SiSoft: Optimizing the State of the Art

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In the 20 years since its founding, SiSoft has been at the forefront of signal integrity analysis tool development. Now, the company is leading the way with a new technology called OptimEye and tools for creating accurate IBIS-AMI models. At DesignCon, I caught up with Todd Westerhoff, VP of semiconductor relations, and asked him to give us an update on the company’s newest technologies.


Andy Shaughnessy: Todd, for anybody who’s not familiar with SiSoft, why don't you give us a little bit of background about the company?

Todd Westerhoff: SiSoft has been focused on system-level signal integrity since 1995, providing both automated signal integrity tools and high-speed design consulting services. We started as a consulting company, using scripts to create an automated methodology to make ourselves more productive. Our customers noticed how quickly we were able to get complicated jobs done and began asking how we did it. It wasn’t long before our customers asked us to package those processes and sell them as commercial tools. One of the things that really sets SiSoft apart is that we continually prove our tools through real-world use on customer designs. We design and test everything from the high-speed designer’s point of view—how should our software work and what kind of output should it produce?

I know that sounds cliché, but it’s incredibly important. I’ve worked for a number of EDA companies. I have actually been using simulation tools since before the term “EDA” was coined, and I’ve repeatedly seen that most EDA companies do very little, if any, real work with their own tools. Think about that for a minute. Would you buy a car from a company where no one drove their own brand? Would you eat at a restaurant if none of the staff would eat there? Yet, that’s exactly what many customers do: buy EDA tools from companies that have almost no practical experience using those tools in real world situations. SiSoft has been built on the business model that I have always believed EDA companies should use: collaborating with leading-edge customers to develop and prove new capabilities on working projects before bringing those capabilities to market. We use our own software on complex real-world applications every day, because that's how you make products great. Anyone can come up with a canned demo that makes their software look good, but creating software that works well day-in and day-out on real world problems is another thing entirely.

Shaughnessy: You have a couple of new things you’re showing here at DesignCon. Why don't you tell us about what's new at SiSoft?

Westerhoff: We’re introducing a new technology called OptimEye that automatically co-optimizes transmitter and receiver settings in AMI simulations to maximize eye height. This lets users replace the hundreds or thousands of “blind sweep” simulations they use to figure out equalization settings today with a single OptimEye run.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the April 2015 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.


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