Former ARM executives at helm of analog IP startup

May 02, 2019 // By Peter Clarke
Agile Analog
Two former ARM executives are in the top jobs at stealthy analog IP company Agile Analog Ltd. (Cambridge, England).

Peter Hutton, a former executive vice president at ARM, is chairman. Tim Ramsdale, a former vice president of engineering and general manager of the imaging and vision business at ARM, is the CEO. However, even though the company was founded in August 2017, it is still saying very little about itself. A "de-cloaking" of the company is expected soon.

On a networking website for Cambridge, Agile Analog claims it to have design automation technology that will enable its engineers to design analog IP faster than the competition, to a higher quality, and on any silicon manufacturing process.

That brief statement does not say whether Agile Analog will be able to retarget different silicon manufacturing process easily, which would be a boon, or whether it will be able to address more exotic compound semiconductor manufacturing processes such as gallium-arsenide, silicon-carbide or gallium-nitride.

It is notable that "agile engineering" is a recognized approach to software development that is not yet often applied in hardware engineering. The "agile" approach favours fast delivery to the customer of working prototypes, together with rapid iteration and testing of multiple instantiations of the product. This contrasts to the more familiar project management approach that puts substantial requirements capture and set up phases up front followed by detailed design and concluding with test. The project only delivers at the end of the process and if it then requires an iteration this can be expensive in engineering time and missed market opportunities. Agile engineering is said to produce shorter development times and copes better with late changes in specification but it remains unclear as to whether this is where Agile Analog is adding value.

Agile Analog's interest in the analog sector makes sense. While ARM may be a testament to the power of digital IP, that is now a market where the barriers to entry are lower and the competition is higher (see ARM, MIPS, Imagination lose IP market share). And this is mainly due to increasingly sophisticated and abstract EDA and software development tools.

Next: Automating analog circuit design

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