Today anything associated with “Cloud” is all the rage. In fact, depending on your cellular service provider, you’re probably already using cloud storage to back up your e-mail, pictures, texts, etc. on your cell phone. (I realized this when I got spammed with “you’re out of cloud space – time to buy more” messages). Major companies that offer cloud-based solutions (servers, storage, infrastructure, applications, management, etc.) include Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Rackspace, Dropbox, EMC and others. For those that don’t know the subtleties of Cloud, and the terms, like Public vs Private vs Hybrid vs Funnel, and why some are better suited for EDA, I thought I’d give you some highlights.
Let’s start with the obvious – what is “Cloud”? Cloud computing is a collection of resources which can include servers (for computing), storage, applications, infrastructure (ex: networking) and even services (management, backups, etc.). Public clouds are simply clouds that are made available by 3rd-parties and are shared resources. Being shared is often advertised as a key advantage of public cloud – because the resources are shared, so is the cost. These shared resources can also expand and contract as needs change, allowing companies to precisely balance need with availability. Back in 2011, Synopsys, a leading EDA company, was promoting this as a means to address peak EDA resource demand .
Unfortunately, public cloud has some drawbacks. The predictability of storage cost is one. Though public cloud appears very affordable at first glance, most providers charge for the movement of data to and from their cloud, which can exceed the actual costs to store the data. This can be further compounded when data is needed worldwide as it may need to be copied to multiple regions for performance and redundancy purposes. With semiconductor design, these charges can be significant, since many EDA programs generate lots of data.
Perhaps the greatest drawback to EDA adoption of public cloud is the realization that your data might be sitting on physical compute and/or storage resources that are being shared with someone else’s data. That doesn’t mean you can see other’s data. Access is restricted via OS policy and other security measures. Yet that does create a potential path for unauthorized access. As a result, most semiconductor companies have not been willing to risk the potential to have their most important “golden jewels” (their IP) hacked and stolen from a public cloud environment. Security has improved since 2011, however, and some companies are considering cloud for long-term archiving of non-critical data as well as some less business critical IP.
Private cloud avoids these drawbacks, as it isolates the physical infrastructure – including hardware, storage and networking – from all other users. Your own company’s on-premise hardware is typically a private cloud, even though, increasingly, some of that “walled-off” infrastructure is itself located off-premise and/or owned and managed by a 3rd party. While physical and network isolation reduce the security concerns, they also eliminates some of the flexibility. The number of servers available can’t be increased or decreased with a single key-click to accommodate peak demand changes, at least not without upfront planning and additional costs.
Hybrid cloud is another common term – which simply means a combination of public and private clouds.
In the world of semiconductor design, private cloud as a service has been available for some time and is offered in various forms by several EDA companies today. Cadence® Design Systems, for example, offers both Hosted Design Solutions , which includes HW, SW and IT infrastructure, and QuickCycles® Service which offers on-site or remote access to Palladium emulation and simulation acceleration resources . Hybrid cloud is also starting to gain interest, where non-critical data that’s infrequently accessed can be stored with minimal transport costs.
The public cloud market is changing constantly and as time progresses new improvements may arise that make it more appealing to EDA. A challenge of IT administrators today is meeting today’s growing infrastructure needs while avoiding investments that are incompatible with future cloud migrations. This is where you need to hedge your bets and chose a platform that delivers the performance and flexibility EDA companies require, yet enables easy migration from private to hybrid—or even public cloud. EMC’s Isilon, for example, is an EDA-proven high performance network-attached storage platform that provides native connectivity to the most popular public cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and EMC’s Virtustream.
Not only does native cloud support future-proof today’s storage investment, it makes the migration seamless – thanks to its single point of management that encompasses private, hybrid and public cloud deployments. EMC Isilon supports a feature called CloudPools, which transparently extends an Isilon storage pool into cloud infrastructures. With CloudPools your company’s critical data can remain on-premise yet less critical, rarely accessed data can be encrypted securely and archived automatically and transparently onto the cloud. Isilon can also be configured to archive your business-critical data (IP) to lower-cost on-premise media. This combination saves budget and keeps more high-performance storage space available locally for your critical EDA jobs.
Semiconductor companies and EDA vendors have had their eyes on public cloud for many years. While significant concerns over security continue to slow adoption, technology continues to evolve. Whether your company ultimately sticks with private cloud, or migrates seamlessly to hybrid or public cloud in the future depends on decisions you make today. The key is to focus on flexibility, and not let fear cloud your judgment.
 EDA in the Clouds: Myth Busting: https://www.synopsys.com/
 Cadence Design Systems Hosted Design Services: http://www.cadence.com/services/hds/Pages/Default.aspx
 Cadence Design System QuickCycles Service: http://www.cadence.com/products/sd/quickcycles/pages/default.aspx