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Dialogue Sierxin CEO Lin Junxiong: 20 years of domestic EDA is persistence, but also a breakthrough

2024-06-24 Update From: SLTechnology News&Howtos shulou NAV: SLTechnology News&Howtos > IT Information >


Shulou( Report--

"it wasn't until the ZTE incident in 2018 that my parents learned about this field through the news. They asked me, 'are you doing EDA?' I replied, 'Yes, I've been doing it for 15 years.'" Lin Junxiong, founder, chairman and CEO of Silxin, opened his interview in this way.

In this exclusive interview, Lin Junxiong talks about the development of the EDA industry, an industry known as the "mother of chips" and a small market, which was once oversearched because of sanctions, but now people still know little about it. He pointed out that with technological advances, especially driven by 5G, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud technology, the importance of the EDA industry is expanding rapidly.

Lin also highlighted the impact of technological advances on EDA tools, especially the increase in chip design complexity in emerging areas such as AI, HPC, automotive electronics and Chiplets. Sierxin (S2C), as a domestic leader in the field of EDA, has been deeply cultivated in this field for nearly 20 years. Although the domestic EDA industry started relatively late, it has developed rapidly in recent years with the support of national policy and capital. In 2020, Sierxin occupies a leading position in the Chinese prototype verification market and ranks second in the global market. In the face of the upcoming 20th anniversary, Sierxin is setting new goals, showing the potential and future development direction of China's EDA industry.

This detailed article deeply discusses the growth process of the domestic EDA industry, including its difficult start, the temptation of foreign mergers and acquisitions, the strategy to deal with international competition, and the planning for the next 20 years, etc., covering most of the hot spots and topics related to EDA today, and it is also a microcosm of the growth history of domestic EDA.

Another point is very interesting, since talking about domestic EDA, it is inevitable to talk about the international big three (Synopsys, Cadence, Siemens EDA). In the course of this exclusive interview, Lin Junxiong was also asked whether Sierxin would be like Sanmen. his answer not only reflected his confidence in Sierxin's future, but also revealed the company's attitude and strategy in the face of international competition.

The picture shows Lin Junxiong, founder, chairman and CEO of Silxin.

Break the situation-- from the point tool to the whole process

With the rapid increase in the complexity of digital chip design in the past few decades, chip verification is faced with great financial and time challenges. Early developers want to verify whether the design of the chip is in line with the expected goals, only to wait for long simulation results or streaming results, whether it is a second simulation or a failure, which means a huge time cost and money cost. In the face of increasing cost and market pressure, EDA verification tools are becoming more and more important in order to reduce the cost of taping and shorten the development cycle.

As developers can piece together an effective process with programmable logic chips (FPGA) to verify the design, prototype verification solution arises at the historic moment, which is cheaper than streaming and faster than simulation, and has become the best choice for developers to verify the effectiveness of the design.

Sierxin, which was founded in Shanghai in 2004, has been focusing on the field of verification until 2018, and is the first company in the industry to develop prototype verification tools. " Lin Junxiong, founder, chairman and CEO of Shanghai Sierxin Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Sierxin") recalled, "although prototype verification has become the mainstream method of complex chip design verification, the first generation of Sierxin prototype verification system encountered a blow. At that time, the domestic chip market was still a market that needed to be nurtured, and there was a certain disconnection between our cognition and our customers. Therefore, the first generation of products were not recognized by customers and the market, and only 2 sets were sold in the end. The 'failure' of the first generation of products burned out the company's angel round of funds, so I had to raise money again with my partners to add a second round of investment to the company. At the same time, in the process of developing the second generation products, we learned from the sales experience of the first generation products, visited customers one by one, to understand the real needs of customers, and finally launched a market-recognized prototype verification system in 2006. Later, with the acquisition of Synplicity in 2008 and the launch of HAPS-60 in 2010, prototype verification quickly became mainstream, and Silcore's customer base continued to accumulate. "

Lin Junxiong said that the core pupil prototype verification system, as the earliest digital EDA tool launched by Sierxin, has nearly 20 years of technology accumulation, and has been used by more than 600 global chip design companies, with customers in China, the United States, Japan and other places, including Intel, Samsung, Sony, Ruiyu, Black Sesame Intelligence, Kaixin Institute and other well-known enterprises, which are mature products that have been verified and recognized by the market.

As early as 2020, Sierxin, which focuses on doing a good job of digital chip front-end verification tools, its prototype verification program already accounted for 8.88% of the global market share, ranking second in the world. However, EDA tools is a software cluster composed of "multi-tools". Although many local EDA enterprises have made breakthroughs in some tools, more technology accumulation is needed on the complete available full-process tool chain, which can not be completed in a short time.

Sierxin, originally incubated in the Shanghai Integrated Circuit Technology and Industry Promotion Center (ICC), has opened a new chapter in the research and development of domestic EDA since it was acquired by Guowei Group in 2018. Jointly undertaken the major national project on the whole process of digital EDA, and successfully concluded the project in 2020. Sierxin then completed two rounds of financing totaling hundreds of millions of yuan in 2019 and 2020. After this series of actions, Sierxin increased its R & D investment, followed by a new EDA project in Shanghai, followed by a substantial increase in industry influence and sales business, and made great breakthroughs and progress in EDA R & D technology.

During this period, Sierxin ushered in the golden window for the take-off of domestic EDA, on the basis of vigorously investing in technology research and development, aggregating existing EDA resources, focusing on "specialization, refinement and strength", absorbing and introducing talent and technology, through endogenous growth and extension mergers and acquisitions, supplemented by industry-university-research cooperation, step by step towards the goal of the whole process of digital chip design EDA platform.

Courage-- the temptation of three mergers and acquisitions

The stars have changed in the past 20 years, which seems to be in the twinkling of an eye, but it is often possible to "ride the long wind and break thousands of miles of waves". If you stop one step, you will "slacken your efforts to get back to thousand fathom." Without the courage of "sitting on the bench for ten years", Sierxin has to cross the barrier of EDA tools and become one of the few domestic "digital EDA full-process platform enterprises". The goal will eventually be reduced to exaggeration.

Looking back on the most impressive thing about starting a business over the past 20 years, Lin Junxiong laughs that it should be the lack of interest in the early EDA field, and even his parents don't know what he is doing. "it wasn't until the ZTE incident in 2018 that my parents learned about this field through the news. They asked me, 'are you doing EDA?' I replied, 'Yeah, I've been doing it for 15 years.'"

From the unknown to the concern of the whole people, we can see the importance of the semiconductor industry to China. For example, in the field of EDA, we not only need to face the market competition and export control of international giants, but also need to face many shortcomings of technology accumulation, talent reserve and ecological deficiency. However, in recent years, domestic EDA manufacturers have sprung up like bamboo shoots after a spring rain to meet the challenges under the trend of strong support of policy and capital, cooperation of industrial chain partners, and continuous breakthroughs of industry talents.

However, because the development and support of the industry ecological environment lags behind, the domestic EDA industry is still in the early stage of development, and the whole process digital tool chain is unlikely to be realized by a single company. for most domestic enterprises, what can be done is to make a breakthrough in point tools, which leads to the current situation of a large number of EDA start-up enterprises and scattered competition. " If we learn from the development history of international EDA giants, M & An integration is the only successful way. " Lin Junxiong pointed out.

Fortunately, the active primary market of EDA in recent years has provided fertile ground for the development of China's EDA industry, which not only reflects the high attention of domestic EDA tools, but also creates an opportunity window for the integration and linkage of local EDA enterprises.

In fact, Sierxin had received three M & A proposals from large companies before it was acquired by Guowei. Lin Junxiong pointed out that the goal of most EDA startups is to be acquired by the international big three, and so is Sierxin. "We have received offers from the Big three three times, but we have all turned them down." Lin Junxiong added, "the contact with Guowei is completely different. The two sides share common views and enthusiasm for the future and vision of domestic EDA. This feeling and sense of responsibility for domestic EDA prompted the two sides to quickly reach cooperation."

In Lin Junxiong's view, a good ecology requires not only good policies, a good investment environment, sufficient talent, and reasonable returns for entrepreneurs, investors, R & D personnel, and employees, but also leading enterprises that integrate the EDA platform to create higher value through acquisition and integration.

According to him, when Guowei acquired Silxin, the company's valuation was not high. "Sierxin is like the crystallization of our whole team's painstaking efforts, money can be made slowly, but we can watch it grow day by day and move forward step by step, and our investment can be recognized by customers and the industry is the greatest achievement." "if we had succumbed to the temptation of other large companies to buy, there would not have been Sierxin now," he said. Sierxin was able to stick to its original ambition for 20 years, and it is a very important choice to insist on being a domestic EDA. It is proud that our team has persevered. "

Thinking about the realization path of the current domestic digital whole process, there are no more than several means: first, self-research. It enables enterprises to have complete control over the core technology, but it is a long process, ranging from research and development to landing to customer approval, just like the path of Silcore prototype verification products. Second, mergers and acquisitions. By looking for suitable enterprises for M & An integration, we can quickly build capacity, but this will also bring certain risks, because domestic enterprises are usually not mature and lack of long-term customer verification. Third, ecology. This involves working with partners in technology development and business operations to achieve a complementary and complete process by creating ecologically integrated tools.

In these respects, Silxin became one of the first "pathfinders". On December 26, 2022, Sierxin announced the acquisition of National Microcrystal Rui (Shenzhen Guomijing Rui Technology Co., Ltd.) and launched an enterprise-class hardware simulation system: core Shending OmniArk. And has carried on the core technology integration. At the same time, through self-research, Sierxin launched a new multi-language hybrid, high-performance commercial digital simulator: core Shenchi PegaSim.

On November 10, 2023, on ICCAD 2023, for thousands of upstream and downstream enterprises and people in the EDA industry, Sierxin, a well-known digital EDA supplier in the industry, officially released a self-developed digital circuit debugging software for chip engineers: core Shin Claryti. At the summit forum in the same period, Sierxin stressed its cooperation with a number of well-known companies around the world. Through close cooperation with chip designers and IP suppliers, Sierxin is committed to jointly promote the win-win and coordinated development of the industrial chain and build a new generation of win-win EDA ecology.

So far, Sierxin has comprehensively laid out all kinds of digital EDA tools, including software simulation, hardware simulation, prototype verification, digital debugging, and EDA cloud, by strengthening core technologies and external mergers and acquisitions. In addition, the ecological layout of Sierxin provides another path for the vigorous development of domestic EDA.

Thinking-- how to break through the domestic EDA

With the rapid development of China's chip design industry, the domestic EDA market is also growing steadily. Statistics show that the size of China's EDA / IP market was 5.15 billion yuan in 2015, but rapidly increased to 10.34 billion yuan in 2021, doubling; further growing to about 11.5 billion yuan in 2022, and is expected to reach 22.188 billion yuan in 2026.

Relying on the east wind of policy and market, Sierxin has achieved remarkable results over the past two decades: providing more than 600 global customers with comprehensive, mature, stable and reliable chip design verification solutions, including six of the top ten semiconductor companies in the world and seven of the top ten integrated circuit design companies in China. It has successively won the titles of Shanghai "specialized Special New" Enterprise, Shanghai hard Nuclear Technology Enterprise TOP100, National "specialized Special New" Little Giant, and participated in the formulation of China's EDA standard.

"looking back at the first decade of Sierxin's development, the domestic chip design industry is still in its early stage of development, with generally small enterprises and limited investment in EDA tools, so more than 70% of Silcore's customers come from overseas. Between 2013 and 2018, domestic customers gradually increased, and after 2018 there has been explosive growth, accounting for more than 70% of domestic revenue for three consecutive years." Lin Junxiong recalled, "the rise of domestic EDA industries such as Sierxin is closely related to the rise of China's chip design industry. At the same time, the challenges and opportunities brought by the rise of AI, RISC-V, Chiplet, and cloud technology to the semiconductor industry have made it necessary for EDA technology to innovate and change to meet new design and implementation needs."

Lin Junxiong pointed out that although the current domestic EDA tools are beginning to blossom, they do not yet have the digital full-process design capability. at present, more than 75% of the domestic EDA market is still occupied by the European and American giants, and they have been developing for half a century, and the scale of annual R & D investment is larger than that of all domestic EDA enterprises combined. Over the years, a large number of R & D investment makes it ahead of domestic EDA enterprises in product line richness and channel diversity, and it is challenging for the latter to achieve great performance breakthroughs in the existing point tools, while chip fields, markets, emerging technologies emerge in endlessly, emerging structures, standards, requirements and ideas continue to promote industry progress, which is a new opportunity for domestic EDA manufacturers to compete with international manufacturers on the same stage.

The first is the recent hot new application fields such as AI, RISC-V, Chiplet and so on. Faced with these challenges, EDA manufacturers are basically at the same starting line. Domestic manufacturers naturally have the advantage of being close to downstream customers, can hit the pain point directly, and launch EDA tools that are more in line with the domestic application ecology according to their needs.

The second is the brand-new market. Since 2019, due to the geopolitical influence, the sanctions on China's high-tech enterprises have been continuously strengthened, and the technology export control to some domestic high-tech enterprises has been improved several times, especially in the field of integrated circuits and EDA tools. The EDA tools of customers in some areas are limited, which opens up a new market space for domestic EDA enterprises.

Finally, there is a whole new technology. At present, the application of AI puts forward higher requirements for chip computing power and on-chip hardware and software cooperation. This needs to achieve the best performance through the optimization of system architecture, the combination of software and hardware, and the optimization of deposit architecture. Sierxin self-developed EDA tools to optimize specifically for the field of AI, through system-level architecture exploration and verification, to assist chip design verification work to move to the left, speed up product time to market (TTM). At the same time, the development of AI technology, especially machine learning (ML) and large language models, has greatly improved the efficiency of EDA tools. Sixin's EDA tool also uses machine learning methods in multiple environments, making it more efficient for verification engineers to deal with large amounts of data and more intelligently to assist users in verification and debugging tasks.

Lin Junxiong profoundly pointed out that due to the promotion of domestic terminal demand, the product iteration speed of domestic chip design customers is significantly faster than that of foreign countries. In order to meet the needs of these rapid iterations, EDA tools not only need a lot of local human and technical resources, but more importantly, they can actually help customers solve problems. He further explained, "in this process, there will be a lot of targeted tools and service requirements. These new requirements will be part of the product iteration, and these opportunities should be seized to make domestic tools more competitive."

Vision-the next 20 years

In the face of new opportunities and challenges, Sierxin is creating greater value for customers through the predictive layout of new technologies and the provision of innovative solutions in the current ever-changing semiconductor ecology. The company continues to optimize application innovation, software and hardware interaction and system engineering to promote the value transformation of the whole ecology.

For example, software simulation, hardware simulation and prototype verification are common options for design and verification teams in chip design, while Silcore puts forward the concept of "heterogeneous verification". Under the advanced technology, heterogeneous computing architecture is gradually becoming the mainstream of design chips. Different computing units have different architecture designs and different processing methods for information flow, which need to use different verification methodologies according to their characteristics. In order to shorten the marketing cycle of the chip, choose different simulation verification tools in different design stages, and improve the verification efficiency, it has become the consensus of the major chip design companies, and used in various chip fields. At present, the heterogeneous verification methods built by Sierxin support a variety of different forms of design in system modeling (core craftsman), software simulation (core god), hardware simulation (core god tripod), prototype verification (core god pupil) can be collaborative simulation and cross-verification to ensure that the correct chip is designed.

At present, with its mature experience and market position in the field of prototype verification, Sierxin's related applications have sprung up everywhere in its broad customer base, and its tentacles have been extended to today's hot fields such as RISC-V and Chiplet. For example, Sierxin carried out deep cooperation with Beijing Open Source Chip Research Institute earlier, and accelerated the technical evolution and application of "Xiangshan" through Sierxin's core pupil prototype verification system. In the field of Chiplet, Sierxin can use its architecture design software, the core craftsman, to build a complex heterogeneous Chiplet system architecture model. Based on the core computing model (MoC), it can build a variety of components needed for the Chiplet system, such as Chiplet interconnection protocol (UCIE), computing unit, memory, digital analog module, physical connection model and so on. Through the core craftsman, users can carry out Chiplet system modeling, analysis, optimization, as well as design space exploration and performance evaluation to achieve the optimization of Chiplet system design.

While developing its technology and business, Sierxin has been committed to the construction of the ecosystem and actively established close ties with a number of ecological partners. This strategic layout enables Silcore to effectively deal with the challenges brought by hot technology areas such as RISC-V and Chiplet. By working with leading companies and institutions in the industry, Silcore plays a key role in promoting technological innovation and the development of the industry as a whole.

"both RISC-V and Chiplet have great potential, but the ecosystems in these areas still need to be further improved, especially to solve the problems of system fragmentation and imperfect standards, as well as the front and back-end integration of different EDA tools to promote a new EDA tool chain, as well as new upstream and downstream ecological combinations such as IP, design, and back-end encapsulation, giving birth to a new business model." Lin Junxiong said. In addition, Sierxin is also promoting the progress of digital EDA technology in the fields of automotive electronic functional safety and EDA cloud.

Lin Junxiong stressed the importance of establishing EDA ecology, he said: "the way to break the situation of domestic EDA requires enterprises to adhere to collaborative innovation, exchange of needed goods, in order to create a win-win situation and build a new ecology of the chip design industry. We are a good embodiment and a good start in the cooperation with National Microcore (Shenzhen National Microcore Technology Co., Ltd.)." National microchip is a small number of domestic EDA manufacturers focusing on digital back-end and manufacturing end, and has launched a total of five series of 19 EDA tools. In this cooperation mode, Sierxin's digital front-end tool chain is combined with China Microchip's digital back-end tool chain to provide a more efficient front-end iterative process through data exchange and functional complementarity between tools.

At a time when he is about to usher in the milestone of the 20th anniversary, Lin Junxiong has conceived a blueprint for the next 20 years for Sierxin, the "invisible" domestic king of EDA.

First, it is essential to continue to deepen existing EDA tools and businesses. Through the layout of new technologies and forward-looking exploration, the whole process of domestic digital EDA, which is more convenient, more efficient and more in line with the local market, is brought around application innovation, software-hardware interaction and system engineering, so as to create greater value for customers and bring new growth points for the company.

Want to make a breakthrough, but also to do a living ecosystem, to build a benign EDA industrial ecology, so that enterprises have a good cooperation mechanism, a more open platform to lead, through healthy competition among peers, industry-university-research cooperation and development. On the one hand, the changes in the past decade show that China has made remarkable progress in the field of EDA, from relying on the introduction of foreign technology to the gradual training of domestic talents. On the other hand, the focus now is on establishing an EDA ecosystem with Chinese characteristics, which can not only promote the development of local technology, but also enhance the competitiveness of domestic enterprises in the global market. Finally, explore more partners in this benign development of the EDA ecosystem, and become bigger and stronger through high-quality M & An integration.

"in the 20 years of Sierxin's development, in the first ten years we laid the groundwork, and in the second ten years we worked hard and grew." Lin Junxiong said firmly, "in the next 20 years, with the ups and downs of the EDA industry, we should keep our eyes open. We will stick to our original ambition and continue to forge ahead towards the goal of becoming the world's leading EDA company. Like-minded people are not far away from the mountains and seas. Sierxin's team is in the year of fighting, and we also believe that we can pool the strength of our ecological partners to create win-win results."

It is the right time for the long wind to pass through the pass. We'll see.

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