OneSpin’s Cloud vision: Knock, knock, knocking at heaven’s door
October 2nd, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena
If heaven is in the Cloud, OneSpin is knocking at the door, because last week the company announced its Cloud Computing System moved from beta to full-on availability on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace. There it “provides secure and fully automated solutions for advanced formal verification, offering the functionality provided by OneSpin 360 DV-Inspect and 360 DV-Verify.”
This news is interesting if you think it’s a rarity for an EDA company to brag on their Cloud capability, the received wisdom being that neither EDA vendors nor EDA customers want to conduct their technical business outside of their own firewall. Given the less-than-remarkable traction that Cloud-based anything has had in the EDA/IP ecosystem, it was great to have a chance to speak to OneSpin’s Dave Kelf this week regarding his company’s news.
I asked Kelf why the Cloud’s been slow to catch on in the industry. He said, “Basically, the Cloud has been tried by a whole bunch of EDA companies with varying degrees of success. Even when I was at Cadence, we played with the Cloud but didn’t get anywhere at all. The reason is that most companies are concerned about their IP and don’t want to let it out of their office. They’re nervous about putting it out on the Cloud.
“So about a year ago, OneSpin looked at the situation. Specifically, we looked at the security issues and [compared them] with the real value of using the Cloud. We found that in our case, we were able to solve the security problems because of the way formal verification works.
“As you know, there’s a front end to these formal tools, front-end tools that sit on the client’s local machines and take in the design for the verification process. These break the design into small mathematical proof problems – a whole bunch of them within the scope of every project – with the result being that you can’t really see the design, because it’s been boiled down to a set of mathematical abstractions. Even OneSpin is unable recreate the design from that info.
“We concluded that if the tools are already working like that, we could send those abstractions off into the Cloud. Why not create a tool where the design is broken down and then the mathematical problems are sent off to the Cloud for formal verification? It’s the formal verification that takes all of the machine power, so by doing this the Cloud becomes the place where all of the hard work is done.”
Would it be possible to expand this thinking to other parts of the design flow?
Kelf said, “Actually, it’s hard to duplicate [the process] with simulation or some of the other tools in the flow, although place-and-route could possibly be done this way. Ultimately, however, we’re optimistic that we’ll see the whole flow on the Cloud. Certainly for now, doing formal verification on the Cloud could start the thing snowballing in the right direction. As a result of OneSpin’s announcement, we think people will see the benefits of working in the Cloud that they can’t get from owning a large local bank of machines. ”
I asked if all industries are as conservative about moving their processes to the Cloud?
Kelf said, “No, not all industries are as concerned. Biotech, for instance has not had the problems that the electronics industry has had in moving to the Cloud.
“Why? I’m not sure, to be honest. But my guess is that electronics companies are very savvy. No disrespect intended for biotech – they’re savvy too – but their mindset is such that they don’t worry so much about security, where as the electronics companies possibly know too much. They know that computer code can be broken and they worry about that, because they can see the possibility for flaws in the software.”
Kind of like aeronautical engineers not wanting to fly on the airplanes that they design?
Kelf laughed, “That’s a great analogy and is exactly the issue. That, plus if we want to be a bit cynical about EDA – the Cloud will provide a pay-per-use business model. If the tools are moved to the Cloud, the customers will be able to purchase use by the hour, which would be tricky for many EDA vendors.
“Most electronics companies would actually rather buy by the hour, because it’s always difficult to predict how much time they will need with the tools. Typically, in the middle of the design process they go out and buy enough access to verification tools to cover [their predicted needs], but in general they end up buying too much and the tools sit idle a part of the time. Moving to the Cloud would solve that.
“If EDA moves to the Cloud, however, the EDA vendors will have to learn to set a price point that allows for that [change]. Companies like Cadence and Synopsys have an issue in trying to figure out the price point, but OneSpin is already able to do it. Frankly, pricing is still not the biggest issue in all of this, however, it’s security.”
Kelf continued, “Nonetheless, there several additional advantages to the Cloud. The big electronics companies already have big EDA infrastructures and big machines in-house. The smaller electronics companies trying to access EDA tools may not want to make that huge capital investment, so they can make use of the Cloud.
“Also, the thing that’s nice about formal verification, relative to what I mentioned earlier, is that the whole algorithm can be parallelized. A company who uses OneSpin tools on Amazon can say, ‘We would rather rent time on a 100 machines running concurrently for one hour, rather than use 1 machine for 100 hours.’”
I asked if the Cloud is, therefore, not as attractive to companies who own a lot of compute firepower in-house?
Kelf said, “Perhaps, but in general they will still have the problem of idle machines. Using Amazon [for design] means those machines can be used for many other things. There’s a much higher efficiency by [doing parts of the design] in the Cloud even for big companies, important cost savings from making the problem concurrent.”
If this is really about optimization, an area of expertise in the EDA industry, then why doesn’t everyone see the advantages of the Cloud, I asked.
Kelf said, “OneSpin has figured it out, so probably the bigger EDA companies will figure it out quickly. Synopsys did do a lot of work in the Cloud a couple of year ago, so I’m sure they’re figuring it out, as is Cadence. But again, they are having problems with the business model.”
Kelf ended by highlighting a final advantage to working in the Cloud: “If you can sell IP from one company to another, you use formal verification and put assertions in the IP. It’s worth the cost of making those assertions because the IP going to reused a lot.
“However, if you have IP with assertions and you sell it to another company that doesn’t use formal verification, that company has to buy the tools. But with the tools in the Cloud, an IP company can say to their customers, ‘Look – we’ll provide the IP and you can use the Cloud just for formal verification.
“The same thing is true for verification consultants who might want to have access to tools for a particular client. They can use the tools in the Cloud, and then turn them off. It’s like having the power of verification on demand, and could actually turn the EDA industry on its head.”
Kelf laughed, “At least, that’s the grand vision. And you know I like to set the bar high, I like to aim as high as possible!”
Yeah, OneSpin’s Cloud vision is definitely knock, knock, knocking at heaven’s door.
Per the Press Release …
OneSpin’s Cloud Computing System is available now, with no upfront investment required to use the tools. They are available on a pay-per-use basis in AWS Marketplace, with prices starting at $25 per hour for running the 360 DV Inspect functionality in the Cloud.
Dave Kelf is Marketing Director at OneSpin. Previously, he was President and CEO of Sigmatix. He worked in sales and marketing at Cadence Design Systems, and was responsible for the Verilog and VHDL verification product line. As Vice President of Marketing at Co-Design Automation and then Synopsys, Kelf oversaw the successful introduction and growth of the SystemVerilog language, before running marketing for Novas Software, which became Springsoft (now Synopsys). Kelf holds a MS in Microelectronics and an MBA from Boston University.
Tags: Cloud Computing System, Dave Kelf, OneSpin