Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Cliosoft: Managing the IP Reuse Ecosystem
October 26th, 2017 by Peggy Aycinena
Adding to the momentum for Cliosoft: In May, the company announced designHUB: “A collaborative IP reuse ecosystem that enables companies to efficiently reuse all types of IP, including semiconductor IP, scripts, PDKs, documents, methodologies, etc. within the company, along with the user experience.”
Anantharaman is clearly enthused about the possibilities designHUB presents for the company’s customers, and is equally enthused about Cliosoft itself.
WWJD: How are things going?
Srinath Anantharaman: We are doing very well and have definitely become the leader in design management.
We’re doing exceedingly well in this space, and are working with all the major EDA vendors, and others as well. We are the only solution that supports all of these vendors.
WWJD: That sounds excellent, and very time-consuming. Are there any recent announcements?
Srinath Anantharaman: Yes, at DAC in Austin we introduced designHUB, which we had announced in May. We’ve always been in the team-collaboration space, and this continues our work.
When we started as a company, software engineers were well into version control, but in the IC design world that was still kind of new. It took several years to evangelize the idea.
Now with the Internet and outsourcing – Wikipedia-type communities of people who help each other out – we thought we should bring some of these things to the Intranet for our customers.
One of our customers, for example, has 50 design centers. How do they share expertise across those centers?
If someone has a question at one center, someone at another center has probably already answered it. And maybe someone has IP somewhere in the company that could be reused by someone else. What we are trying to do with designHUB is bring all of these people together, so they can share their expertise and their IP.
Most EDA companies focus on making a single designer more productive. We are focusing on making the whole group more productive.
In addition, customers often say that as their engineers leave the company, or retire, along with them goes their expertise. With designHUB, we are trying to capture all of that knowledge before the engineer leaves.
WWJD: This sounds like a major product release for Cliosoft.
Srinath Anantharaman: Yes, it is a big product for us and has three major components.
First is the IP reuse ecosystem, and it’s more than just a catalog. It’s a place where, along with the catalog, you also have the version history [for a block of IP], all the attributes, and a forum for that IP – just like buying a product from Amazon, where you can ask questions about the product.
It’s a similar sort of idea in designHUB, where there can be Q&A about each block of IP in the catalog. You can quickly learn about that IP, ask others what they’ve done with it, and ask if they have had any problems.
The second component is crowd souring. There’s a lot of expertise, and engineers all over the place who should be able to share that expertise. With designHUB we are really trying to break down the walls of the silos where engineers work.
And it’s not just about silicon IP, but also about best practices and scripts, which is especially important with all of the acquisitions going on today.
Third, most designers today work in an application-eccentric world, where they can bring up an issue-tracking system, a design-management system, email and tons of revisions.
With designHUB, we are creating a unified dashboard where all of these resources [can be aggregated] and brought together in one place.
All three of these components – the IP reuse ecosystem, the crowd sourcing, the dashboard – are in designHUB. Although adoption may take a little while, so far we have seen a lot of interest in the product.
WWJD: Could you have foreseen something this comprehensive in the company vision when you began?
Srinath Anantharaman: [laughing] We started 20 years back, when things like Wikipedia didn’t exist.
At that time, we did want team members to have versions control, but overall it was a much more limited vision. This is why for me, designHUB is a heck of a lot more interesting way to look at things.
WWJD: Does the growth of distributed design teams motivate a lot of your work?
Srinath Anantharaman: Yes, the digital design teams are now large and distributed, although the analog design teams were still relatively small.
Today, for instance, we are seeing the design being done in the US, the layout in Singapore, and so on. The teams are completely distributed geographically, and time wise. As a result, there is so much strain on the system every time the companies enter into a new design.
Acquisitions have also [added to the strain], with companies constantly being acquired.
WWJD: Shouldn’t an acquiring company have game plan for all of this prior to the acquisition, including a game plan for keeping track of IP across their distributed teams?
Srinath Anantharaman: [laughing] Yes, that might be the goal, and in some of the larger companies, they have solved these issues.
But when it comes to tracking IP in large companies, it’s usually a centrally managed static catalog, something which represents a lot of trouble for engineering management.
We are trying to democratize the process by [providing a way] to publish and share the IP, while also allowing designers to establish access control, so it’s not a free-for-all.
And we have workflows built-in. If someone wants to publish a block of IP, they may need Management or Legal to approve it. There are [similar restrictions] if a designer wants to get access to third-party IP.
We have built all of these things into designHUB.
WWJD: Do you partner with Design & Reuse? They have a catalog of third-party IP.
Srinath Anantharaman: Perhaps in the future, but currently we are offering a Cloud-based solution that customers deploy internally. It allows for much more free communication between the design centers within a company.
WWJD: Do large design companies try to maintain a catalog of their internal IP?
Srinath Anantharaman: Absolutely, although some have done a better job than others.
Some have catalogs – it’s part of their DNA and they’ve always done it that way. For others, although there have been attempts [to maintain] catalogs, it has not been successful.
WWJD: Is it possible to have an internal person tasked with maintaining a catalog for a company?
Srinath Anantharaman: Anytime you have a centralized system, everything can get clogged and we’ve felt that was the wrong approach.
Instead, with designHUB, we allow anyone [in the company] to publish. Although again, it’s not a free-for-all because the IP can be distributed responsibly. Particularly if someone is doing analog IP, this is the best way to manage the process.
WWJD: Perhaps it’s too simplistic, but will there ever be a way to certify the quality of a block of IP?
Srinath Anantharaman: Clearly, there is so much IP available, both hard and soft, and the technology is constantly changing. So by the time it’s used, it’s difficult [to establish the quality]. The situation is very fast-moving.
WWJD: Is Moore’s Law creating additional problems here?
Srinath Anantharaman: In a sense, yes. It impacts the designers, and the size of the designs are bigger. And yes, if you are publishing IP, you really want to say for what process technology it was designed for, and for which fab.
The move to smaller process technologies does not impact our software, however, as we are only managing the files.
WWJD: Do you need to work closely with the big companies in EDA?
Srinath Anantharaman: Absolutely. We have to be in sync with all of them, and we belong to all of their programs. Otherwise, anytime you work with third-party software, not knowing how to [synchronize] with them would become a breaking point.
Cadence, for example, is not just a customer for us, but also a partner. They use our software with their latest versions, so we get to know the issues right up front. In a recent textbook Cadence was involved with, they asked us to write the chapter on design management.
WWJD: Why belong to the ESD Alliance?
Srinath Anantharaman: To be frank, we joined and got a discount on our DAC booth. We have not been very active.
Clearly, there have been talks hosted by the group, a recent one that included some of the top people including Aart de Geus, Lip-Bu Tan and Wally Rhines. I would loved to have attended that event [earlier this year], but I was traveling.
WWJD: Are you having to travel a lot?
Srinath Anantharaman: Certainly some, but there are others who love to travel more than I do.
WWJD: Where do you find new employees?
Srinath Anantharaman: For some of them, we rely on Mark Gilbert. But overall, it’s a mix of sources – word of mouth, and some people find us on the web.
It’s definitely harder for EDA to hire people, especially in the Bay Area where the best talents want to work for the hot Internet companies.
We have had success hiring overseas, and have hired people all over the place: Australia, India, some in Romania, and one person in Bolivia. That has helped a lot, because these people fit perfectly into our organization.
WWJD: Do you have any amusing stories from your career?
Srinath Anantharaman: [laughing] There are always amusing things in technology when you are providing support.
The best question is: What is my password? To really solve it, passwords should all be biometrics.
Another amusing anecdote comes from our visit to DAC 20 years back. We thought we could sell a whole bunch of software, and had a lot of visitors to our booth.
When we followed up with the visitors with a phone booth, they often said: ‘And who are you?’
The people had gone to many booths at DAC and could not remember one from another.
[laughing] That is how we learned early that sales is a very long process!
WWJD: How do you pick which conferences to attend?
Srinath Anantharaman: Of course, we have to attend DAC, where we’ve been having a big party and expect to do again in San Francisco.
The other conference is CDNLive. We are Gold Sponsors, so automatically get invited to their 10 different worldwide events.
WWJD: How did you come up with the name Cliosoft?
Srinath Anantharaman: We tried a whole bunch of different names, but they were already used. Clio is a muse of history, and we keep track of history, so finally that seemed like the best idea.
[chuckling] And, the URL was available.
WWJD: Could you ever have seen doing anything else?
Srinath Anantharaman: At the end of the day, building any kind of product is fun and that’s one of the things people ask.
People always ask: What’s your exit strategy? Well, we have no exit strategy.
Instead, most people would say our focus has been on growth as the reward for doing a good job. Luckily, we have had very good growth.
WWJD: The quality of the product has been the focus?
Srinath Anantharaman: Yes, the companies that get in trouble are those that set random quotas based on nothing.
WWJD: Looking out 5 years, what does the road map look like?
Srinath Anantharaman: Right now we are just trying to promote the idea. We are very much focused on getting the word out, it’s a missionary sale.
Although when we start talking about it with people, we definitely see the light bulbs go off.
Srinath Anantharaman is CEO and Founder of Cliosoft, which he founded in 1997. His 25+ years of experience in the EDA industry also includes Proxy Modeling, Viewlogic, Vantage Analysis, Synopsys and Silvar Lisco. Anantharaman has a BTech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanp, and an MSEE from Washington University, St. Louis.