Linux Lunges into the Limelight

“Meanwhile, don't underestimate the power of a Linux compute cluster for software that can use message passing or RPC. Linux clusters are not the same as compute farms, because a single program can run across all CPUs. Imagine an Itanium 2 Linux cluster with 1900 processors simulating 200 atoms in a protein molecule at femtosecond intervals (10 to the minus 15th). That's a reality today. But even on a small scale - compute clusters of 100 systems or less - Linux systems are providing affordable access to some very serious computing. In fact, my next book is going to be about building clustered Linux systems.”

“So, maybe we can reconcile the different points of view regarding Linux by suggesting that engineering folks and IT folks may be at odds today for no real reason at all. They actually share lots of similar values and if they would just step back and ask what they are all trying to do, they would see that there are places where each technology is the appropriate solution for a particular problem - whether the technology is Linux, Unix, Windows, etc.”

“Maybe we should be asking, 'Why can't they all just get along?' Well, in the long run, I'm optimistic that they can.”

(Editor's Note: You can talk to Rob Lucke and friends in person at DAC. He'll be entertaining questions there and detailing what it takes to get Linux into an engineering environment - be it the desktop or the compute network. Rob says full disclosure mandates he point out that he's not a “real” doctor - Ph.D. or M.D. - nonetheless, he may know how to treat what ails you when it comes to implementing Linux.)

Requesting an update on Linux from EDA

By way of understanding where the EDA world stands currently, a random sampling of EDA vendors were asked to respond to the following statements:

- We have ported none/some/all of our applications over to Linux - OR - We're not there yet, but our future strategy with regards to Linux is …

- We are developing our tools/products in one environment and then porting over to Linux - OR - There are timing differences between releases on one operating system and later releases of the same tool/version on Linux.

- Our customers are telling us that they would/would not/must/might like to have Linux-based versions of our tools/applications - The feedback we're getting from our customers vis-a-vis Linux is tremendous/fascinating/annoying/burdensome/they could care less.

- We are having to spend way too much/way too little/just the right amount of our precious resources chasing this Linux thing - Our customers find themselves in the same/different boat.

- True or False? Engineers love Linux - IT managers do not - EDA is ambivalent.

Twenty five companies respond

Applied Wave Research (AWR) - “Our EDA products are running natively on Windows today. We have ported our applications to run as a co-process on a Linux platform. We are presently performing a native Linux port to be completed later this year for those who only want to run Linux apps. We are developing our applications under Windows because of its advantages for software development. We will then port it to Linux, which is expected to be only a minor delay once the process is mature. We are getting requests to have our products running on Linux - it is Unix that people seem to be abandoning. The Linux porting effort seems to be very reasonable for us. What we see is that engineers just want to run their apps and really don't care about the operating system. It is the IT and CAD groups that are more interested in what OS is running.”

Joe Civello, ADS Platform Product Manager for Agilent EEsof EDA - “Agilent EEsof constantly monitors customer OS requirements. Within the last year or so, we've seen a much more organized approach by our customers to the transition to Linux than in prior years. Based on this recent change and Agilent EEsof's Alliance with Cadence, we plan to have Linux solutions for both the RF Design Environment and the Advanced Design System within the next 12 months. Our approach to PC/Unix/Linux OS support is fairly unique in the EDA industry - we don't port from one OS to another. Our products are architected with a layered application programming interface, which allows us the ability to deliver both at the same time, for each product release, without porting or duplicating effort. As such, we don't encounter the difficulties associated with porting from say PC to Unix or now Linux. Because of this architecture, the addition of Linux support, to the existing PC and Unix OSs supported today, is straightforward. In fact, internally, our R&D team has been using Linux for product development for several years. The benefits of Linux to the EDA customer is clear, reduced costs and enhanced performance. Agilent EEsof EDA's focus is on providing solutions that lower customers' total cost of ownership and increase productivity. ADS and RFDE support of Linux accomplish both.”

Eric Seabrook, Product Marketing Manager at Aldec, Inc. - “We have elected to port some of our products (based on demand) for use on Linux. Riviera is our cross-platform simulation solution without graphical entry currently available for Windows, Unix, and Linux. We offer graphical design entry for Windows only, but provide simulation on all platforms and also offer the migration of files generated in Windows to be verified on Linux for our customers that are utilizing server farms or remote resources. Our core technology is platform independent, which allows us to concentrate on the product and not the environment. Once completed and tested, it is then compiled to all platforms and available simultaneously to our customers.”

“We have not seen a tremendous request for a Linux version of our tool and get about 25% of the evaluation interest (based on download) for this operating system. We do however see Linux beginning to gain momentum for certain applications and anticipate future growth. We don't expend a great deal of time on Linux-related issues because of our development accomplishments and the ability to produce a Linux version simultaneously with other platforms. This allows us to support the Linux initiative with our tools and create better design methods without limitation. I don't see the Linux argument as a love/hate relationship, rather just another alternative for engineers and managers to use for certain applications. I also don't see Linux replacing engineering environments, but rather augmenting the development team's available resources. I believe from a cost stand-point that Linux offers great benefit to the IT manager comparable to other alternatives, but tool availability and flow requirements by designer are still not where they need to be.”

Robert DiGrazia, Director of Marketing for Alternative System Concepts, Inc. - “We have ported some of our applications to Linux, and expect to support future applications on Linux. We use multi-platform building mechanisms to cover all platforms. We build and release on all platforms simultaneously. Some of our customers prefer Linux. Most use Solaris or Windows. We spend just the right amount of time on Linux. Linux is largely compatible with other standard variants of Unix. It's true - engineers love Linux and EDA is ambivalent.”

Axis Systems, Inc. - “Axis Systems recently announced its support of Linux, creating the first, complete Linux-based hardware acceleration and emulation systems. All of Axis' simulation, acceleration, and emulation products, based on our ReConfigurable Computing technology and software, have been ported to Linux. The development of Axis' products is nearly independent of the OS, whether it is Linux or Solaris. Both Axis and its customers feel that the time invested in Linux development has been worthwhile. Axis' decision to support a Linux-based verification workflow was based on a strong customer trend to supplement Solaris development with Linux. Initial feedback from customers indicates that the availability of a Linux-centered design methodology is providing them with cost-effective performance gains. Axis' expansion into Linux fits into its Design Team Emulation solution, which not only provides emulation for verification teams, but also expands the usage of emulation to system, hardware, and software engineering in a development environment - whether Solaris or Linux. EDA stays close to its customers' needs and supports whatever will make them most successful.”

Mitch Weaver, Vice President of the Marketing, Functional Verification group, Cadence Design Systems, Inc. - “Cadence enthusiastically supports Linux. Engineers tell us they like the combination of price/performance and mobility that it provides. We're finding strong demand for both the Cadence Incisive verification platform and the Encounter Digital IC design platform on Linux.”

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