Never miss a story from Corporate and Culture. Subscribe for in-depth analysis and articles.
It’s been 40 years since Jim Solomon, Richard Newton and Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli co-founded SDA Systems, a physical IC design tools company that became Cadence. Most want to measure this year as the 35th birthday of Cadence, marked by the merger of SDA Systems and ECAD in 1988. So much has changed! Yet the original vision of making designers much more productive remains. We’ve just expanded that vision to include designers with other engineering specialties with tools that showcase our computational software expertise.
What was the electronics world like in 1983? Daisy Systems, Mentor Graphics, and Valid Logic Systems dominated the early EDA industry with IC design software, in some cases coupled to their proprietary hardware. The chip producers provided their own software that ran on these platforms and only worked in their fabs. In 1983, VHDL and Verilog hadn't yet emerged for IC design. Point tools were being introduced for specific parts of the design cycle. And most semiconductor companies were evolving to 5” wafers.
SDA Systems created a “framework” for different IC design tools to work together with a common user interface and database. In 1984, Joe Costello joined SDA Systems and he became president in 1987.
In February 1988, ECAD bought SDA Systems. ECAD, founded in 1982, was famous for its Dracula IC layout verification product. On June 1, a new company – Cadence Design Systems, Inc. – was incorporated after this merger. Joe Costello became its first CEO. It was essentially a reverse merger since ECAD was public, and an easier path for SDA to take.
In 1989, Cadence bought Gateway Design Automation, the company that invented Verilog. A year later, Cadence put Verilog into the public domain, making Verilog the most widely used hardware description language. Also in 1989, Jim Solomon started the Cadence Analog Division, which continues to lead the industry. Additionally, that year Cadence purchased Tangent Systems with great expertise in IC layout automation.
Yes, in the early days acquisitions were key to growth. It was impossible for any one company to develop tools for all the different aspects of IC design. Many startups had a business plan that said, “get purchased by Cadence.” Some of the acquisitions included:
All of these, plus many other smaller acquisitions, led to tremendous growth at Cadence.
In 2010, after investing heavily in custom IC design, digital implementation and signoff, and verification, Cadence decided to expand into the IP market with its acquisition of Denali Software, which was well known for its memory models, design IP and verification IP. Cadence added to its IP portfolio with the acquisition of Tensilica, with its digital signal processor IP, in 2013. Cadence’s design tool customers quickly learned to trust the IP that Cadence offered.
In the mid-2010s, Cadence invested heavily in moving its design tools to the cloud, becoming an early innovator by offering various services to meet different customer needs. The Cadence Cloud portfolio allows design teams to deploy EDA and systems workloads, whether the use case is hybrid or all-cloud. From fully self-managed to Cadence-managed, Cadence provides easy-to-adopt solutions to maximize productivity.
Cadence expanded beyond EDA and IP in the 2020s with several significant acquisitions:
What ties these new areas to Cadence? Computational software expertise and Intelligent Systems Design. Cadence’s strategic imperative is to accelerate the design of the most complex electronics and intelligent systems. The design of electronics systems includes PCBs, 3D-IC packaging, and signal integrity, electromagnetic, and electrothermal analysis. These multi-physics analyses are applied from chip and package to PCB, cabling, and connectivity.
Looking forward, the opportunities to expand Cadence’s computational software expertise are strong. While we will never give up on our historical lead in IC design, we are enjoying expanding into related categories so our customers can get the best solutions. We keep learning and growing, which is essential to our long-term success.