IC design engineers want to spend their time designing, not managing files. Cadence Connections partner ClioSoft, a provider of hardware configuration management software, wants to keep it that way by providing easy-to-use tools that work seamlessly with IC design tools including the Cadence Virtuoso analog/custom design platform.
In this interview Srinath Anantharaman, founder and CEO of ClioSoft, explains the company's background, SOS configuration management offering, the unique data management requirements of hardware designers, and the SOS integration with Virtuoso. Further information about the Virtuoso connection is available in a ClioSoft whitepaper and in a recently archived Cadence/ClioSoft webinar.
Q: Let's start with some background. How did Cliosoft come about, and what is its mission?
A: We [founders] were working with a company called Vantage Analysis Systems that was bought by Viewlogic, and we started to do some consulting after that. We were going to customer sites and helping them set up methodologies for collaboration and managing data that were reasonably well-known in the software world using version control tools. Usually we scripted and trained customers using [Unix utilities] RCS or CVS, but they found these a little too hard to use, so we decided to build a product that the hardware design engineers could more easily use. We created our first product with the idea to "keep it simple." That was our motto.
Q: In brief, what capabilities does your SOS software provide?
A: SOS is what we call a hardware configuration management system. It is much like software configuration management systems such as Perforce or ClearCase, except it's been built from the ground up to meet the needs of hardware designers. Those needs are somewhat similar to software design requirements but are a little different. We try to bring in all the benefits of software configuration management such as version control, collaboration across multiple sites, and release management.
Q: How are the needs of hardware designers different when it comes to configuration management?
A: Most hardware designers, especially those using analog or mixed/signal flows, are using graphical tools. They use Virtuoso to do their design and they are not really dealing with files - they just want to edit a schematic. But the schematic is a collection of files buried three levels deep in a library. So the end user doesn't know which files are being operated on.
Hardware designers have very large datasets. Layout files can be very large. If everyone had a workspace with physical copies of files, that would take too much disk space. We can create a workspace with symbolic links into a common cache area.
Suppose you're looking for a cell view in a library. We can abstract the idea of a cell view and present it to the user, rather than a collection of files. For example, an ADE-XL cell view in Virtuoso could consist of thousands of files. If you were managing them as separate files using a software configuration management system, you would be managing 2,000 files and it would make no sense to the end user. We understand this is a composite object and we can manage it as one object in the system.
Q: Is SOS primarily aimed at analog/custom IC designers?
A: Most of our customers do tend to come from analog, mixed-signal or custom IC flows. But typically designs also consist of a digital portion, and we can support the entire design team.
Q: How does SOS help with geographically distributed teams?
A: I would estimate that 90 percent of our customers have distributed teams. Even a startup may have a team in Asia or Europe and then in Silicon Valley. They have to collaborate, so we have done a lot of work to make sure that is very seamless. We have cache servers at the remote site and we can make sure that the data is synchronized.
We also support "push" technology. If someone checks in a file at one location, it automatically gets synchronized at the other location.
Q: You have a version of SOS specifically for Virtuoso. What capabilities does it bring to Virtuoso users?
A: First of all, we are seamlessly integrated within the flow. People using Virtuoso don't even see our tool. They get a design management menu. They are able to check out data from any server, make changes, check it in. They can get the latest updates and revisions. All of that is built directly into the Virtuoso flow. We also have integrations with issue tracking systems, so you can use any third-party issue tracking system.
The most interesting thing we have done lately is a new tool called Visual Design Diff that shows differences between versions of a schematic or layout. It lets you review your changes. Before you check in your schematic, you can ask to see what has changed, and SOS will highlight those changes in the Virtuoso schematic or layout editor. Where this is really useful is when there's an ECO on the schematic and the layout has already been created. Now you need to update the layout, and you can quickly select the two versions of the schematic and see what has changed.
Q: What topics were covered in the webinar you recently did with Cadence?
A: The joint seminar was about everything that's new in the Virtuoso IC 6.1.5 flow, including parasitic-aware design. We also looked at changes specific to configuration management, including icons in the Virtuoso Library Manager showing data management status. We showed some of the features we bring to the table and how they can make people more productive.
Q: Is there a connection between ClioSoft software and the EDA360 vision?
A: In a sense there is, because we are trying to bring together all aspects of the design flow, whether you're working on the specification or doing analog design, digital design, custom design or even firmware or software. You can manage all of that so you know that this version of the spec went with this tapeout. You can bring it all together and manage it so everybody is on the same page at all times.
Q: What are you planning to show at DAC this year?
A: We will showcase hierarchical Visual Design Diff (VDD). You can simply invoke VDD for a cell view, and if the "hierarchy" option is turned on, then the VDD engine will go through the design hierarchy and display all the changes found in all levels at and below the selected view. Selected changes will be highlighted in the Virtuoso schematic or layout editor. We will, of course, also be demonstrating our SOS Hardware Configuration Management systems including enhancements to our integration with the Cadence Virtuoso platform.
We invite DAC attendees to come and play a game of Texas Hold'em at our booth. The winner of each game, played every hour, will get a Roku-XD streaming player.