confirmed only one Blaze management exec is being kept — Rajiv Bhateja, VP of operations, is now Tela’s VP of power optimization products. In a PR statement Tela added that “key engineering personnel” from Blaze will be kept on for “continuity of product development” and customer support. Blaze’s technology has already been renamed as Tela “power optimization software,” though the spokesperson said no decision has been made about specific product naming.

Tela’s technology uses fixed, pre-defined physical topologies (on-grid, straight line, 1D layout structures) to optimize logic design for the lithography used in a given process. Blaze’s technology targets sub-100nm designs, reducing leakage power by as much as 50% by biasing the gate length to optimize power consumption.

A specific focus of the combined entity will be collaborative work with TSMC. Last year Blaze and TSMC launched a new service, dubbed “PowerTrim,” that combined Blaze’s power optimization technology with variations of TSMC’ manufacturing process, to identify paths with timing “slack” and optimizing transistors along those paths without reducing chip performance. The Tela spokesperson told SST that the company will support/enhance the PowerTrim service, but also is pursuing a separate, equivalent service with TSMC for layout optimization.

Editor’s Take
Tela Innovations’ announced acquisition of Blaze DFM essentially clears the industry playing field of startup DFM shops — but that doesn’t mean consolidation is entirely over.

Mentor Graphics’ acquisition of Ponte Solutions last May left Brion (merged with Aprio two years ago, also during SPIE) as the last standalone DFM firm. It now seems clear that DFM’s place in the industry now lies squarely within the EDA camp, not tied to equipment suppliers or perhaps foundries.

“The dream of a major standalone DFM player (a roll-up of the DFM start-ups) didn’t happen,” commented Gary Smith of GarySmithEDA, in an e-mail exchange with SST. “Synopsys and Mentor were in the game too early and became the leaders.” And in general this sector isn’t viewed as friendly to long-term solo ventures anyway. “Most EDA start-ups aren’t started to go it alone. There is an eventual consolidation and you are either the acquirer or the acquiree,” he pointed out.

Specifically for Tela and Blaze, Smith says this is a “great fit” for both firms. “Tela is a fairly new company doing RDR Libraries. RDR is the other technology that can solve the DFM problem. As Blaze was concentrating on design side of DFM they fit into the RDR model well.”

Does reigning in the last of the “lone ranger” DFM firms mean that consolidation is over? “The DFM market is pretty well settled;- Mentor and Synopsys won,” Smith said. Still, there are specific areas still ripe for picking — such as RTL methodology, in which “both Cadence and Magma are vulnerable.” — J.M.

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