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  • A Brief History of Cadence Design Systems

    EDA software for IC and system design became a commercial business in the early 1980s. In those days, 3 companies – Daisy Systems, Mentor Graphics, and Valid Logic Systems – dominated the emerging EDA industry. However, two small startups that emerged in the early 1980s grew rapidly and merged to form Cadence Design Systems in 1988.


    One of those startups was ECAD, which was founded by Glen Antle and Paul Hwang in 1982. Unlike the leading EDA vendors, who also sold workstations, ECAD provided only software. The company developed and sold Dracula, an IC layout verification product that came into widespread industry use.

    The other startup, SDA Systems, was founded in 1983 by Jim Solomon, a former product manager at National Semiconductor. Also a software-only company, SDA offered IC physical design tools within an integrated “framework” that could also accommodate third-party tools. Joe Costello, a former R&D manager at National Semiconductor, joined SDA Systems in 1984 and became its president in 1987.

    In Feb. 1988 ECAD bought SDA for $72 million in a stock swap. A new company, Cadence Design Systems, was incorporated June 1, with Costello as president and CEO. Within a year Cadence had become the leading provider of IC design automation tools. Under Costello’s charismatic leadership over the next 9 years, Cadence completed a number of strategic acquisitions, built widely-used product lines, moved into system-level and PCB design, and made design services a key part of its strategy.

    1989 was a formative year in several respects. First, Cadence bought Gateway Design Automation, developer of the Verilog hardware description language. (A year later Cadence put Verilog into the public domain, and it became the most widely used hardware description language). Secondly, Jim Solomon started the Cadence Analog Division, launching an effort in which Cadence became the undisputed leader in custom/analog design automation tools. Third, the purchase of Tangent Systems boosted Cadence’s leadership in IC layout automation.

    Here are some key Cadence milestones since 1989:
    · 1991 – Acquired Valid Logic Systems and became the EDA revenue leader.
    · 1993 – Bought Comdisco Systems, a pioneer of system-level design.
    · 1994 – Launched Spectrum Services consulting group.
    · 1997 – Acquired HLD Systems (design planning) and Cooper & Chyan Technologies (automatic routing). Jack Harding, Cooper & Chyan CEO, became Cadence CEO.
    · 1999 – Harding succeeded by Ray Bingham as CEO. Cadence acquired OrCAD (PCB design) and Quickturn (emulation).
    · 2001 – Avanti found guilty of stealing Cadence trade secrets, ordered to pay $194 million restitution.
    · 2002 – Cadence Genesis design database offered to EDA industry as “OpenAccess.” Cadence bought Simplex Solutions (IC physical verification).
    · 2004 – Mike Fister became president and CEO.
    · 2005 – Cadence acquired Verisity, pioneer of coverage-driven verification.
    · 2008 – Lip-Bu Tan became president and CEO.
    · 2010 – Cadence EDA360 vision proposed expanded role for EDA. Purchase of Denali Software strengthened Cadence position in design and verification IP.

    Fast forward to 2012, and Cadence has enjoyed three years of steady growth in revenues and earnings. 30 years after the launch of ECAD, Cadence employs approximately 4,900 people worldwide, reported 2011 revenues of $1.1 billion, and provides a wide range of IC, PCB and system design products that are used by nearly every semiconductor and electronic systems provider today.

    A special thanks to Richard Goering, Senior Manager, Technical Communications, at Cadence, for compiling this data. Richard has covered EDA since 1985 most notably as EE Times' EDA editor for 17 years, where he wrote hundreds of articles for both the print and on-line editions of the electronics industry's premier weekly newspaper.

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