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Many EDA companies, including Cadence, have university programs that make it easier for academia to acquire tools. But what about the software/hardware infrastructure that supports those tools? In this era of budget shortfalls, university compute infrastructures are under severe stress. Recently the Cadence Academic Network teamed up with Cadence Client Technology Solutions to help solve this problem.
The Cadence Academic Network operates primarily in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, and it has recently expanded to Brazil. Its mission is to promote leading-edge technologies and methodologies at key universities, so graduating students are knowledgeable about EDA tools and are ready to work in industry. According to Patrick Haspel (right), program manager for strategic and academic partnerships at Cadence, the network includes over 35 contributors. (Cadence also participates in the multi-vendor Europractice university program, which has some 650 members, and has a university program in North America as well.)
Client Technology Solutions, a global services team, makes Cadence IT expertise available to customers. "We ensure that Cadence customers are running our tools as fast and as stable as possible, and we do that by optimizing the infrastructure they run the tools on," said Peter Vincent (left), principal architect for the Client Technology Solutions team. In particular, the team focuses on bottlenecks related to operating systems, networking, and storage configurations. A whitepaper explains some of the common problems in these areas.
Upgrading Design Environments
When he became familiar with Client Technology Solutions, Haspel said, he realized that the competence this group offers could be very helpful in academic environments. "If we just make Cadence tools available, it does not ensure that students are successful," he said. "If universities do not have a good experience using our technologies, a university program can actually cause harm."
Vincent agrees that there's a need. "I've been to four universities and I can safely say that the infrastructure they've been running their training classes on is the worst I've ever seen," he said. "Universities have come under huge budget pressure, and a lot have let their IT support resources go to protect their professors."
One university that decided to invest in infrastructure was Tampere University of Technology in Finland. The RF Communication Circuits Laboratory there joined the Cadence Academic Network in 2007. Tools used there include the Cadence Virtuoso Schematic Editor, Virtuoso Analog Design Environment, Virtuoso Spectre Circuit Simulator, Virtuoso Spectre Circuit Simulator, Virtuoso Layout Suite, QRC Extraction, and OrCAD PCB tools.
The university had an aging IT infrastructure - and at the same time, it had set a goal of increasing the number of students by 4X. So the Client Technology Solutions team visited Tampere and came up with a plan. "In essence we completely redesigned their entire training environment," Vincent said. "I mean all of the IT needed to support that training environment - everything from remote access to local networking, security, storage, operating systems, tools, and installation."
"By working with the Cadence Client Technology Solutions team, Tampere University has been able to take advantage of Cadence's expertise to create a world class training environment that will support our requirements both now and for many years to come," said Prof. Dr. Nikolay Tchamov, head of the RF Communication Circuits Laboratory at Tampere University of Technology.
These engagements aren't free, Vincent noted, but they bring tremendous value. With a very short engagement, he noted, a university can "tap into the expertise of Cadence IT and get a world class environment without having to pay for somebody full time."
The Client Technology Solutions group has also helped the University of Southern California redesign its training environment, and more such engagements are in the pipeline, Vincent and Haspel said. Meanwhile, they're looking towards the clouds - by working on a "proof of concept" for academia in the cloud. It's just one more way of looking at a far bigger picture that includes, but goes well beyond, EDA tools themselves.