EDA has experimented with different types of hosted application services since the dot-com days. Cadence's recent announcement that it plans to offer some tools through the hosted application model suggests that once again EDA is approaching the world of hosted software.
Cadence is no stranger to the world of hosted software and indeed could even be called a pioneer of sorts. Back in the days of the nascent world-wide web, EDA companies were testing different ways to approach new business models that would allow them to deploy software as a hosted service. The majority of these attempts however were difficult to implement partly because of bandwidth issues and partly because of security concerns. For those who remember companies like Toolwire and DevelopOnline, these vendors entered the market, believing that they could be successful in EDA design by primarily addressing PCB and FPGA design. Success they felt was sure because of the new approach and cost benefits they could bring in through this new deployment model. The market however was not quite as accepting of the new model and these efforts gradually sank into the background where they lived on mostly as research projects.
However this is 2008 and hosted applications have been around in the desktop application world long enough to have established operations and business models that appear to work. Hosted applications are now seen as part of the phrase du jour — cloud computing. With heavyweights like Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Sun all in the cloud computing market, EDA companies can once again look at deployment models and business models and see if the leap can be made to offer hosted services to the mainstream.
After all, with IC CAD tools and RTL tools running ASPs of many thousands of dollars and the concept of fractional licenses (buying months or weeks of an emulation license rather than a year or two at a time) well established, it seems appropriate that EDA companies should look into this business model as well.
At this point it's good to step back and take a more detailed look at the current world of cloud computing and associated services. Cloud computing is essentially a package of services that is available to a user over the internet on demand. The services can be low-level such as offering only certain infrastructure and storage services or high-level such as offering an infrastructure, middleware and application software, all through the cloud.
Cloud computing therefore can be divided up into several broad functional groups including: 1) storage as a service 2) infrastructure as a service 3) platform as a service 4) software as a service and models that blend various aspects of these services.
As can be expected, companies have focused on offering services most closely aligned with their core competencies. So while a storage device manufacturer sees opportunity in applying cloud computing to its storage business and selling storage in data centers to clients, a company like Amazon offers some storage but also some low-level infrastructure services as well. While it is true that the number of software applications offered as a service is still in the minority compared with desktop-based tools, slowly but surely more and more types of software applications are going online. As proponents will point out, the internet today offers greater bandwidth than ever before. However, in the meantime, the scale of EDA design has increased tremendously. EDA users who choose to subscribe to the software-as-a-service model need to ask lots of questions.
EDA must become a partner to customers
EDA is not well; where is it heading?
Watch out for Green EDA
EDA outlook for 2008
This article appeared in EE Times India, a sister publication to EE Times Europe.