Many observers see cloud computing as an oncoming trend in EDA tool licensing and deployment. It's a significant change for all concerned. Where are we at today, what are the potential advantages, and what are the challenges with respect to EDA in the cloud? An April 7 EDA Consortium panel, held at Cadence San Jose headquarters, provided some answers for these questions.
The panel was moderated by Scott Clark (far right in photo), president and CEO of Deopli, which provides consulting services to EDA companies about high-performance computing (HPC). Panelists (starting from the left) were as follows:
The panel was titled "What should EDA companies know about cloud computing to grow their business?" Apparently, quite a lot. Following are some of the questions under discussion.
Note: On the same day (April 7), an Intel presentation at the Electronic Design Processes workshop detailed some of the security concerns aboiut EDA in the cloud, and startup Physware showed how it's using the cloud for development and deployment. Look for more on these sessions in an upcoming post.
What are customers expecting - and what can they get - from EDA in the cloud?
"What they initially think of is getting something really cheap, but that's not necessarily going to happen," Drenan said. "One thing that they do get, that our SaaS [software as a service] customers get now, is that it's not a fixed cost but an expense as you go cost."
Another value proposition, Jewett said, is that the cloud provides a "temporary" use model to handle "surge" workloads. "If you're on deadline, why not expand and temporarily use tools in the cloud, and get work done without having the overhead of setting everything up?" He noted, however, that it's a different business model and that EDA customers are not used to buying licenses at an hourly rate.
Tyreman said the cost reductions can be substantial, and he cited the example of a life sciences company that reduced its compute costs by 90 percent by using the Amazon public cloud. But the real advantage, he said, is choice - the flexibility to access what you need when you need it.
Where are we now and where are we heading?
Some of the larger semiconductor companies already have private clouds - I wrote earlier about the IBM cloud. Drenan and Jewett noted that Cadence and Synopsys have had private cloud offerings for some time. But there's been very little EDA usage in public clouds to date.
We're at the beginning of a ten-year curve, Jewett said - on top of a "tipping point." Hertzler said that moving to the cloud "is a decade process, just like moving to PCs, LANs, and client-server architectures." He noted that ten years ago, the customer relationship management (CRM) industry was about where EDA is today in terms of the cloud - with a lot of hesitancy about moving sensitive data onto the cloud. Today, he said, all CRM data is up in the cloud and "that's what I think EDA will look like in 8-10 years."
Drenan predicted a more selective adoption. "Will all [EDA] companies be running on Amazon 10 years from now? I don't know. Probably not. But they'll be doing more and more that way."
What are the use cases for EDA in the cloud?
Hertzler cited two use cases related to EDA in the cloud. One is SaaS, and the other is peak offload or "cloud bursting." The latter is easier to implement first, and Hertzler said that "frankly, our business is more about bursting than implementing SaaS."
What are the security concerns and what can be done about them?
Panelists agreed that data security is the big concern now for EDA customers who are considering cloud computing. There is much hesitancy to move design data outside the company firewall. An audience member mentioned a recent panel discussion where a Cisco manager was asked if he'd move data into the cloud. The response: "Absolutely not. Never."
"When we engage with customers the first conversation is about security. The second conversation is about security. We walk through it very carefully and usually get to a very good place," said Jewett.
Drenan noted that there are two different approaches to security in the cloud. One is segregation or "sub-netting," where each customer has their own, isolated machine. The other is encryption, where machines may be shared but customers can see only their own data. Sub-netting, he said, will cause costs to rise in public clouds. "Long term, I think we have to get people more used to the encryption model."
Tyreman acknowledged that compared to EDA, "other industries don't have the same IP issues. Security may not be as much as an issue. I can see that here [EDA] that's going to be the elephant in the room we all have to get our hands around."
Is simulation a good match for the cloud?
Jewett talked about a Synopsys capability that makes it possible to offload simulation to a public cloud. Drenan noted that "simulation exists in a larger context. In our case [Cadence], we have metric-driven drivers that adjust the job. It's not like you run thousands of tests and come back tomorrow; there's a cockpit that's steering things. It's more complicated when you talk about the whole flow."
Asked which aspects of verification Synopsys is putting into the cloud - model generation, simulation, debug, or code coverage - Jewett declined to go into details. He said Synopsys has implemented "a surge capability that is a complement to our core tools."
Parting words about EDA in the cloud
Tyreman: "The cloud is for everyone but it's not for everything. It's coming. Own it."
Jewett (quoting hockey star Wayne Gretzky): "I believe EDA has the opportunity to be where the puck is going to be. Let's do this collectively. It's an opportunity to shift the business model in the right direction."
Hertzler: "It's here to stay. It will continue to enable EDA. There are multiple ways to get to the cloud."
Drenan: "It's an opportunity for EDA to work together in a different way."
A recording of the panel discussion is available through the EDA Consortium web site.
One comment about why a "cloud" is important to us (customer). The time we can save from a "private cloud" will pay for itself if the software design industry starts there. Whether its a remote session or Web application bringing the graphical design, the savings in resources and time to download, install, update, configure will be a benefit and we are anxious to have today. We want to provide our internal designers the tool to start designing the same day it is requested. It is no more different than trying to get your product out there first.