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FuturePlus SystemsApr 10, 2019 1:44:22 PM2 min read

Who won the Logic Analyzer Wars?


We learned recently that Tektronix has discontinued the last of its logic analyzer family. Sigh….Here at FuturePlus Systems we walked the careful balance between the two Whales, Tektronix and HP/Agilent/Keysight. Mostly siding with the later and only crossing over to the ‘dark side’ at the customer’s request. I remember vividly visiting the impressive Beaverton Tektronix campus, hat in hand touting our superior interposers and hardware skills looking for the elusive key to the Tektronix software development environment so we could sell into that market. Once we started down the Tektronix path we had to carefully dodge the wrath of our best friend Agilent. Like the old Girl Scout song I sang as a child “make new friends but keep the old….one is silver and the other gold”. Tektronix was Silver but Agilent was clearly Gold.

The wars started in the early 2000’s with one large vendor in particular pitting the two giants against each other. It was brutal with every little technical spec thrown back in our faces as the One Large Vendor led us into the ring to chew each other to death. As it turns out the One Large Vendor had made a costly mistake…..they never thought that if they pushed too hard one vendor would walk. As it turned out one of them did and the remaining Whale charged big and delivered what ever they wanted. The One Large Vendor was able to entice the other Whale back into service a few years later and the wars heated up again around 2010. Then the Logic Analyzer business began a slow and steady decline. The reasons were many, the advent of Protocol Analyzers, the advances of Simulation and the on-silicon analysis that was being added to many parts.

DDR Memory, was and still is, the last hurray for the venerable logic analyzer. The Tektronix TLA7BB4 cards were a thing of beauty. That 50GHz Magni-Vu…wow I was impressed. Turns out that the engineers at the One Large Vendor loved it too….they hung onto those old 7BB4 cards like a baby binky. They cried when they found out that for DDR4 the reads and writes were at different Voltage Thresholds and that the mighty 7BB4’s could not handle that. Luckily Agilent/Keysight could save the day for DDR4 users with the U4154A cards followed by an even better U4164A card. This was the beginning of the end for the Tektronix Logic Analyzer business. It wasn’t long before the exodus of talent from the Beaverton Logic Analyzer group began. We knew the end was near. At this point Agilent became Keysight and the DDR4 business turned in their and our direction.

Having lived through the wars I have to tip my hat to the hardware engineers at Tektronix. The hardware was great….the software, well not so much. The TLA Software was something that Agilent/Keysight tee’d off on and they clearly delivered a better user experience for both their Channel Partners and their customers.

So who won the Logic Analyzer wars? Keysight.