in EDA - Time Again?"
SOFTWARE-AS-A-SERVICE IN EDA – TIME AGAIN?
- The EDA market is not a newcomer to the world of hosted applications and services. Back in the days of the nascent worldwide web, EDA companies were testing different business models that would allow them to reach more customers via the Internet. Companies like Toolwire and DevelopOnline entered the EDA market believing that they could be successful in EDA by offering design services over the Internet, essentially hosting the application for the design team. They felt success was a sure thing because of their novel approach and the potential cost benefits for clients with this new deployment model. The EDA market, however, was not quite as accepting of this new model – too many concerns about Internet security and limited bandwidth -- and these efforts gradually sank to the background.
- Flash forward to 2009. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have had some success with cloud computing, hosted application’s nearest relative. No doubt, successful business models are out there addressing more mainstream markets. Further, the EDA world has changed its licensing strategy before – when it shifted from one license per assigned user, to one license per any user, and finally to the concept of fractional licenses, that is buying weeks or months of software time instead of a year or two at a time.
Another Foray into Hosted Applications for EDA
- So, is the EDA world ready to delve into the world of hosted software again? From Cadence’s viewpoint, the EDA market has been ready for quite some time, and Cadence has been rolling out its Hosted Design Solutions to customers for well over one year now. Who’s deploying Cadence’s version of software-as-a-service (SaaS) for semiconductor design? The bigger industries for EDA (e.g., medical, consumer, and wireless), all major geographic regions, and smaller start ups as well as larger companies. In Cadence’s model, customers can subscribe its Hosted Design Solutions either by the project or by time frame. The solutions the customer requires (which could include logic design, functional verification, custom IC design, and others) are configured to fit the customer’s design flow, and the design is still wholly owned by the customer at the end of the day. Cadence cites cost savings as the primary driving factor for their Hosted Design Solutions customers – reduced administrative costs of setting up and maintaining EDA solutions at their own sites and faster start-up time since the software is pre-configured to fit the customer’s design flow. Other cost savings might stem from the scalability of the solution (where users only pay for licenses needed, though this model already exists in EDA) and potentially less hardware/network infrastructure.
- True, the potential for savings are there. And, previous concerns about using hosted services, namely Internet security and bandwidth concerns are no longer show stoppers. Further, increasingly more types of software applications are going online, providing a wealth of user and vendor experiences out there. But, the concern about giving away too much of the company’s intellectual property is still out there. After all, the user is opening up its design flows and methodologies to others outside the company.
- Concerns Still Abound for the EDA Users
- Our prognosis for SaaS and hosted solutions in EDA? It’s an approach that will work for some users, but not all. For those users that want to delve into it, several questions need to be posed to their SaaS vendor, including:
• Where will the design be stored? Will it be locally stored or at the vendor’s site?
• How is authorized/unauthorized access to the design handled?
• How often will tools be updated, and will users receive enough advance notice? This issue cannot be overlooked in EDA. If a design works with one version of a tool and compensates for known bugs in the tool, there is no certainty that it will work with an updated version of the same tool that has fixed the bugs.
• Does the hosting provider have enough bandwidth to support very large file sizes? This is especially important, as design files continue to get larger, with each semiconductor process node.
- Vendor Considerations
- For those vendors who want to delve into SaaS and hosted applications for EDA, consider the following:
• Don’t ignore bandwidth issues. As much as networks have increased their bandwidth capacity, the scale of EDA designs has increased tremendously. The average high end design averages 66 million gates, and these numbers will continue to climb with each new process node.
• Although the hosted services model is well understood and deployed in corporate IT environments, and the pay-per-use model already exists in EDA (particularly emulation), moving EDA applications to the SaaS environment may be a little more
challenging because of the complex nature of design engineering in general.
• The mindset in the EDA community is that design is a core competency, especially among power users. As a result, designers are reluctant to give up control of any part of their design environment. Indeed, designers gave up some control once EDA tool purchasing and deployment went to their IT departments, but this is taking it one (giant) step further, bringing it outside of the company completely. This will
undoubtedly be the biggest hurdle facing those vendors looking to play in the EDA SaaS arena.
• The mechanical design world has been one of the frontrunners for engineering-related hosted applications. The mechanical design world has used elements of SaaS and hosted design in combination with their collaborative design efforts that extend
through the supply chain to include suppliers, engineers, and customers. Both entrenched mechanical market leaders as well as smaller startups have had success in this area. It is worth a close look at the models being used in this realm.
EDA spending has been stagnant for a number of years now, especially among mainstream users.
- Companies are continuing to look for ways to reduce spending on tools, as well as deal with ever-present time-to-market pressures. Properly deployed, SaaS and hosted applications may find a foothold in certain segments of the EDA community.
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