DAC Theme #3 - “Increasing Clouds Over SF Bay”

Clouds over San FranciscoIt was easy to spot the big theme’s at DAC this year. This was the “Year of ESL” (again). The state of the economy and the future of EDA was a constant backdrop. Analog design was finally more than just Cadence Virtuoso. And social media challenged traditional media.

It was harder to spot the themes that were not front and center, that were not spotlighted by the industry beacons, that were not reported by press or bloggers. Still, there were important developments if you  looked in the right places and noticed what was changing. At least one of those themes came across to me loud and clear. This was the year that the clouds started forming over EDA.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I’m not talking about the weather or some metaphor for the health of the EDA industry. You know I am talking about cloud computing, which moved from crazy idea of deluded bloggers to solidly in the early adopter category. Though this technology is still “left of chasm”, many companies were talking about sticking their toes in the waters of cloud computing and some even had specific plans to jump in. Of note:

  • Univa UD - Offering a “hybrid cloud” approach to combine on premise hardware and public cloud resources. Many view this as the first step into the cloud since it is incremental to existing on premise hardware.
  • Imera Systems - Offering a product called EDA Remote Debug that enables an EDA company to place a debug version of their software on a customer’s site in order to debug a tool issue. This reduces the need to send an AE on site or to have the customer package up a testcase.
  • R Systems - A spinoff from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (best known for Telnet and Mosaic), they were wandering the floor pitching their own high performance computing resources (that they steadfastly insisted were “not a cloud”) available remotely or brought to your site to increase your computing capacity.
  • Cadence - One of the first (after PDTi) to have an official Hosted Design Solutions offering, they host their software and your data in a secure datacenter and are looking at the cloud as well for the future.

And then there’s Xuropa.

Before I cover Xuropa, I need to take a brief digression. You see, July 27th was not just the first day of DAC. It was also my first official day working for Xuropa as one of my clients. I’ll be doing social media consulting (blogging, tweeting, other online social community stuff) and also helping their customers get their tools on the Xuropa platform. This is very exciting for me, something I’ll blog about specifically on the Xuropa Blog and also here. In the meantime, under full disclosure, you’ve now been told. You can factor in the appropriate amount of skepticism to what I have to say about cloud computing, hosted design, Software-as-a-Service and Xuropa.

  • Xuropa - Offering to EDA companies and IP providers the ability to create secure online labs in the cloud for current and prospective customers to test drive a tool, do tool training, etc. They also have plans to make the tools available for “real work”.

These companies and technologies are very exciting on their own. Still, the cloud computing market is very new and there is a lot of churn so it is very difficult to know what will survive or become the standard. Perhaps something not even on this list will emerge.

Even though the technology side is cloudy (pun intended), the factors driving companies to consider using the cloud are very clear. They all seem to come down to one economic requirement. Doing more with less. Whenever I speak to people about cloud computing (and I do that a lot) they always seem to “get it” when I speak in terms of doing more with less. Here are some examples:

  • I spoke to an IT person from a large fabless semiconductor company that is looking at cloud computing as a way to access more IT resources with less of an on premise hardware datacenter.
  • Cadence told me that their Hosted Design Solutions are specifically targeted at smaller companies that want to be able to access a complete EDA design environment (hardware, software, IT resources) without making any long-term commitment to the infrastructure.
  • EDA and IP companies of all sizes are looking to reduce the cost of customer support while providing more immediate and accessible service.
  • EDA and IP companies are looking to go global (e.g. US companies into Europe and Asia) without hiring a full on sales and support team.
  • Everyone is trying to reduce their travel budgets.

Naysayers point out that we’ve seen this trend before. EDA companies tried to put their tools in datacenters. There were Application Service Providers trying to sell Software-as-a-Service. These attempts failed or the companies moved into other offerings. And so they ask (rightly) “what is different now?”

There is certainly a lot of new technology (as you see above) that help to make this all more secure and convenient than it was in the past. We live in a time of cheap computing and storage and ubiquitous internet access which makes this all so much more affordable and accessible than before. And huge low cost commodity hardware data centers like those at Amazon and Google never existed before now. But just because all this technology exists so that it can be done, doesn’t mean it will be done.

What is different is the economic imperative to do more with less. That is why this will happen. If cloud computing did not exist, we’d have to invent it.

harry the ASIC guy

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8 Responses to “DAC Theme #3 - “Increasing Clouds Over SF Bay””

  1. SKMurphy » DAC 2009 Blog Coverage Roundup Says:

    […] Harry Gries on “DAC Theme #3: Increasing Clouds over SF Bay“ […]

  2. Sean Murphy Says:

    I think the early cloud usage models will be “hybrid” once we move beyond folks running open source or FPGA tools (tied to a particular silicon vendor).

    One offering you don’t mention that I think may be important in motivating the adoption of hybrid cloud computing models is the workload analyzer by Runtime Design http://www.rtda.com/ (which Univa is also reselling). It allows a design team to replay the same workload over different grid/cloud configurations (license mix, hardware mix) and get an idea of the difference in completion times. Andrea Casotto presented a 26,000 job visualization at the Project Health Birds of a Feather at DAC (see http://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2009/08/07/managing-project-health-birds-of-a-feather-at-dac-2009/ ) which was quite interesting. I think we will need tools that allow us to visualize the complex meshes that “design flows” have become, and simulate them, in order to appreciate some of the advantages that a hybrid model (one that mixes a local grid with some jobs dispatched to cloud machines on the Internet) offers for a specific project or problem set.

    I think Imera’s debugger represents a possible of “half-SaaS” (TM) option emerging for EDA. It gives an on premises software vendor many of the advantages of Saas (in particular more visibility into customer problems and perhaps usage) without having to convince the customer to fully embrace SaaS. I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, but cite it as another example of a hybrid model where the meaning of “on premises” is extended to included aspects of a SaaS offering. On the “data” side I think the IP vendors will be offering similar hybrid models for shared configuration and realtime support.

    I had a chance to meet one of the folks from R-Systems at a Conversation Central event facilitated by Rick Jamison. His sales pitch seemed to be “I am from the future and things work better there.” I asked him what the source of their profits was if it didn’t come out of the software supplier (e.g. Cadence, Synopsys) or the hardware supplier (e.g. Sun) pocket. It wasn’t clear what their real business was or the nature of their competitive advantage for a firm that was already running a compute farm/grid/cloud in-house and/or leveraging Amazon AWS or Rackspace’s Mosso.

    As to Xuropa you identify a number of trends that support the need for a remote demonstration capability but how their offer is meaningfully differentiated–and it’s attendant ROI–are not clear from reading their material. I don’t expect you to include a sales pitch for them but there are a number of alternatives for delivering a remote demo. I would also note that not every tool evaluation necessarily needs a remote hands-on phase prior to doing an on-site evaluation. I am not saying that Xuropa won’t find a niche among Demos-On-Demand, YouTube, Webex, VNC, Flashlight-VNC, GoToMeeting, Oridus EDACruiser, … that are all already in use in EDA. But the status quo is not a plane flight but a complex set of alternative technologies and services.

    Congratulations on the gig and kudos for your candor.

  3. harry Says:

    Sean,

    You are talking about individual technologies that certainly have merit (YouTube, WebEx, etc.) and find their place.

    At the risk of this sounding like a “sales pitch”, by contrast, Xuropa is trying to create an overall experience customized for EDA tool access. This includes the ability to view demos, and also work independently or colaboratively, and also have the connection be secure, and support EDA licensing, and enable customers to interact with eachother in a community sense. Not all those pieces are there yet and not to the level desired, but that is the goal and I think how Xuropa is different.

    Have you used a Xuropa lab? I’d be interested in your feedback once you go through the process. Let me know if you are interested and I can make sure we grant you access?

    Same goes for others who are interested.

    Harry

  4. Sean Murphy Says:

    When Xuropa first came out I took a hard look. Let’s leave it at “reasonable men may differ.” My current EDA clients all have web front ends so they can make access available over the web.

  5. Gary Dare Says:

    I think that Xuropa provides an opportunity for interaction between YouTube, which is not secure, and Webex et al. - which is personal interaction (recorded sessions? Revert back to YouTube but controlled). One important factor to consider with Xuropa ‘labs’ is that they can be run at any time, from any time zone. Juggling time zones between meeting attendees is a fine art. A demand-driven rather than supply-driven model works better in a globalized environment.

    While EDA firms (all firms, actually) are trying to reduce travel, there are other hazards when you have to travel - loss of laptop computers, and any data aboard including and beyond the actual software; and scanning of laptops and other devices by authorities who end up with sensitive data on their hands. Law firms have taken to sending staff on the road with clean laptops, reloading images at the destination, uploading current state and then clearing prior to departure.

  6. Gaurav Jalan Says:

    I used Xuropa to check out the demo sessions and labs for a couple of Cadence products. I find it interesting since you can try out the evaluation/demo yourself and play around with the product at your convenience. Apart from the travel and others cost reduction advantages, Xuropa provides a platform for the engineer to interact with the products much faster by avoiding the whole process of permissions and installations in an organization before getting hands on experience. This becomes all the more important for teams working in different time zones.

    Harry, …. waiting for your Xuropa specifc posts :)

    GJ

  7. SKMurphy » Quotes for Entrepreneurs - August 2009 Says:

    […] “I am from the future and things work better there: abandon your ignorance and embrace what’s coming.” Unfortunately typical startup pitch, observation triggered by a DAC pitch from a vendor. […]

  8. Jeremy Ralph Says:

    Xuropa offers a key benefit for tool evaluation — no software to download & install (and re-install) for the user. Plus, the vendor does not have to re-architect the application for SaaS, which is difficult and beyond the typical EDA developer’s core competency. At PDTi we are lucky to have a web-application architecture for the http://spectareg.com register management tool. If we had a traditional EDA tool architecture, we would definitely consider using Xuropa for customer evaluations. We have found that having http://SpectaReg.com register management tool online for evaluation is really really useful as it moves the sales cycle along much faster.

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