Embarking on our 21st Year in IP
Last week CAST hit a rare milestone in the IP industry: October 29th marked our 20th anniversary as a company.
CAST started with a group of engineers determined to find value for customers out of the remnants of Racal-Redac’s venture into EDA and acquisition of HHB Systems. We focused on providing VHDL simulation models at first, but quickly responded to changing needs and stepped up to providing “synthesizable models.” These then evolved to become the IP cores so popular today.
As customers adopted the reusable design methodology, CAST met the challenge for more IP by augmenting internal development efforts with partnerships among experts designing processors, image and video compression, interfaces, and other IP. This approach has served us very well, as scores of other firms doing IP on their own have sprung up and faded away over the past two decades. Today CAST can count some 1900 IP sales to almost 800 customers.
Following (and continued on our blog) are two articles that reflect on this unique company and its future. First I write about the business side, then Nikos Zervas discusses products.
You can also see some kind comments from IP industry observers in the sidebar, and review our long history through the Archives on our website.
An IP Business that Works
— Hal Barbour, CEO, +1 201.391.8300 ext. 111
I joined CAST in 1999 through a merger with my EDA data management start-up Lineage Systems. We all knew each other well from working together at HHB Systems, and shared a common vision of delivering great value to customers, seeking enduring relationships rather than quick deals, loving leading-edge technology, and generally enjoying what we’re doing.
Shaded by our experiences in a global corporation and aware of how many tech firms fail following the classical business school approach to growth, we were determined to avoid outside investment and to grow CAST in a bootstrap fashion. The resulting frugality lead to three factors that remain key to CAST’s success today:
- building a flexible, low-overhead infrastructure;
- adopting an up-front, fixed-cost model for IP licensing; and
- embracing a networked partnership approach to development and sales.
As designers began to understand then demand the advantages of IP-based design, we quickly realized we couldn’t adequately provide everything they needed by developing it all ourselves.
We found that smart, educated people all over the planet were forming groups around IP development with unique ideas and great knowledge of specific application areas, but without access to potential customers. By connecting with the best of these groups, we developed a unique global business model that leveraged a diverse set of creative energies under the unifying and trustworthy CAST business umbrella.
Our commitment to keeping operating expenses low in order to make our products more affordable for customers led us to focus resources more on development, sales, and support and less on fancy offices and other overhead, and to outsource non-mission-critical services (e.g., read Cultivating a Company in Cyberspace). We quickly found big advantages to this approach: employees were more productive and better aligned with our primary objectives, and workspace flexibility meant we could better support customers in time zones all around the world.
Our hands-on experiences with early IP adopters also made clear how many were leery of IP becoming a big lifetime expense. This led us to offer fixed-price, up-front IP licensing rather than charging royalties, devising, refining, and still using today a simple, project-based IP licensing model. We also joined and participated in industry initiatives for better IP licensing and quality, from partner programs at Altera, Xilinx, and others to industry initiatives like the Virtual Socket Alliance (VSIA) and its Quality IP (QIP) effort.
We continue with this model today, excited to work with some of the best IP experts in the world, and proud to deliver to a large and growing customer base the high-quality, easy-to-use, cost-effective IP that helps them produce class-beating electronic products.
An Exciting IP Evolution and Future Roadmap
— Nikos Zervas, COO, +1 201.391-8300 ext. 223
From our early years in the 1990’s, CAST’s methodology for delivering high-quality, high-value reusable IP to customers has been unique, and—as our survival record suggests—uniquely effective.
Being among the first to develop IP and working directly with the diverse engineering teams and product types of early IP adopters gave us a great appreciation for exactly what designers need in a reusable IP package. Coupling this experience with the brilliant IP design work from the best application area experts across the globe let us deliver ready-to-use IP products with very high standards for quality and utility as well as technical robustness. We backed these products up with fanatical customer support, providing technical guidance both pre-sales to help designers choose the best IP for their needs and post-sales to help them succeed in using it.
Early on we developed a reputation for 8051 leadership that persists today, providing the smallest, fastest, easiest-to-configure 8051 IP available. These products helped the venerable 8-bit microcontroller have a long useful lifetime that still continues, and our efforts to offer the best-available 8051 cores continue. Watch for upcoming growth here that makes the 8051s we offer the smartest choices for a number of modern applications including many Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
As customers’ needs grew beyond 8-bit MCUs, we applied the successful 8051 paradigm of complete, royalty-free, highly competitive packages to the area of 32-bit processors.
Partnering with Beyond Semiconductor, we have brought to market embedded processor IP that challenges (or beats) the market leader and other vendors in performance, code density, and power efficiency. These royalty-free BA2x Family processor cores are coupled with an ecosystem of software tools and peripherals, and we’re well into the challenge of growing this family from embedded system solutions to full application and SoC processors.
The huge demand for mobile and other video devices means much exciting product growth today involves coupling processors with graphics-specific functions. We are now rolling out graphics accelerators, display controllers, and graphics processor units (GPUs) to meet this demand via a partnership with Think Silicon. See our initial announcements last week, and watch for more coming up.
In parallel with MPUs, CPUs, and GPUs, we offer a broad family of highly-competitive Image and Video Compression cores that began with JPEG and JPEG 2000 then also encompassed MPEG2 and H.264.
Based on partner Trilinear Logic’s decades of experience, our own development efforts, and especially the twelve-year partnership with Alma Technologies, these cores can address the compression requirements of almost any camera-enabled application, from surveillance to high-end professional cameras, and from smartphones to broadcasting equipment. With an eye on evolving technologies like H.265, and 4K- and 8K-video and an appreciation that turnkey subsystems and configurable platforms are increasingly necessary, we’re committed to expanding this portfolio of compression and compression-companion cores—from video preprocessing to networking hardware stacks—and to delivering technological expertise and services to our customers.
please read the full article on our blog >>>
CAST is increasingly the smart choice when it comes to processor and compression cores, subsystems, and platform IP, and we challenge you to experience it.
In this Issue:
• 21st Year
• IP Business that Works
• IP Evolution
• New Graphics Cores
• Current Products
Comments from Industry Observers
“I’ve known and been impressed with Hal Barbour, Newton Abdalla, and the folks at CAST since we worked together in my previous life in EDA. As an analyst following EDA and IP, I’ve been impressed with the great company they’ve built and grown over the past twenty years, thriving in a market that’s seen many larger firms come and go and continuing to deliver the products and services that customers really need.”
John Barr, Portfolio Manager at Needham Funds
“We want to congratulate CAST for achieving a milestone that few independent IP providers reach. We have greatly benefited from their support of Xilinx initiatives and our mutual customers since becoming a charter member of our AllianceCORE IP program back in 1997. We look forward to many more years of successful collaboration.”
Mark Bowlby, Sr. Manager, Partnerships and Ecosystem Alliances, Xilinx, Inc.
“It’s great to see that my good friends at CAST are celebrating their 20th Anniversary.
Congratulations!!! CAST has been a leader in the IP world for a long time providing the highest quality products and support for their customers. It’s been a pleasure for SoC Solutions to be a partner for the past eight years. More importantly, it’s been a blast working (and playing) with Hal and his entire team. As the IP world is changing towards subsystems and more complete solutions, SoC Solutions is proud to be a part of CAST’s future. I look forward to many more years of our successful partnership. Here’s to 20 more good years.”
Jim Bruister, President, SoC Solutions LLC
“Congratula-tions to CAST on reaching its 20-year anniversary milestone. Like Altera, CAST is an IP pioneer, with quality products and strong support that helped fuel the reusable IP revolution that began in 1995. We look forward to continued collaboration as the IP market further evolves.”
Alex Grbic, Director of Software, IP and DSP Product Marketing at Altera Corporation
“CAST has shown that a focus on quality and solving customer problems never goes out of style. IPextreme congratulates CAST on 20 years of making a difference in the semiconductor IP market.”
Warren Savage, President & CEO, IP Extreme, Inc.
New Partnership & Graphics Products
We recently announced a new partnership with graphics IP experts Think Silicon. Products from this partnership will help answer systems designers’ needs for faster graphics processing, especially for mobile and Internet of Things applications.
The first two new products are shipping now.
The Think2.5D 2D/2.5D Graphics Accelerator Core is a rendering engine that accelerates a rich family of two-dimensional graphics functions (scaling, blending, drawing, and more) and pseudo-three-dimensional effects for graphical user interface (GUI) elements such as shadowed icons. Visit the Think2.5D datasheet page >>>
The ThinkLCD-ML Multilayer Display Controller Core is a sophisticated display processor that composes multi-layer graphics with alpha blending—such as video overlay—and supports all popular display connection interfaces. Visit the ThinkLCD-ML datasheet page >>>
Download a product list PDF: Letter size