Posts Tagged ‘eDACard’

set_max_area 0

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I stopped by a lunchtime presentation yesterday given by the local Synopsys AC. He was updating my client on what was new in Design Compiler and other tools when he put up a slide that said something like this:

set_max_area 0 (now default setting)

For those who don’t know what this means, it tells the synthesis engine to try to make the design area as small as possible, which is obviously a desirable goal. Why would anyone ever want to set their area goal higher? If you’ve used Design Compiler before, you know that this has been somewhat of a running joke, a command that was in each and every synthesis script every written, as follows:

set_max_area 0

So it got me thinking. Were there any other artifacts of a bygone EDA era that were still were hanging around, like a running joke, that had served their purpose and needed to be put to rest. Of course there were, or I would not be writing this post. Here are 3:

1) Perpetual licenses. As Paul McClellan points out on his excellent EDA Graffiti blog, in the early days of EDA “the business model was the same business model as most hardware was sold: you bought the hardware, digitizers, screens and so on… And you paid an annual maintenance contract for them to keep it all running which was about 15-20% of the hardware cost per year.” EDA companies loved perpetual licenses for 2 reasons.

  1. They got to recognize all the revenue for the purchase at the time of the sale, so they were able to show better numbers on the books quicker.
  2. Once you “bought” the software, you only paid a small fee each year for maintenance. If you wanted to switch to another competitor’s tool, you’d need to pay that up-front perpetual license cost again, which was a real disincentive to switch. Basically, they could lock you in.

Even though most EDA companies have gone to a subscription license model, some still predominantly license software as perpetual. With the advent of short term licensing like Cadence’s eDaCard and Synopsys’ e-licensing, the perpetual model is as outdated as Sarah Palin.

2) Large direct sales teams. I need to be really careful here, because I worked in various customer facing roles at Synopsys for almost 15 years and I still have several friends who work in direct sales at various EDA companies. Many of them are very skilled and I don’t want to cause them to lose their jobs. But the fact is that all of us rely on “the Web” to get information on all things, including EDA tools, much more than we rely on salespeople. I’m part of the older generation (although I don’t feel or act that way), but the newer generation of customers views the internet in all its forms (static web pages, social networks, blogs, podcasts, twitter) like the air that they breath. They can’t live without it. And if you think they are going to want to have to schedule a visit from a “salesperson” to get access to a tool they are interested in, then you don’t have a clue about what these people expect. They expect to go to a web page, log in (maybe), and be off and running. And if your tool ain’t accessible that way, sorry, they’re not interested. Of course, that sounds shortsighted, but that’s they way it is and will be, like it or not.

This does not mean that some direct sales has no use or value. After all, a company is writing the check, not an individual with a credit card. And sophisticated customers will still (for now) want to install software and use it, so they will still need support. So there will still be a need for some direct sales and support, but much of the early stages of the sales process will move to the Web.

3)  Closed tool suites and solutions. As I stated in a previous post, most EDA companies seek to fence customers in rather than provide streams to nourish them. With all due regards to folks like Karen Bartleson and Dennis Brophy who have unselfishly worked to promote standards, we fall far short of the goals of the Cad Framework Initiative, which sought to enable true plug-n-play interoperability between EDA tools. It’s definitely getting better, due mostly to customer pressure. But we still have a long way to go before we have truly standard standards that enable collaboration between EDA suppliers. So, if you’re an EDA company, get with the standards.

That’s just 3. I’m sure there’s more. Let me know if you come up with others:

harry the ASIC guy

Upon Further Review and W.W.S.D

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

At the end of last Sunday’s Chargers-Bronco’s game, Referee Ed Hochuli blew a call that cost the San Diego Charger’s the football game.  Here’s a somewhat comical look at what happened:

Probably not so comical if you’re a Charger’s fan :-(

Well, last week I got a chance to do some more “research” into the Cadence announcement of a SaaS offering. Although I got the substance of the call correct, in haste I also got one important detail incorrect.  (As, Mark Twain once said, “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Today, a lie can travel around the world several hundred times while you put on your shoes).

I had inferred from the use of the term “Software-as-a-Service“, that the Hosted Design offering would include a “pay per use … pay as you go” or similar on-demand licensing model. Upon further review … this is not the case.  Here are some of the things I found out:

  1. No on-demand licensing, no eDACard … only monthly granularity for licensing. If you want to scale the size of the hosted environment, several weeks lead time may be needed to obtain and configure the additional CPUs unless they are otherwise available.
  2. The “flows” that are offered are the Cadence reference flows (e.g. Low-Power Design Flow), not a production flow that Cadence may or may not be developing.
  3. Cadence says that it can host any third party EDA software … just license it to Cadence’s hostid.

Despite some limitations, this is still a big step. Small companies can now obtain the necessary hardware, software, and IT support to do chip design at a lower initial cost than building their own infrastructure. The VCs should like that.

But there are some limitations.  First, although the Cadence VCAD chamber provides security, it lacks the instant scalability and on-demand pricing that cloud computing would provide. Second, although reference flows are provided, it lacks a real production design environment that designers can just pick up and use.  Third, despite Cadence’s assurances that they will allow other EDA tools to be hosted, competitive tools likely will be discouraged since the ultimate objective is to further lock customers into an all Cadence tool flow.

So, the question now is … What Will Synopsys Do (W.W.S.D)?

Before that, we have to ask What “Has” Synopsys Done?  You see, Synopsys tried and then abandoned a similar idea about 7 years ago. At the time, companies were not “comfortable with the idea that their computers and data were in a remote building operated by a third party”.  But they are now (at least more than before).  At that time, Synopsys had no production design environment available to offer. They do now.

Synopsys could probably go one better and offer a superior solution if it wanted to, combining their DesignSphere infrastructure and Pilot Design Environment.  If fact, they have done this for select customers already, but not as a standard offering. There is some legwork that they’d need to do, but the real barrier is Synopsys itself. They’ve got to decide to go after this market and put together a standard offering like Cadence has.

And while they are at it, if they host it on a secure cloud to make it universally accessible and scalable, and if they offer on-demand licensing, and if they make it truly open by allowing third party tools to plug into their flow, they can own the high ground in the upcoming revolution.

What do you think?

harry the ASIC guy

Birth of an EDA Revolution

Friday, September 5th, 2008

I can’t sleep at night.

This Idea has been bouncing around in my head for the past few months. I can’t shake it. If you know me, then you’ve probably heard me talk about the Idea or ask your opinion about the Idea or whether I’m crazy. I’ve been itching to blog about this Idea, but haven’t been able to figure out the right way to approach it.

Then, the other day, Ron Ploof gave me a way to approach the Idea in my blog. Please read Ron’s post on the Birth of a New Media Revolution first before continuing. It’s damn good, you’ll get something out of it, and it gives context to this post.

OK … done? Good.

Ron’s main point is that a revolution can’t happen until all the enabling pieces are in place. New media required easy-to-use publishing tools, simple syndication (i.e. media distribution), and low-cost bandwidth.  Once those were in place, new media hit the tipping point.

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb today with a prediction:

The pieces are coming together for a revolution in EDA. Like most revolutions, it is starting small, hardly noticed by the big guys on the block. In the next 5 years, it will change our industry forever by leveling the playing field, allowing smaller EDA companies to compete with larger ones, giving customers greater flexibility on how and when they access tools and which vendor’s tools they use.

It’s going to happen.  And just as with new media, there are three barriers that will need to come down before we hit that tipping point.  They are:

  1. The high cost of sales, marketing, and support.
  2. Licensing models that lock-in customers.
  3. Lack of comprehensive standards for tool interoperability.

If you’ve been staring at the EDA horizon like I have, you’ve already seen that all of these barriers are starting to come down:

  1. A week ago, a company called Xuropa launched an online tradeshow platform that could greatly reduce the cost of sales for EDA companies and enable greater access to designers to evaluate tools.
  2. For several years now, Cadence has provided access to short-term licenses through their eDACard model and Synopsys will introduce a similar offering before the end of the year. Cadence also provides a service through their consulting organization called “hosted VCAD” whereby customers can access software and hardware on a Software-as-a-Service basis. How long before the other vendors follow?
  3. As Karen Bartleson noted on her blog yesterday, the EDA industry has moved into an “Age of Responsiveness” with regards to tool interoperability where tools are expected to be open and inclusive.  As witnessed in the latest OVM / VMM standards war, open standards are required as the price of admission and “woe be to those” that do not heed this call.

I’m a realist. This EDA revolution is just beginning and will take some time.  It won’t happen without a fight from those who stand to lose out. But I believe that the revolution is inexorable.  And the sooner the EDA companies learn to swim with the tide, the better off they will be after the revolution.

There’s a lot more that I need to say before I can sleep at night, but too much for one post.  Stay tuned.

harry the ASIC guy