As more information emerges on Claypto’s acquisition of Catapult C from Mentor Graphics, the picture is growing increasingly complex. To begin with, this is not exactly an arm’s-length transaction. Mentor has been, and remains, a major investor in Calypto. So Mentor is not simply dumping the C-to-RTL synthesis technology in which it has invested so much; it will continue to have influence over the future of the tool. But what is that future?
At the data-sheet level, Calypto CEO Doug Aitelli said this morning that the future is closer integration of Catapult with Calypto’s SLEC formal verification environment and PowerPro power-reduction tools. “In the past, we have worked at arm’s length with synthesis providers,” Aitelli said. “That kind of relationship was friendly, but it only allowed our tools to exchange files with the synthesis tools. With closer integration, you could optimize all three tools to improve each other’s results. For instance synthesis could pass valuable hints to verification and power management.” In the longer run, the SLEC cockpit might be able to call Catapult synthesis to present C-level interpretation of exception cases and to allow incremental, C-level edits and resyntheses.
To achieve integration, Calypto is getting not just the IP and ownership of Catapult itself, but also the design team and field support organization Mentor had dedicated to the product. Mentor vice president of marketing Brian Derrick said that Catapult C was a stand-alone product, so there was a clean separation between the development and support resources assigned to Catapult and those assigned to other Mentor products, reducing the impact of the carve-out on other Mentor programs.
Continuity is another important question if this transfer of technology is to boost, rather than further retard, the spread of high-level synthesis. Derrick said Mentor would continue to support exiting Catapult users, “through an arrangement with Calypto.” Calypto will support new accounts directly. Less clear is what happens to users of Mentor’s Vista virtual prototyping environment, who will now have to go to Calypto for the synthesis tool to convert their models to RTL, and what access new Catapult users will have to Mentor’s Vista libraries. And both companies declined to discuss what will happen to existing Catapult users when their Mentor licenses expire. Presumably they will have to negotiate a new license with Calypto under terms quite different from their existing Mentor package licenses.
The larger question is the implication of this move for the future of design. From one point of view, it seems likely that Mentor, under the none-too-patient thumb of Carl Icahn, has begun in baby steps to dispose of under-performing product lines. Expect the process to get more dramatic as Mentor carves itself down to a company that has both a long-term strategic coherence and an EBITDA that Mr. Icahn will accept.
From another point of view, the sale may be a strategic statement about the future of design. By passing Catapult to Calypto but keeping Vista, Mentor may be saying that it still believes deeply in the future of model-based system design, but that it has come to see high-level synthesis as a point tool, not as a foundation stone in the methodology.