Several companies have tried to move EDA into the cloud, and for very good reasons. EDA tools are expensive and smaller companies may feel that they do not get enough utilization from a tool to make the buy price worth it. They require small amounts of tool usage during certain parts of their flow and the rest of the time, it sits there idle even though they continue to pay maintenance on it. Larger companies also have problems although somewhat different. At peak times they may like to have many more licenses available, but cannot justify it based on average utilization rates. The cloud promises to make any number of copies of an EDA tool available on an as-needed basis. The demand is there, but there has always been that large bogey – the security of the design. Companies do not like that they have to upload their design onto a server, that is who-knows-where, and unclear how well the security is set up. We hear almost daily about data being stolen from one company or another, and many of these are large companies, who presumably take their security somewhat seriously. There are probable many more cases of data theft that go unreported or even undetected.
OneSpin believes they have the solution. They are not trying to create ultra-secure computing environments; in fact they are using Amazon hosting services for their cloud venture. Instead they have created a rather unique client-server architecture. This is also where some of the unique aspects of formal verification come in. Formal splits the problem up into a number of small pieces. Each of these can be worked on individually and the results brought together for display or debug by the user.
It is also rare that a formal problem will work on the complete design at any time. So, a user downloads the client application onto their machine. This is free. It does a number of checks on the design to make sure everything is formal friendly. This may actually uncover problems in the design without even getting into the stuff you have to pay for.
Now, when the tool has carved out a formal problem to be solved, it extracts the pieces of the design necessary and uses an internal mapping table to obfuscate the design. Raik Brinkman, CEO of OneSpin says there is no way to reconstruct the design from each of the individual pieces. In addition, a mathematical abstraction of the design is made before the snippet is encrypted and sent off to the cloud to be worked on by a formal solver. On the cloud, the abstract, obfuscated design fragment is worked on and when the results are ready, they are again encrypted before being sent back to your local machine.
So, the design never leaves the building and debugging is done locally. In the past couple of years there has been a trend for formal tools to become modular and simplified so that they can be adopted a lot easier than they could in the past. If you have thought about giving formal a try, this may be the opportunity to do it for free. That is because OneSpin is making this new service available for free for the next three months (some restrictions and Amazon fees apply).Brian Bailey
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