Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are we Ready for Hosted Solutions for Chip Design?

Software as a service (Saas), hosted solutions or cloud computing all have a similar meaning; and that is running an external software application on external hardware over the internet. No software to install or maintain and no hardware to buy or maintain. The positives are availability of the application from a web browser anywhere on the planet, simple deployment and a potential wealth of hardware at your fingertips. The negatives tend to be long term costs and the necessity of an internet connection.

This hosted approach for software is widely in use for project management, customer relationship management, brainstorming, collaboration, workflow management, desktop sharing plus many others. I am personally using many of the hosted approaches for my business and have found it a great way to have my data available to me with only a web browser and an Internet connection. I have grown to thoroughly appreciate this approach for the applications I need, although I was reluctant in the beginning. I am now a staunch advocate of this next generation of software delivery.

Now, how about hosted solutions for the chip business? Cadence announced their SaaS chip design offering back in September of 2008. There are also a few others out there with Saas offerings for design work. I am not sure how the adoption of this is going but I personally believe this is the future, once we get beyond the 1st order concern of having our IP “outside” the firewall.

Here’s a few links on the subject to get you thinking:
Cadence blog
Harry the ASIC Guy blog

I would really like to hear comments from anyone who has given the hosted solution a try for any IC design activities, good or bad. Has it been a good experience or were there unknown potholes that made it unpleasant experiment?


  1. >>>The negatives tend to be long term costs

    I would argue that in the long term the cost of SaaS is less. Here is why:

    First off, the price is less due to the economies of scale that can be exploited. We price our SaaS for hardware/software Register-map interface automation at a fraction of the price of our onsite-hosted offering -- it's so much trouble to support and service an onsite tool instance compared to the online.

    Secondly, the maintenance and support resources that are required in-house for SaaS users are less. There is an opportunity cost associated with having in-house workers spend time on infrastructure when they could be focused on more value added work. I wrote a blog posting about this.Some additional positives that you didn't mention are i) seamless and more frequent upgrades, ii) the ability for the vendor to see how the tool is really being used so it can be adapted and improved more quickly, and iii) the ability for the customer to easily illustrate and re-produce issues for the vendor to fix.

    For registers anyway, we've recently learned that the accounting and standard operating procedures of chip companies can be more of an obstacle than the concern of having register information outside the firewall. SaaS is not what people are used to and some conservative companies don't want to change... there are other leading compaies who have already adopted it. Eventually I believe all companies will be using some form of SaaS for EDA and chip design.

  2. I can only recommend avoiding Hosted Solutions. I have found their dedication to customer service and ability to deliver on their word to be the worst i have experienced in 19 years of owning/operating a small business in Charlotte. Deal with Peak 10 if you can.

  3. Hello Jeff,

    Thank you for referencing my post on the move to SaaS for EDA.

    As you rightly point out, IP being outside of the firewall is probably the largest inhibitor to mass adoption. But I believe the progression to the cloud and SaaS delivery will be gradual with points in the design flow taken one at a time where it makes sense from a business, use-model, and IP protection perspective.

    The good news is that semiconductor houses are already sending IP outside and putting it on third party data centers. It's already happening and has been for a few's just not widely publicized.

    We're at the near-very beginning of a revolution in the semiconductor industry, and at Xuropa we're very proud to be at the forefront of enablement!