Altium’s latest acquisition pushes PCB CAD to a new plane.
On Sept. 16, Altium (altium.com) announced plans to acquire Morfik Technology, a provider of cloud-based software applications, in an all-stock transaction worth an estimated AU$3.3 million. (The deal is pending due diligence.) The move is groundbreaking in that it reveals the full extent of the EDA company’s commitment to developing so-called cloud-based computing, whereby resources, including software, are shared on demand via the Web, vs. stored on millions of discrete company-specific servers.
PCD&F’s Mike Buetow spoke with Altium associate director of corporate communications Alan Smith the day of the announcement.
PCDF: How many employees does Morfik have?
AS: Twelve total, nine of whom are software developers.
PCDF: When is the deal scheduled to close?
AS: We expect this to be in the next few weeks, but we can’t be precise because of the due diligence that forms part of the process. Having said that, we are also accelerating the acquisition by bringing the Morfik development team into Altium’s offices to work with the Altium team on the development of the ecosystem infrastructure that we now plan to build into our software.
PCDF: Will it be accretive to revenues within the next fiscal year?
AS: No, there’s no significant impact on Altium’s revenues.
PCDF: What specifically made Morfik so attractive to Altium?
AS: Altium has been working with Morfik for a number of years, so Morfik’s attraction, based on what it has done with the development of tools to create dynamic cloud-based ecosystems, is well understood. It has to do with Morfik’s software engineering approach to the creation of object-oriented connectivity to the Internet. The two key phrases here are dynamic and object-oriented. These are essential for managing large amounts of content, which is what you have in electronics design: content down to the scale of individual components.
PCDF: What are the top technical challenges behind moving electronics design to cloud-based architectures, and how does the Morfik acquisition help Altium overcome them?
AS: Two points: First, tactically, to help Altium establish its ecosystem today for subscription-based content delivery. Second, longer-term, Morfik is about developing cloud-based applications; these are the applications that will be the highest layer, running on the “sea of connected devices” in this ecosystem. If we are to deliver the tools and solution to help the designer move from device design to ecosystem design, then cloud-application development is a fundamental part of this solution.
PCDF: When it comes to cloud computing, Altium is on record as seeing Google as being superior to Microsoft. Will customers have to choose a platform based on one or the other, or will electronics design in the cloud be platform-independent?
AS: We don’t really know. Amazon (Amazon Web Services) is more significant than either Google or Microsoft because it provides a much broader industrial-scale infrastructure for cloud-based application that is provided as a utility service for organizations that want to provide these kinds of solutions.
PCDF: Would a cloud-based infrastructure force any change to the subscription model that most ECAD companies now rely on?
AS: Not specifically. Cloud-based (Internet-based) models allow a real-time connection between customers and suppliers, as well as between customers and customers. This creates the possibility of having a much stronger and timelier value exchange between these parties. In the future, they can move the basis of software subscriptions away from being primarily based on software upgrades (new features, etc.) to a much stronger focus on content that can be delivered over time. In electronics design this includes component models, designs, price and availability from part suppliers, as well as feature upgrades being delivered in a “plug-in” model.
PCDF: Would cloud-based electronics design help resolve the persistent library and documentation issues that today cost designers extraordinary amounts of time?
AS: An emphatic “yes.” Vastly improved data management is already a big focus of the next release of Altium Designer, in beta today, and cloud-based data exchange is a big part of this. Initial focus is on management of data between the board-design process, and the fabricators and assemblers of those boards, especially when the parties are in different regions and speak different languages.
Seeing clearly: Alan Smith