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Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson is vice president of Marketing for Breker Verification Systems. He previously served as Product Management Group Director for Advanced Verification Solutions at Cadence, Technical Marketing Director in the Verification Group at Synopsys and Vice President of Applications Engineering at … More »

Is the Forecast Cloudy Yet for EDA?

 
June 24th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

It has been almost exactly two years since we discussed the possibility of EDA tools in the cloud here on The Breker Trekker. The post was popular then, and it remains so. In fact, of the more than 100 posts we’ve published, our cloud post remains the second most read. This week, the recent news that IBM will make its EDA tools available in the cloud through a partnership with SiCAD brought cloud computing back to the forefront. Let’s discuss what has changed–and what hasn’t–in the past two years.

The idea of users being able to run EDA tools as leased enterprise software on remote machines has been around for years, well before the term “the cloud” was widely used. Synopsys invested a great deal of time and effort into its DesignSphere infrastructure, initially more of a grid application than a cloud solution as we use the term today. But the difference is not very important; the key concepts are the same and they represent a major departure from the time-tested model of customers “owning” EDA tools and running them in-house.

Barriers to adoption of the cloud model have been far greater than most participants and observers anticipated. Two years ago, Synopsys CEO Aart de Geus was quoted as saying of the cloud that they “had made $0 on it.” Last year, IBM’s Leon Stok wrote an article that, among other things, admitted that EDA had “not taken off in the cloud” but predicted it must “embrace cloud computing” not just to save IT costs, but also to increase development productivity. So it’s interesting to see IBM taking a lead role now.

What are the barriers to cloud adoption for EDA? We see at least five that have proven significant. The first applies to the EDA vendor: the effort in doing a port to the cloud. This might entail a new operating system or new infrastructure. It may not be a big project, but it takes some effort and the vendor will want quick compensation for it in the form of cloud-based sales.

GUI portability and performance can be a bigger issue. Most EDA tools are not Web-based, so connecting their GUIs to remote users with acceptable interactive performance may be a challenge of concern to both vendors and customers. Another shared concern is the ability to support customers. Let’s be honest: most EDA tools are not very intuitive and require more intensive applications support than most types of enterprise software.

Both vendors and customers also worry about the new cloud-based business model. If the project team can use a tool only a few times on the cloud rather than leasing it for a six-month term, they will request a lower price. Yet the cost of development and support remains for the EDA vendor, and so a new balancing act must be completed with very different parameters than the traditional cost models. There are not enough published reports on actual EDA usage in the cloud to know exactly what the new business model is, let alone whether it works.

The final user concern is security of their system-on-chip (SoC) design and verification data in the cloud. We noted two years ago that this was the biggest barrier to adoption, and it may well still be the case today. IBM notes that it is already a major cloud player, so EDA users may be more willing to trust data there than on “that bookseller’s cloud” or in a cloud provided by an EDA vendor. We shall see.

In our next post we will ponder why SoC development data is considered so precious, given that so many other aspects of the electronics business are already in the cloud. Until then, please comment below to share your thoughts on the prospects for EDA cloud computing. Your input is always appreciated!

Tom A.

The truth is out there … sometimes it’s in a blog.

P. S. Don’t foAmazon-gift-cardrget: you get the chance to win a $50 Amazon.com gift card just by filling out a survey listing ten TrekApps under consideration and letting us know which ones are of most interest to you. The deadline is midnight Pacific time on June 30. Thanks!

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