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Q&A: Mark Gogolewski On Denali History, Acquisition, And IP Trends

Comments(0)Filed under: Industry Insights, verification, IP, DAC DFM, VIP, EDA360, Denali, registers, memories, PCI, memory, DDR, Gogolewski

Mark Gogolewski was a co-founder, CTO, and CFO of Denali Software prior to that company's recent acquisition by Cadence. He is now vice president of R&D of the Front End Group at Cadence. In this interview, he talks about Denali's history, trends in IP and memory modeling, EDA360, and the strategic value of the acquisition.

Q: Mark, you were one of four co-founders of Denali in 1996. What was the original idea behind the company?

A: The original motivation of what came to be known as Denali was to come up with solutions for the hardware/software co-design and co-verification problem. We reached the conclusion that the problem was huge, and beyond the scope of where we were ready to go. We then identified memories as a ubiquitous hardware component, and also one of the key components that software required. It seemed like a good problem to start with. We thought we could make money from memory models, and we were naïve about it, but our enthusiasm went into making it a success.

Q: Denali started with memory models, but you also had design IP and verification IP solutions. How did these come about?

A: The second product we really stuck with was DDR controller IP. Basically, our interest in this IP was that customers were struggling to optimize this interface, due to the rapid pace of change in the technology. Devices were getting more complex, and sharing the bandwidth inside the chip was getting more complex because there were more clients to serve. We could see that a lot of effort was going into this area.

We started on the DDR controller IP in 2000 and then added PCI Express VIP [verification IP] in 2004. This was a huge change for us. Prior to this we had focused on enabling memory technology. But we had heard an earful from one of our largest customers about how much of an impact PCI Express would have. We were looking for other opportunities, and we believed we could leverage a lot of the investment we had made in memory models, where we had built significant core library technology.

Q: Denali also developed a register specification tool called Blueprint. How did that come about?

A: Registers are a key component accessed by hardware and software, and there's interaction with the hardware by firmware and software. Registers are ubiquitous and they pose an information management challenge. The idea that you could consolidate on language and automatically generate all the views you needed sounded pretty compelling.

Q: Another thing Denali is well known for is its annual Design Automation Conference party. How did that get started?

A: The original genesis was that Sanjay [Srivastava] and I wanted to get the Denali name out. We were younger and more spirited in those days, so throwing a party seemed like a fun way to accomplish the goal. One of the key components of our modeling verification technology was our partnerships in simulation. So, we had a lot of [EDA] relationships. We invited not only our customers but also all of our partners. That's part of what made it a draw and why the first one - 1999, I think - turned out to be a bigger success than we expected.

Q: There are a number of IP and VIP providers today. What was distinctive about Denali solutions?

A: We focused very strongly on quality. Quality means that it worked, and it worked very well. Also, from the beginning, we realized that the DDR controller you would put into a supercomputer versus a printer or cell phone would be very different. So from the beginning, part of our technical differentiation was configurability. We could work with customers and understand their specific requirements, turn that into a machine-readable specification, and automatically generate optimized IP, verify and run synthesis.

Q: What trends do you see occurring in the IP market?

A: We've seen a real sea change in the past few years. When we first came out with our DDR controller, IP was a "make unless you need to buy" situation for our customers. Since then there's been a shift to "buy unless you need to make." It is expensive and complicated and time consuming to create any intellectual property. If it's not differentiating, it makes a lot more sense to go with a third-party solution.

Q: There's been a lot of talk about the high cost of IP integration. Studies have shown that it may cost more to integrate IP than to buy it in the first place. Were you seeing that trend among Denali customers?

A: We've absolutely seen that. As much as we've worked hard to minimize the pain our customers feel after they've acquired IP, we recognize that making sure it works as needed by the system is an incredible challenge and expense. That's especially true if you start looking at all the firmware implications. It's a frightening trend for the industry in terms of cost. And this is one place where I really applaud the leadership Cadence is showing with EDA360.

Q: That leads right into my next question. How do you think Denali technology fits into the EDA360 vision?

A: First of all, our products clearly drop right into SoC Realization. Customers need to acquire high-quality, high-performance IP and they need to integrate it into SoCs quickly and optimally. When you talk about application-driven design, optimizing memory bandwidth to optimize the specific needs of software has to be a key element of the overall solution. We are hoping that all of our technology, and especially the memory related technology, will fit well and make a significant impact on System Realization.  EDA360 should radically change the cost structure of the industry.

Q: What's the strategic value of the acquisition, for both Cadence and Denali?

A: For Denali, being acquired by Cadence gives us access to a world-class channel, and an opportunity to integrate and optimize our IP products with a much broader technology platform. At Denali, we only had the opportunities afforded to us by our size and product set.

I believe the EDA360 vision is targeted right where the industry needs to change. I respect the decision by Cadence to deliver IP that it owns as well as IP it partners with. For Cadence, this will fit very well into the EDA360 vision. Clearly what Cadence is doing is much bigger than Denali, but I think we play an important part. I think we can help with a broad range of interfaces, blocks, technologies, and tools that customers need.

Q: And finally, what are you working on right now?

A: Right now I'm working really hard to get to know the [Cadence] staff. I'm very excited and focused on making sure the integration goes smoothly.

Richard Goering




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