IBM Corp. has announced that it will offer a new cloud service for companies looking to design chips for electronic products such as mobile phones, wearable devices and Internet of Things (IoT) systems.
Dubbed the IBM High Performance Services for Electronic Design Automation, IBM executives said the company has partnered with SiCAD, Inc., a silicon design platform provider with expertise in EDA, design flow and cloud technology.
The cloud platform, scheduled to launch in the third quarter of this year, will provide developers with on-demand access to electronic design tools in a pay-as-you-go model that promises to lower the barriers-to-entry for start-up companies.
“We are lowering the cost of entry for small companies and we will charge on an hourly basis. We’ll release pricing as we get closer to availability,” said Bryan Hartlen, business development leader for IBM’s software defined infrastructure and HPC cloud. “From a price performance perspective we would expect the minimum of 50 percent cheaper than what people are currently paying on existing tools. That’s the goal.”
The software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model relies on several IBM technologies including the IBM Library Characterization that creates abstract electrical and timing models to enhance chip design tools and methodologies. Customers can also use IBM Logic Verification to simulate their electronic systems that will be described using the VHDL and Verilog design languages. To check and verify design integrity and predict circuit behavior the system will use IBM Spice, an EDA tool that is an analog simulator.
To help companies with their innovations, these tools will be accessed on an IBM Platform LSF cluster built on the IBM SoftLayer cloud. To enhance security the cluster uses physical and network isolation to protect workloads.
IBM recently announced its intention to provide its cloud offering at the Design Automation Conference, held in San Francisco earlier this month. By using IBM’s cloud offering, smaller chip design companies won’t have to purchase hardware and software to develop and design their chips, Hartlen told EPS in an interview.
IBM is also looking at large semiconductor firms to sign up for the service. “We’ve had several inquiries from very large companies that are trying to see if this will help them manage their costs and shift their capex costs to opex costs which they find very attractive,” Hartlen said.
As the semiconductor industry continues to undergo a series of mergers and acquisitions that promise to transform the industry, IBM executives say they see an opportunity to lure larger chip manufacturers to their cloud service because it offers them a chance to further wring costs out of design workflows while helping them to create partnerships with smaller companies that are seeking to drive innovation into chip designs.
“We want to bring in foundries that can manufacture the chips and offer their expertise and their design kits to customers,” said Jai Iyer, CEO of SiCAD. “It’s a logical extension – after you design the chip you want to manufacture the chip and so we want to build that part of the ecosystem, but we pretty much stop there and don’t get into components at all.”
While IBM won’t establish a component buy and sell system to go along with its cloud service, officials note that customers, especially smaller design firms, will benefit because they won’t have to invest in data center technology, design software and IT staff to maintain and operate the on-premises environments. Instead companies have a better chance to allocate funds toward other parts of their business such as marketing, sales and the procurement of parts.
Roy Jewell, president of Palma Ceia SemiDesign, a Silicon Valley startup that offers analog and RF IP for emerging WiFi, LTE, and wireline applications, sees the offering as a model that can help with design workloads and said the cloud computing model has the potential to satisfy scalability requirements in EDA.
"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,” Jewell said in a statement.