One term you are likely to hear from Cadence in 2013 is "product creation." A key message in the Cadence Systems and Software Group (SSG), product creation looks beyond chip or board design and considers the entire end product, including software applications, mechanical enclosures, and the underlying electronics. It also encompasses design team collaboration, design data integration into corporate systems, and on-time release to manufacturing.
This is not to say that Cadence or other EDA providers are going to jump into mechanical CAD or become Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) suppliers. Cadence is emphasizing collaboration with existing providers, and is looking at ways to bring more value to portions of the product creation challenge where EDA has not traditionally played. Consistent with the EDA360 vision presented by Cadence in 2010, product creation tells us that understanding the end product and the software applications it will run will enable more effective solutions for system design and verification.
Starting at the End
The essence of product creation, according to Michał Siwiński, product marketing group director for SSG, is "starting with the end in mind." That requires an understanding of the customer's end product and market, for both the semiconductors and OEMs. "If we start with having that understanding up front, we can make sure we continue to not only solve the relevant problems, but we can continue to augment our portfolio of solutions to become more and more relevant to those challenges."
The electrical part of hardware, with the chip at its heart,, is "just one of the components that have to work seamlessly with all the other pieces in the context of the end product for the company to realize profits," said Siwiński. In a broad sense, the three elements that make up almost any electronic product are the hardware, software, and mechanical enclosure.
Beyond that, he noted, product creation encompasses data management, a globalized collaboration infrastructure, and supply chain management, all the way from early architectural design to product integration and handoff to manufacturing. The challenge for Cadence is to collaborate and help build a robust ecosystem that can provide comprehensive solutions, as opposed to isolated, "siloed" tools from vendors who know little or nothing about each other.
Keith Felton, product marketing group director for PCB and IC packaging, noted that product creation offers a way for EDA vendors to provide more value. If the EDA industry confines itself to electronics hardware and software, he said, it is just helping the customer solve part of the problem. "That hardware has to be integrated into some kind of mechanical enclosure," he noted. "Information has to be integrated into corporate systems. You have to take information from the hardware design and feed it to suppliers. You need bills of material and you need to do procurement."
A Broader Focus
What concrete steps can EDA providers take towards product creation? Software is part of any electronic product, and the Cadence System Development Suite provides hardware/software co-development and debugging through a set of four connected platforms - virtual prototyping, simulation, acceleration/emulation, and FPGA-based prototyping. Designers are running software on real-world hardware, with the Palladium XP verification computing platform as one supporting engine.
The Allegro PCB design tools provide more examples. First, Allegro Design Workbench 16.6 allows designers to plug into corporate data management and PLM systems through Microsoft SharePoint. Secondly, Cadence has forged partnerships with MCAD providers such as PTC and Siemens to link mechanical and electrical hardware design.
These are just a few early examples of the "broader view" that a focus on product creation can provide. Much more needs to be done. "Some existing technologies may expand and build bridges that go across the various domains," added Siwiński . "Other cases will require a brand new type of technology that doesn't exist today." In any case, the EDA industry needs to move beyond its IC and hardware-centric focus. "Either we as an industry will change that or our customers will change it for us."
A forthcoming blog post will look at product creation in the IC packaging/PCB area in more detail.