It has been quiet around this corner for some time, but on the broader Sigasi front, a lot has happened. A few days after my previous post (The most needed EDA innovation), Sigasi released their VHDL IDE as an Eclipse plugin. Previously it was only available as a standalone product, which somewhat hided its Eclipse foundation. Following this important release, Philippe Faes (Sigasi’s CEO) published two whitepapers explaining the ideas and the vision behind the product: “Why hardware designers should switch to Eclipse” and “How to sell EDA tools in Liechtenstein". The latter was actually an invited (and winning) entry to Xuropa’s “Do More with Less” contest.
With all these events, one would swear that those Sigasi guys had heard me :-) Joking aside, it is clear why I am happy to be part of the Sigasi team. I think that we have a credible offering to help change EDA along the lines that I described in my previous post. There definitely is some great technology behind Sigasi HDT. However, I believe the most interesting and innovative aspect is the model used to develop, package, sell and support the product. Let me elaborate on this a little further.
Sigasi received a lot of positive responses on their latest publications, as well as several interesting negative ones. Some people thought that we were basically arguing about using IDEs for hardware design. One person responded that we should stop talking about this IDE stuff, so that the good old vi versus emacs wars could continue! I fear that he was only half-joking.
To Philippe and Hendrik, Sigasi’s founders, the eventual move to IDEs is self-evident. What they were really arguing about is how IDEs should be done: not as a closed system but as a system on top of Eclipse, an industry-standard open platform that enables massive and systematic reuse.
Reuse: there is a crucial word. To Philippe and Hendrik, reuse is in their blood, almost an obsession. They are constantly looking out for shoulders to stand on, and not only from giants. Conceptually, reuse sounds like an obvious idea, but in my experience, it is quite hard to apply it systematically in practice. They do it with remarkable ease.
Then there is the role of the internet. When I saw Philippe and Hendrik using it, I felt for the first time in my professional life that I belong to an aging generation. My generation comes from an internet-less world and has witnessed its history, with all the models and applications that were tried out, the failures as well as the unexpected successes that later seemed obvious. But for them, the internet is their natural habitat. Their internet is obviously about the interaction between people about interesting content. Web 2.0 is the normal state of things, as they simply skipped the 1.0 part.
When Philippe introduced me to twitter, I initially discarded it as an nonsensical proposition, as many of my generation still do. In the hands of certain users, it actually is - some Belgian politicians come to mind. But in practice, Sigasi’s twitter presence has lead to some very valuable business contacts. Even better, it has clearly been the catalyst for a number of sales. With arguments like that, there’s no need to convince me further.
So there you have it: an EDA product developed on top of an open platform using modern agile software techniques, and sold, distributed and supported over the internet. The result is a very powerful and sophisticated product with a price point that makes it accessible to all. This is the EDA that I like.
Sigasi is not alone. Other companies are emerging with similar ideas and models. So I believe that EDA 2.0 is on its way. And as with other innovations it will all seem obvious in hindsight.