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Mentor quitting on ESL?
Dr. Olivier Coudert

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So you got the news: Calypto acquired Catapult-C, the ESL synthesis tool from Mentor Graphics.
Calypto has been into low power (using notably sequential optimization techniques) and sequential verification for a while. And the company has always been very close to Mentor Graphics: it had integrated its verification tool with Catapult-C as early as 2005.
But the move came somewhat as a surprise, at least for me. Mentor has been touting itself has the leader in ESL, with some good reasons. Mentor had a strong offering in that space, including Catapult-C, and a consistent strategy.
Until now.
The decision of letting Catapult-C go has been sugar-coated, to say the least. Dixit Brian Derrick, VP marketing at Mentor Graphics: “We remain deeply committed to ESL. We view this transaction as an innovative way to accelerate adoption of ESL methodologies, to strengthen our partnership with Calypto, and as one that complements our continued investment in ESL virtual prototyping environments led by our Vista product”. Huhu.
It is hard to not interpret Mentor’s decision as a change of strategy, and a disengagement from ESL. The truth is, despite all the promises, ESL has been very slow to gain acceptance. After more than seven years, ESL’s market is still dwarfed by conventional synthesis, and even more by the cash cows that are simulation and physical verification. So from Mentor’s perspective, it may make sense to focus on better business opportunities.
Some will see in that transfer of ownership the proof that yet again, pushing EDA innovation to success is essentially left to startups. Wait, isn’t that the very purpose of startups?
Calypto, with the acquisition of Catapult-C, got a sweet deal. They have the opportunity to have a single environment for ESL synthesis and verification. Problem is, unless they provide a path for 3rd party verification tool (read: Cadence and Synopsys) to independently check their synthesis, it will be difficult to substantially increase the number of their adopters. Best of luck to them though.


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