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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- If you want a glimpse of the future of cloud computing and EDA, there's probably no better place than in the shadows of Google.

In that shadow, literally a stone's throw from Google headquarters, sits Raul Camposano, longtime EDA veteran now navigating his company, Nimbic, through the waters of industry change. 

exploring the future of human-computer interface design

Camposano, Nimbic's CEO, sees EDA embracing cloud computing, but not in the way many are envisioning. To get there will require the industry to rethink how it builds software, how it prioritizes business models, and how it considers its IT strategy overall. And the design area that will drive the change isn't the one most people might think.

He talked about it shortly after appearing on an Amazon Web Services panel with Raik Brinkmann, CEO of OneSpin Solution, John Olson, Cadence Group Director, and Jason Stowe, CEO of Cycle Computing.

"Buying compute power from the public cloud is going to be a helluva lot cheaper than doing it for yourself," he said. It won't be for everybody, of course, or for every tool--at least at first--but "with it will go EDA."

Cloud Computing and EDA

At the moment, the industry is just starting to come to grips with what types of software applications will benefit the most from cloud computing solutions.

And what might that look like?

Looking toward his own company, Camposano said electromagnetic simulation is obviously an option because the amount of information compared with the computation requirement is small.

But, "if you're doing a post-layout task, to transfer a layout of a terabyte-sized chip you have to think of a different model because of file size."

Other cloud computing-favorable applications include logic synthesis and spice simulation. 

Rethinking Software Development

But this will also require a reconsideration of how EDA companies build software.

"You need to be able to simplify support to the point that you can applify," Camposano said.

That may be easier said than done given the nature of the complex EDA tools and robust support infrastructure customers require. And if you think about it, EDA has spent the past decades evolving from "apps" (point tools) to integrated platforms and flows. But there are opportunities, as we'll hear in a second.

As an "applify" example, he said, "In an board design system, you click on a net and an app returns the parasitics (RLC) and perhaps the coupling with neighboring nets. It's an "app" in the sense that it only does that one thing, and it is trivial to use." 

While the vision and the potential are there, use cases need to be considered and that means that cloud computing isn't for everyone. One of the tipping points for cloud computing, Camposano suggests, is the 20 percent rule. If you use your computers more than 20 percent of the time--say for RTL simulation--it's better to host your own infrastructure at this point. And large EDA customers probably fall into that category (at least for now).

In addition, those large customers have security and license-model needs that are rooted in history and tradition.

"The overriding issue is ‘well that's not the way we do things.'"

Companies leverage their long-established IT departments, and in a way, Camposano said, it's like the choice between taking a taxi and driving your own car. You own the car, so why not drive it even if it's not cost effective?

The big customers, too, have support requirements that a cloud-computing model doesn't necessarily support or support well.

Opportunity Road

But that still leaves a long tail and a big opportunity. And here's where Camposano sees an interesting jog in EDA's road to the cloud: PCB designers--rather than IC designers--will be the most fertile near-term ground for cloud computing tools, he said.

"I think it will happen not from die out but from system in. PCB design is much better because there are hundreds of thousands of PCB designers. Everything is a PCB. It's lower tech than doing dies and more customers can spend a little money to make their life easier. In chip design, there isn't a super long tail."

He used Altium and Cadence OrCad as examples. They have thousands of customers with affordable seat licenses, he said.

"You need a thousand designers to make a million dollars if you're charging them $1,000 each," he added.

Camposano is a realist as he views EDA and cloud computing--Adoption will come over time as two things happen: Companies realize they can blend hosted and cloud computing solutions for optimal cost structures and IT departments move into the cloud.

"Ultimately what will happen is utility computing. Large compute companies are virtualizing their own centers. It's your cloud, and it's as secure as what you have today. That is being adopted from an IT point of view because it's a more efficient way of utilizing compute resources."

Over time, a mixture of public and private cloud computing then becomes fairly seamless.

And it all seems logical and achievable as you envision it, sitting in the shadow of Google. 

--Brian Fuller

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--EDA CEOs Reveal Thoughts About Present and Future of EDA Industry 

  • I completely agree with Camposano. High end IC design will probably never be best suitors for Cloud, while lower end PCB design would be. A high volume, low cost market.

  • EDA tools are going to be future of design. And the best statement of the article is - "You need a thousand designers to make a million dollars if you're charging them $1,000 each,"