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Roberto Frazzoli
Roberto Frazzoli
Roberto Frazzoli is a contributing editor to EDACafe and a seasoned freelance journalist specialized in electronics. His weekly contribution to EDACafe – since early 2019 - includes news updates, coverage of major industry events, special reports, and interviews. Prior to joining EDACafe, Roberto … More »

SaaS-based system design and analysis goes e-commerce with Cadence OnCloud

July 29th, 2022 by Roberto Frazzoli

OrCAD and Allegro PCB design technologies, Clarity/Sigrity/Celsius system analysis technologies, and Fidelity CFD software are now available from a SaaS platform, through a consumption-based pricing model

Ease of purchase is undoubtedly one of the reasons for success of many consumer-oriented services provided through the Internet: just type a card number, freely select a quantity or a subscription duration, and you immediately get what you want. With EDA technologies now available through cloud computing platforms, this ease of purchase can also be extended to the use of EDA tools – adding to the main benefit of a Software-as-a-Service model: eliminating the need for expensive infrastructure hardware. These, in short, are the concepts behind OnCloud, the new Cadence e-commerce platform for cloud-based system design and analysis. With OnCloud, the ease of purchase enabled by e-commerce is leveraged to address two types of customer needs: on the one hand, making it easier for the ‘long tail’ of small EDA users to access first-class technologies; on the other hand, enabling big EDA users to cope with workload peaks without purchasing additional licenses. Two Cadence executives – Ben Gu, Vice President of R&D for the Multiphysics System Analysis Business Unit, and Mahesh Turaga, Vice President of Business Development, Cloud – described the OnCloud features in the video interview they recently gave to EDACafe’s Sanjay Gangal; in this article we will add a few details, as well as the answers Turaga provided to some additional questions.

Four different ‘packages’ for system design and analysis

Cadence OnCloud is a Software-as-a-Service and e-commerce platform – powered by Amazon Web Services – for companies adopting a ‘cloud-first’ approach for design and analysis solutions, that can be accessed anywhere from any device using a web browser. The platform allows users to subscribe to their preferred consumption-based usage models depending on design needs and project duration. Cadence OnCloud initially offers four system design and analysis packages. Mainstream PCB Design provides easy-to-use PCB design software based on OrCAD technologies; Advanced PCB Design offers comprehensive schematic design and layout capabilities with the in-design analysis verification tools in Cadence Allegro technologies; Multiphysics Analysis includes multiphysics computational software for electromagnetics, thermal, power and signal integrity, using the Cadence Clarity, Sigrity and Celsius solvers; Mainstream and Advanced CFD provides computational fluid dynamics workflows—from meshing all types of flow domains to solving multiphysics flow problems to advanced flow analysis post-processing—using Cadence Fidelity CFD Software.

“The reason we started with four key product areas – mainstream PCB design, advanced PCB design, multiphysics analysis and mainstream and advanced CFD – is because, from a workload perspective, these solutions are ideally suited for a full cloud consumption model as well as addressing peak compute needs,” Turaga explained.

Credit: Cadence

The e-commerce approach and the consumption-based pricing model

Turaga recalled the reasons that have led Cadence to expand its SaaS offering with an e-commerce platform and a consumption-based pricing model: “As Cadence started to implement its system innovation strategy and expanded its portfolio to address the system analysis space,” he said, “we decided that offering an e-commerce approach was a great way to enable a seamless, instant experience for our customers. By making our software available in a web browser via AWS, customers can leverage a state-of-the-art approach and get up and running quickly.”

“With the consumption-based model,” he continued, “our goal is to address peak needs and project-based needs initially. Since the software is fully available in the cloud – and, hence, hardware costs are an important consideration when looking at overall cloud costs – a consumption-based model was the most logical way to launch the new OnCloud platform.”

Another OnCloud feature is the shared cloud storage space, which can be leveraged for collaboration across distributed teams. As Turaga explained, “the users get a workspace in the cloud where they can upload their design data and store it, and that’s available to them and anyone they want to share it with for a period of their entire subscription, as long as that subscription is active.”

Differences between OnCloud and CloudBurst

OnCloud builds upon the preexisting Cadence Cloud portfolio, offered through Cadence-managed SaaS and customer-managed platforms, which includes the CloudBurst solution. Compared to CloudBurst, OnCloud is targeted at different user needs and currently covers a smaller tool range.

As Turaga pointed out, “The initial OnCloud platform includes Cadence system design and analysis products – from OrCAD/Allegro PCB design technologies, to Clarity/Sigrity/Celsius system analysis technologies and our Fidelity CFD Software. Any customers looking to leverage these solutions in the cloud for a project-based need or peak usage need can use OnCloud. The system design and analysis packages come with the right compute configurations that are tailored for unique use-cases, so customers can remain focused on solving the design/analysis challenges at hand. The consumption-based model allows customers to consume the hours they need on-demand. Also, if you look at the overall user experience, the user can download OnCloud, sign-up and launch the platform in a matter of minutes, so this provides users with the quickest way to access these solutions via the cloud.”

“If our users want to access our front-end to back-end solutions” Turaga continued “from design implementation to verification to signoff to characterization on tens of thousands of CPUs – whether it’s for logic simulation or circuit simulations – the Cadence CloudBurst platform is SaaS-based and offers flexible-term service options that suit a customer’s unique needs. We have an excellent team that can deliver a highly customized CloudBurst SaaS environment – a fully Cadence managed environment – very quickly. Users needing a Cadence-managed environment should be looking at CloudBurst SaaS platform.”

Besides the existing four packages, additional Cadence tools may become available through OnCloud in the future: “We do have a plan to go to the rest of the EDA suite, but that will be announced later,” Ben Gu revealed in the video interview.

Four users’ ‘roles’ – and their respective subscription pricing

The four packages for system design and analysis offered by OnCloud correspond to four users’ ‘roles’, with different pricing. Subscription to the OrCAD Hardware Designer role costs 490 dollars a month, equivalent to 49 tokens; the PCB Hardware Expert role is 1,500 dollars a month, or 150 tokens; Multiphysics Analyst role is 3,000 dollars a month, or 300 tokens; CFD Analyst role is 2,000 dollars a month, or 200 tokens. Clearly, the token value is 10 dollars for all four roles, but token ‘burn rates’ differ from role to role. For the OrCAD Hardware Designer it’s 4.08 tokens per hour; for the PCB Hardware Expert role, 0.75 tokens per hour; for the CFD Analyst role, 1.0 tokens per hour; for the Multiphysics Analyst role, 1.5 tokens per hour. Different burn rates are the reason why tokens purchased for a certain role cannot be used for another one. Unused tokens will not roll over at the end of the monthly subscription period. An auto-renewal option is available. When starting a large simulation job, the user will receive notifications based on total usage and anticipated necessary token details, and, if needed, will be prompted to purchase more tokens.

OnCloud pricing includes the AWS cloud computing fee. “The monthly price is an all-in one price – customers do not need to worry about the compute cost or anything else,” Turaga commented.

Signing up for OnCloud

According to Cadence, signing up for OnCloud is simple and quick: the user chooses a role, clicks the ‘Start Free Trial’ button, logs in (either with an existing Cadence account or after creating a new account), then enters the payment information (either credit card or ACH, the U.S. wire transfer system). Free trial lasts eight hours or thirty days (whichever is consumed first), at the end of which period a subscription billing cycle will automatically begin.

“It’s like signing up for Disney Plus on your TV: you just select, you register your account, you launch the application. That’s as simple as that,” said Turaga. The registration and purchase process is described in this video.

Data security, customer support, software versioning

Data security is a typical concern for users approaching cloud-based EDA solutions that involve a multi-tenancy environment. Addressing this concern, Cadence has provided the details of the OnCloud security measures in this datasheet. As for customer support – which may be an additional user concern in the case of a ‘self-service’ platform such as OnCloud – Cadence has developed online resources dedicated to the new platform, available from the Help Center page, and has added specific technical forums.

A third possible user concern may arise from a typical characteristic of SaaS solutions, usually considered a major benefit: continuous innovation. With a SaaS platform, users always get to use the latest version of the software, therefore every product improvement is immediately and ‘automatically’ made available to them. This is, for example, one of the benefits claimed by Salesforce, a company that played an inspirational role in the development of OnCloud, as Ben Gu recalled in the video interview. Software version updates may become a concern for users fearing that a design developed with the old version won’t work with the new one.

“On-Cloud is a SaaS offering for tens of thousands of our long-tail system customers, so we have to standardize on a particular version,” said Turaga. “So right now we are going to make available the latest version of the software that’s available. But we will obviously inform the customers well ahead of time if there’s an upgrade coming to the latest version, and take into account their concerns or questions that they may have. But in the future, we might look into maintaining maybe two versions on the SaaS platform. I know this is a very common request from a SaaS standpoint. Not everybody wants to upgrade always to the latest and greatest. We understand that, and we definitely will be working to keep that concern in mind,” he reassured.

Market reactions

In terms of market results, OnCloud is expected to serve two goals. “Cadence is looking to attract new users in the long tail with this offering and is also looking to gain a competitive advantage by offering instant access to manage peak needs for existing customers,” Turaga summarized.

Officially introduced last June 8, OnCloud was made available to early users at the beginning of 2022 – as recalled by Cadence’s Paul McLellan in this blog post. As a result, thousands of companies and several academic institutions have already started using it. “Since OnCloud is an e-commerce platform, we wanted to gain actual user traction prior to our official launch,” Turaga explained.

The announcement press release includes endorsements from Annapurna Labs, Bombardier, Cisco Systems, Zebra Technologies, Bharat Forge, Dzyne Technologies, Inteligeng, Sienna ECAD Technologies, Happiest Minds, OLogic, Glosten, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University of California Davis, University of Michigan, NC State University, Tessolve Semiconductor. Benefits cited by these early users include getting rid of software installation and upgrades, avoiding license management complications, achieving ease of collaboration across distributed teams.

According to Cadence, several OnCloud users have realized “tremendous productivity benefits” with the additional access to compute resources and the ability to virtually eliminate licensing and setup time. This adds to the benefits of the cloud-based approach compared with traditional on-premises environments.

Category: Video Interview

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