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IBM Rolls Out Cloud Service for Designing Electronic Systems

Big Blue is looking to make its mark on the mobile device and wearables market. No, IBM isn’t pushing out a smart watch or even a smartphone.

In partnership with SiCAD, a silicon design platform company, IBM just announced High Performance Services for Electronic Design Automation (EDA). IBM is billing EDA as the electronic industry’s first enterprise-class, secure cloud service that provides on-demand access to electronic design tools.

Jai Iyer, founder and CEO of SiCAD, pointed to a clear market need. There’s no denying the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, wearable devices and Internet of Things products or how that’s driving the demand for semiconductor chips.

“Companies are under pressure to design electronic systems faster, better and cheaper,” Jyer said. “A time-based usage model on a need basis makes sense for this industry and will spur innovation in the industry while lowering capital and operations expenses.”

Driving Tangible Improvements

At least that’s the goal of EDA. The prospects look promising. EDA is delivered on IBM’s SoftLayer infrastructure. The cloud service supports a pay-as-you-go model and opens up patented tools that, until now, IBM Microelectronics exclusively licensed to electronic and semiconductor companies. EDA tools helped drive over 100 projects to market, including IBM mainframe and Power microprocessors, interconnects, application-specific integrated circuits and custom projects.

We asked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, for his thoughts on the High Performance Services for EDA. He told us these tools and licenses are often complex and usually quite expensive. That has created barriers to adoption and effective usage, especially among startups as well as small and midsize developer organizations, he said.

“By offering, in partnership with SiCAD, access to its own well-tested EDA tools as a cloud-enabled, usage-based service, IBM is lowering the barriers for developing mobile and wearable solutions, and increasing their likelihood of success,” King said. “In essence, the new IBM-SiCAD service should certainly speed hoped-for innovations in these vital markets. But they will also tangibly improve the returns IBM receives from its EDA investments.”

Three New Tools

In the first phase of the launch, IBM will serve up three tools: IBM Library Characterization; IBM Logic Verification; and IBM Spice. IBM Library Characterization creates abstract electrical and timing models required by chip design tools and methodologies. IBM Logic Verification simulates electronic systems described using the VHDL and Verilog design languages. IBM Spice is an electronic circuit simulator used to check design integrity and predict circuit behavior.

All three tools work on an IBM Platform LSF cluster built on the IBM SoftLayer cloud. Simply stated, the cluster taps both physical and network isolation to protect workloads for strong security. The cloud service uses single-tenant servers, which means that clients don’t share servers and firewalls and other techniques are also used to secure clients’ data.

“Cloud computing has the potential to satisfy scalability requirements in EDA,” said Roy Jewell, President of Palma Ceia SemiDesign, a Silicon Valley startup that offers analog and RF IP for emerging Wi-Fi, LTE, and wireline applications. “IBM High Performance Services for EDA, together with an experienced deployment partner like SiCAD, should make cloud adoption for IP and semiconductor design houses, seamless and affordable.”

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