Since the Virtuoso custom/analog design environment is graphically intensive, you wouldn't expect it to run as well from a PC laptop in a hotel or foreign country as it does on a workstation. But that's the promise of Exceed OnDemand, a "managed application access solution" from Cadence partner OpenText. The tool makes it possible to run Virtuoso on any machine in any network and still have a "workstation like" experience.
In this interview Xavier Chaillot (right), director of products and marketing in OpenText's Connectivity Solutions Group, discusses OpenText, remote access, and the benefits for Virtuoso users. For further information, the OpenText web site has a whitepaper called Achieving Optimal Performance with Cadence Virtuoso, as well as an archived webinar produced by Cadence and OpenText.
Q: OpenText is a global leader in enterprise content management (ECM). What is ECM?
A: ECM is the industry name for solutions that allow organizations to manage their electronic content, including documents and digital media. It could be for compliance purposes, for records management, for discovery, or for orchestrating the workflows of documents internally, for instance. It's the entire spectrum of technologies that allow companies to manage their content and put it to work.
The partnership we have with Cadence, however, is about our connectivity solutions.
Q: What does the Cadence partnership involve?
A: Several years ago OpenText acquired a company called Hummingbird that was providing software called Exceed, which allowed engineers to remotely access Unix applications from PC desktops. Since then there have been multiple evolutions of Exceed, and today we have a solution called Exceed OnDemand, which lets engineers remotely access their Cadence [Virtuoso] application.
The solution is best suited for long distance access, where people are working across the globe and need to access applications that are on the other side of the world. It is well suited for people who want to consolidate all their applications into a global applications center, and then distribute them to their workforce around the world. It is well suited for collaborative activities, and it lets people share a screen so they can see what others are doing.
Q: I see the Exceed OnDemand serves a number of industries. In general, what capabilities does it provide?
A: Exceed OnDemand allows a user to remotely connect to an application from any desktop PC, Linux or Mac computer, and interact with the application as if he was sitting in front of a real workstation. It works with any Unix-based application and is also capable of addressing Windows-based applications. I think of it as a solution for accessing any application remotely through any kind of network, be it a local or wide-area network.
Q: How does Exceed OnDemand improve the productivity of Virtuoso users, and how does it compare to other remote access software?
A: Some people access Virtuoso using free software, or some other kind of remote access solution. There are two differences between those and Exceed OnDemand. One is that the quality and speed of the rendering are much higher and better with Exceed OnDemand. The precision of the drawing and the color rendering is very high quality.
The second is that Exceed OnDemand is meant to work as well on a LAN as on a wide-area network. If you've ever tried to connect to something as graphically-intensive as Virtuoso from a hotel or another country, it can feel very uneasy to use. With Exceed OnDemand, you're going to feel like you're sitting in front of a workstation when you're thousands of miles away from your application.
Q: How much of a performance improvement are Virtuoso users seeing?
A: Everyone has different hardware, and Virtuoso runs on different servers, but I can provide a sense of how much we improve performance. Compared to traditional remote access to Virtuoso using the X Window protocol, Exceed OnDemand will reduce the bandwidth needed to transport data by up to 90 percent.
Q: What are the advantages for geographically dispersed IC design teams?
A: The main one is the bandwidth requirement reduction. There are a lot of countries, especially in Asia, where remote access is not as good as in North America or Europe. It can be challenging to access a graphically intense or network intensive application. One customer was able to go from having one T1 line per engineer to putting 10 engineers on the same T1 line, with a much better experience.
Exceed OnDemand also has centralized management. The administrator can control all user access and decide who gets what and when from one central location.
Q: Are there other advantages to Exceed OnDemand?
A: There are some interesting productivity features. For example, it can suspend and resume a session. Suppose an engineer launches a simulation that's going to take hours. Without Exceed OnDemand, you have to keep your workstation connected to the application and wait for the simulation. With it you can close your laptop and Exceed OnDemand will suspend your session. You go back home, and maybe later in the week open your laptop and the session resumes exactly where it was, except the simulation was running in the background and the work has been done.
Here's another example. Let's say you're an engineer in India and you're accessing an application center in the U.S. and suddenly the power fails and you lose connectivity. We will automatically suspend your session on the U.S. server so none of your work is lost, and when power is restored we bring you back to where you were.
Q: Where does Exceed OnDemand run?
A: It has two components - a server component and a client component. You can install the server component on the same machine as Virtuoso, or a different machine. The client component depends on what the engineer uses. It runs on Linux, Windows, Unix, and MacOS. More and more people are asking for MacOS.
Q: So, could you access Virtuoso from a Macintosh?
A: Yes, absolutely. The user interface, the rendering, and the speed will be the same as if you use it from your local workstation.
Q: How about a tablet computer?
A: That's something that we're working on. When we were at DAC [Design Automation Conference] quite a few people were telling us they'd like to see design on a tablet.
Q: There's a lot of talk these days about EDA and cloud computing. Could Exceed OnDemand support applications in the cloud?
A: Yes, it's a cloud enabler, a gateway to applications in the cloud. Once you put applications in the cloud, the user still needs to access and interact with them. That's what we do.
Great that Virtuoso will work from a Mac! Many of us would appreciate more tools run on Mac; actually run _on_ a Mac, not just be accessible from a Mac.
Oh, by the way: they stopped calling it "Macintosh" over ten years ago!