InFormal Chat


The organic growth of Formal verification

I recently returned from a very exciting Asia trip where I took the opportunity to visit some of our customers. While I made the mistake of combining too many cities in too few days and had to deal with a stubborn Typhoon that did not respect my aggressive travel plan; I noticed a significant change in customers’ behavior over previous trips.

Twilight shot with the Shanghai skyline along the Huangpu river, China

In the past, when I or my team members would visit customers in Asia, we would put our “evangelists” hat on and try to “preach” the value and benefits of Formal verification (metaphorically speaking).  We would discuss concepts, methodology and success stories: how to find bugs early, or how to find corner-case bugs, or how to reduce verification time using Formal Apps.

While the general interest level has always been high, we would have to do some hard convincing for managers to invest their precious time in Formal verification. With the exception of a few customers, most would politely thank us, go away for a few months, and make no progress until the next visit when the pitch was repeated.

This time around, however, the overall climate was quite different.

I did not have to do a single pitch! Instead customers wanted to pitch me and show me their success with Formal verification, the number of bugs they had found, the new innovative Formal applications they had discovered, and the growing number of users that were coming on board. The discussion moved on from basic value/methodology to more advanced topics, like how to be more productive, how to do Formal signoff, and the best way to bring dozens of new users onboard. Managers were no longer asking me to show them the value, instead they were sharing their concerns for how to deploy Formal on additional blocks across more groups with their limited resources.

Without generalizing too much, I believe many companies in Asia have moved past the inflection point and are on their way to rapid expansion of Formal verification. Indeed, Asia is following the same organic growth structure that Europe and North America went through years ago. The process is slow, but it’s also a robust and sustainable expansion process. The list below details the important steps in this process:

  1. Customers hear about Formal verification successes, applications and case studies through conferences, meetings, EDA vendors, etc.
  2. A champion who is eager, enthusiastic and willing to take a risk emerges from each company
  3. The champion starts to learn the ropes, concepts, tools, Apps, etc.
  4. The champion starts to show value: finds bugs, reduces bring-up time, reproduces a silicon failure, etc.
  5. Management starts to take notice and invests more time into Formal verification
  6. Management notices that ROI on Formal verification is quite attractive (more bugs are found, more quickly, tougher bugs, etc.) and invests more
  7. Formal verification becomes a main stream verification methodology at the company

The reason why I call this organic growth is because it is very hard for a company to inorganically (from outside) acquire the talent, methodologies and flows to achieve Formal verification success. The number of “Formal verification experts” in the world is probably a few hundreds and in Asia region maybe a dozen or two. Thus acquiring the talent by hiring is quite challenging. So Asia, like other regions continues the slow and steady but robust organic growth as more companies follow the proven path of achieving success with Formal verification.