ANAHEIM, CA Cloud computing for EDA work may still be in the clouds but in three to five years it will occupy up to 20 percent of design transactions between major EDA vendors and their customers.
That conclusion was reached at the Design Automation Conference here where the tone for cloud computing was set by IBM's vice president of innovation. In his Wednesday June 16 keynote Bernie Meyerson predicted that in 5 to 10 years time it will be the dominant medium used by chip designers, "due to IT spending growing at unstainable rates."
"There has been an accelerating and seemingly insatiable need for IT resources, driven by the emergence of the ‘Internet of Things’," said Meyerson. This is forcing even the EDA world to explore emerging compute paradigms, such as cloud computing.
A panel discussion on the subject pegged the SaaS (software as a service) model from the computer enterprise space encroaching on the design automation community for relegating certain portions of their designs to remote server farms.
In effect, IC design is coming full circle from the days when designs used mainframes to calculate design parameters and lay out chips accordingly, to now where large amount of servers eat up individual companies electricty billsan unsustainble scenario. The next step is to bring the designs out to remote IT server farms and share server farms with others, as in the mainframe era, but now used remotely.
Raul Camposano, formerly of Synopsys and now a consultant, said cloud computing is driven by the cost-effective on-demand availability of large, scalable amounts of computing resources. "The cloud has become an established paradigm for many enterprise and consumer applications. However, in IC design its success is still limited."
John Chilton, senior vice president Marketing/Strategic Development at Synopsys, said "it is clear that the EDA industry must determine how to take best advantage of the benefits that this resource may present."
Chilton said that Synopsys views cloud computing as a way to manage and control their total cost of design, in an environment where complexity is growing relentlessly and budgets are being scrutinized and reduced. "Access to instantly and elastically
available compute resources is key to solving this challenge, and like all optimization problems, carefully and thoroughly defining the cost functions will be crucial," said Chilton.
Rean Griffith, professor at University at California, Berkeley, said certain classes of applications become more compelling in the cloud: "Parallel batch processing jobs can benefit from the computing cost. For instance, it costs the same to use 1 machine for 1000 hours as it does to use 1000 machines for 1 hour, and the result can be obtained much faster."
Deepak Singh, business development manager at Amazon.com touted the company's Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an infrastructure web services platform in the cloud since 2006. "Synopsys and other EDA vendors are using AWS for providing training on its tools," said Singh. "With AWS you can rapidly provision storage and computing on-demand via web services APIs, paying only for the resources you consume."
James Colgan, founder and CEO of Xuropa, Inc. has enticed both Synopsys and Cadence to use the Xuropa plaform for cloud computing. "We just signed on Synopsys and have a couple more prospects."
Colgan strongly believes that cloud computing is the future of IC design: "We are on a technology adoption curve and migration is slow and projects are constrained." In building out the Xuropa platform Colgan realized that for IC design to transition to cloud computing the expected environment had to have "zero IT overhead, have license agreements remain the same and provide efficient and secure data transfer."
"The business case is compelling and a migration to this technology is inevitable", said Colgin.
"The success of the cloud is unquestionable for Web-compatible applications and at first glance seems like the perfect solution to apply to electronic design," said Samuel George, director of system-chip design for Cadence's Design Services.
There are plenty of challenges such as availability, performace and pricing but George belives that "if companies are willing to make tradeoffs, they can take advantage of the cloud." Cadence launched its own SaaS offering in 2008 for semiconductor design. The service scales from a few designers in a single location to multiple large design teams distributed globally.
Paul Leventis, director, Design Automation at Altera, sees two major challenges. One is security and legal complexity of placing Altera, 3rd party and foundry IP in compute farms not located on premises. "Another challenge is licensing", said Leventis. "Even if the big EDA companies provided cloud-computing friendly licensing, these would presumably be priced such that our total EDA spend would not be reduced, or might even increase.
"Despite these challenges, I will be surprised if we are not leveraging the cloud within a few years," said Leventis.