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CSR’s Growth Propelled by Using the Right Tools

Solutions from Tanner EDA Sharpen CSR’s Edge

If anyone has a knack for proving naysayers wrong, it’s CSR. When industry observers told CSR executives that using CMOS processes for complex radio and Bluetooth chips – which rely on a precise integration between analog, digital, radio and software systems – couldn’t be done, they gave it a whirl, and surprised everyone when they did it successfully.

Likewise, when the same critics waved off the notion of designing the chips on cost-effective PC-enabled platforms as opposed to the expensive, standalone EDA tools commonly used by engineers, CSR plunged in and did it anyway.

“We always try to do the impossible,” said Paul Egan, physical design group leader. “We like busting industry myths and finding ways to break away from the status quo.”

The secret to transforming the Cambridge, UK startup with no revenue in 1999 to $253.1 million in 2004 rests not only in its ability to execute against rapidly increasing demand. It also requires a back-end solution that allows the company to integrate essential components on a single chip while providing the flexibility to reconfigure designs as needed.

That’s where Tanner EDA (Pasadena, Calif.) enters the picture.

Finding the Solution

CSR knew that to gain a lead position in the single chip Bluetooth and next generation wireless system-on-chip race, it needed to have a way to cycle through design flows quickly and efficiently. The wireless phenomenon was on the cusp of taking off, and rolling out chips to handle the anticipated demand required speed on the engineering side.

Although CSR had venture capital funds in the bank, the company didn’t want to spend it all on design tools, which could easily run to hundreds of thousands of dollars. CSR turned to Tanner for support and began using several tools, including Tanner EDA’s L-Edit Pro product.

“The key was finding the appropriate tools for what we needed to do,” said Egan. “We were familiar with Tanner’s platforms and design flows. The biggest thing about the Tanner EDA applications was the flexibility the tools offered and their ability to run on a PC. In the startup days, we would work all day, go home, and because the system was on a PC, we could finish the work at home or while on the move.”

Having made the transition from a startup company to a global player Egan said “It surprises some people that we are still using Tanner. As our tool needs have grown and changed, Tanner’s Tools have kept pace and gone on to introduce new features that improve our productivity.”

Earning Customer Attention

Tanner’s speed and interoperability, in turn, have given CSR an edge in the area of customer design wins.

In November 2003, a cell phone manufacturer approached CSR and asked for chip samples in seven months. While CSR was already working on Enhanced Data Rate standards and had developed the necessary analog circuitry, it had to re-engineer certain blocks and integrate various systems on the chip. “With Tanner L-Edit Pro, CSR finished the samples in 14 weeks,” said Egan, adding that the CSR chips will be incorporated into the next-generation phone going into production later this year.

“Tanner was essential in those integration efforts,” Egan said, adding that “the concept-to-revenue turnaround for that project was less than 16 months, considerably faster than our competitors.”

The work on the cell phone sample opened up other doors for CSR, Egan noted. By reshaping some of the system blocks and the padring used in the cell phone product, CSR was able to take the same basic technology and make it available to PC makers. That project took less than eight weeks, he said.

“What helped us achieve those time-to-market goals was having a flexible tool that could quickly handle changes without being bulked down in too much technology,” Egan said. “In my opinion, Tanner made it happen for us.”

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