Cadence on CAE: delight and opportunity

Jun 24, 2021 | Hot Topics

Over the last few months, Cadence acquired NUMECA for its CFD and Omnis offerings, and Pointwise for its meshing capabilities. These took me by surprise since both are great CAE assets that I had no idea a Cadence would be interested in. So I’ve been digging into it and, in brief, Cadence is delighted with these purchases, is leaving them alone to succeed and grow, and plans to use its expanded CAE platform to grow in new verticals.

Cadence hasn’t been a company that I follow, so I tuned into Cadence’s user meeting, Cadence Live, earlier this month. There, company management showed these two slides to summarize their current multiphysics offerings:

(These are screencaps from Cadence keynotes, so apologies for poor quality. The top is from CEO Lip-Bu Tan’s presentation on June 8; the lower from Dr. Anuridh Devgan, President of Cadence, on June 9.)

Two things jump out: First, multiphysics. Cadence clearly has no interest in simply selling CFD to CFD users; it wants to strengthen its position in the complicated world of multiphysics, leveraging its historic and newly acquired tools. Second: workflows. In the top slide, you can see Cadence’s intent to create solutions that combine simulation and verification.

Throughout the keynotes, Cadence was talking to its core Electronic Design Automation (EDA) users, but showing them examples of what a bigger world could be. Take a look at this:

— the words are about chip and electronics design; the image is of a stylized fluid flow over a car. Intentionally or not, Cadence is urging people to think outside their typical silos.

On the company’s earnings call right after the acquisitions, we learned that Cadence plans to leverage its CAE portfolio and especially CFD for new markets. Dr. Devgan told investors that “we are excited about CFD .. [and] think combining Pointwise with NUMECA and our organic capability in parallel [alongside] distributed computing can give a very state-of-the-art solution for the CFD market … We are already in electromagnetics with Clarity and in thermal with Celsius and we want to make sure we do well in CFD.”

Dr. Devgan also said that “maybe one-fourth of [our EDA business] is simulation-based, like circuit and logic simulations” –and here’s the important bit –“those simulation-based businesses are more profitable than overall EDA, like Spectre usually is more profitable than place and route, for example. So I expect a similar trend to happen in System Analysis.”

So NUMECA and Pointwise clearly matter in the overall context of Cadence, but what about longtime users (or others) who aren’t in the EDA world? What will they see?

I also sat in on their sessions at Cadence Live and, as far as I could tell, nothing changed — except the good stuff that comes with being part of a bigger entity: more resources and greater reach. NUMECA released the latest version of Omnis earlier this week, and it’s got the usual 100+ enhancements. Pointwise also continues to roll, adding meshing capabilities and sophistication. In fact, in both sets of sessions, it was hard to tell that these were even part of Cadence (aside from the logo at the bottom of the slides). The examples were rarely electronic (mostly auto and aero), and I didn’t pick up on any integrations. But then, it’s early days — these deals closed in January and April.

Dr. Charles Hirsch, the founder of NUMECA and a CFD rock star, told his session’s attendees that the addition of mainstream CFD means that Cadence’s simulation capabilities are “extended towards the mechanical simulation world, with high-level offerings”, including the full list of Cadence offerings from the slides above. He spoke about future directions for CFD, including things like uncertainty quantification and turbulence — my takeaway: Cadence intends to invest in continuing to grow these specific, acquired offerings, while also integrating them with the overall analysis portfolio. Dr. Hirsch remains at Cadence as a (the?) CFD Fellow.

One last thing, and it may be silly but it’s also charming: during his Cadence Live keynote, Dr. Devgan talked about the NUMECA and Pointwise acquisitions, standing in front of the middle image above. Then he asked the crew to roll a video — it was of an American’s Cup yacht that had used Fine/Marine (NUMECA’s CFD) in designing the hull. Dr. Devgan was clearly delighted to have such a sexy example to show — there is something thrilling about a racing hull, after all.

Cadence is already a CAE vendor to be reckoned with. Its vision is to build out a multiphysics platform that extends from its core EDA base outwards, to new verticals like marine, but also to new capabilities such as system-level design and simulation. Adding NUMECA and Pointwise to its prior CAE stable may be just the start — the company hasn’t ruled out more acquisitions.

All images are courtesy of Cadence.