Above average growth for semiconductor industry in 2017: Dr. Wally Rhines

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It has always been a great pleasure chatting up with Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics. It has been a while since we discussed the global semiconductor industry in such detail, and therefore, the latest experience is even more memorable.

RhinesFirst, I asked Dr. Wally Rhines how is Mentor predicting the global semicon industry to perform in 2017?

He said that the growth of the semiconductor market has averaged anywhere between 3-5 percent throughout the 2000’s. In most recent years, since 2008/2009, IC units have grown consistently at a rate of 6-8 percent,, indicating continued demand for semiconductor technology.

ASPs have been drifting downward for a long time with only a handful of exceptions since 1995. The trend appears to be moderating in the last decade, but the downward pressure in pricing has pushed the overall revenue to 3-5 percent growth rate mentioned earlier.

For 2017, most industry research firms and analysts are expecting a relatively positive year (the average forecast across 10 semiconductor research firms is currently at 5.5 percent). Mentor Graphics expects that number to be very conservative due to changing dynamics in the semiconductor industry and how the market is actually measured.

Dr. Rhines said: “Within the last decade there has been an emergence of systems companies designing chips for internal consumption. Those chips are typically not measured at all, or are only partially measured if they are produced by a foundry company. We see the trend in several important areas like smartphone manufacturers.

“Apple and Samsung have been manufacturing their own application processors for some time. However, there is an ever increasing list of other market leaders following with their own designs.

“We are also seeing a number of companies involved with cloud services or other data center intensive companies designing chips for their internal consumption. Unless something unexpected occurs, 2017 should be a good year for the semiconductor industry with growth above average.”

Next, how has been the growth in EDA for 2016? How will the performance be in 2017? Where does Mentor come in all of this?

According to Dr. Rhines, EDA had a strong year in 2016 with total growth of about 9 percent overall, including SIP. Tools alone had growth of about 7.5 percent. Demand for tools continues to look strong for the industry as there remains a strong focus on the leading-edge driving the need for advanced design technology.

Moore’s law continues to drive the industry into smaller nodes as companies are preparing for 10nm, 7nm and 5nm nodes. Advanced nodes continue to drive EDA tool adoption in manufacturing and design.

Additionally, increased challenges and methodologies in functional verification drive technology adoption in enterprise verification including areas like emulation, which had a resurgence in 2016 after several flat years.

Dr. Rhines elaborated: “We are seeing increased activity in areas like ESL as well with ESL Synthesis having its best year ever. PCB design is also enjoying a resurgence in growth as designs become more complex and new design methodologies like System of Systems design begin to emerge.

“In 2016, Mentor Graphics reported an all-time record of $1.285 billion, an 8.6 percent growth or a full point higher than industry tool growth of 7.5 percent. The proposed merger with Siemens should bring additional resources to Mentor’s R&D and customer support capability so our fourth quarter results suggest that customers are pleased with the outlook.”

Part II of this interview appears in April where I will be discussing standardization of SoC verification flow, billion-gate design, power management, etc.

Thanks are due to Raghu Panicker, country sales director, and Veeresh Shetty,  marketing manager – Europe and India, Mentor Graphics.

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