By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: From your point of view, where is the industry today in terms of adopting a cloud-based model such as your local design vault and a cloud-based release design vault where designs from participating designers all over the world sit? Is that a reality today, is that something that is happening, or is that still very much in the cloud?
AP: It is a fair question, and I think that the answer depends on whom you ask and which industry you put this to. For example, I cannot see and I am sure none of us will ever see the military industry providing designs in a cloud-based environment. We are obviously providing this vault in a way that people can choose to install these services and manage them in-house if they wish to. But the beauty is that you can have both the large, important designs that are very sensitive being managed in a tightly controlled shop as well as the participation of release for the majority of the long tail of design engineers who may have some blue-sky potential and are worried about scalability and whatnot. The clouds provide a wonderful opportunity for this long tail to participate in that way. So, I think you will find a mixture of people who say, Yeah I want this, but I have to abstract the infrastructures so that I can actually make it a reality for my type of business. Whereas the others would say . . .
SM: Who is responsible for driving such an infrastructure? That is part of the problem we see in the EDA industry or the electronics industry. I’m not sure if anybody has taken the responsibility of building and managing such an infrastructure. Somebody has to facilitate the infrastructure, right?
AP: Well, I think that one of the problems here, like with everything with the cloud, is the issue of trust in infrastructure. What is happening with us is, at the moment we are building our infrastructure on the Amazon platform. We are looking at a combination of a range of Amazon Web services to build a fairly compelling and reliable offspring.
SM: Do you intend to build a body managing this ‘cloud-based design repository’ or this ‘cloud-based EDA marketplace’ of sorts?
SM: Is that a reality today, or is it something that is in your plans?
AP: This is something that we are in the process of releasing. We intend to have this released in a limited way in the next two months or so, actually at the end of January 2011. We intend to have this fully scaled and available to the masses of our customers, say in the tens of thousands, in 2011.
SM: What are your assumptions about who is feeding into this environment? Do you have a few beta customers, for instance, who are going to be feeding into this environment?
AP: Yes. We have quite a few people who have been clamoring at our door to be a part of this effort. It is a very interesting thing for many of them. You have some people who are skeptical, obviously. But we also have a lot of people who are saying, ‘We need this, we want it, and this is going to save us an enormous amount of cost.’ They realize that there is some amount of loss of control but not security, yet there is a way to preserve the agility of design. So, we already have a group of people who are waiting very patiently to have this. We are using it already in-house ourselves for our electronic design processes. We are not quite ready to go out with that, but we are very close.
SM: What are you learning in terms of adoption readiness from these people who are waiting patiently to get on a platform like this? Which industries are more ready than others to do something like this? Is it the auto industry that has interest in something like this based on the cloud, or is it the cell phone industry? Where is the adoption coming from?
AP: That is a great question and one that I don’t feel qualified to answer at the moment because I haven’t been involved much in these particular customers. What I can say is from my own sort of peripheral engagements is that to me, this looks like domestic appliances, white goods, that sort of stuff. We have a range of different things. I have heard by way of anecdote that there is the scientific community involved with sensitive, classified patents as well as the military, which is not comfortable with cloud-based design sharing. A lot of customers in that area simply do not have access to the Internet. Their designs are not allowed to be on any machine that has any connectivity whatsoever, so that is the other extreme.
SM: Does your vision include the chip industry? EDA is very large and it makes a large part of its money in the complex chip business, right?
AP: Yes, talking about things such as ASICs [application-specific integrated circuits] – that is not where our business lies. We are much more based around the FPGA model rather than ASICs. Those kinds of tools are better left to the higher end of the market and vendors. Those tools are specifically designed for that purpose.
SM: Fair enough. So, you are talking about the ecosystem of simpler design, the more modular designs, perhaps, the more FPGA [field-programmable gate array]-oriented markets?
AP: I think so. In general, yes.
AP: For a lot of the bigger ASIC-type things, these companies will provide their own infrastructures, their own ecosystems, and so forth. We are hoping that they will participate in a global marketplace. That is where I think in effect they are successful in this. I think they would be compelled to because they will have to hook into these things, the Web services and whatnot to make sure that the designs can participate in this. We are increasingly going to see electronic components in traditionally non-electronic products – things such as fabrics woven with smart nanofibers or something that can detect whether or not there is going to be a storm simply by reading the [weather] bureau. Or take the example of bicycles, or all sorts of different devices that are traditionally not associated with electronics. They are increasingly going to be participating in this. Therefore, it is not just electronic vendors that will be looking into such a solution to harness the cloud. It will be vendors of all sorts of mechanical, textile, and other types of devices as well.
[Note to readers: Cloud-based software applications, engineered to harness the power of Internet-enabled intelligent devices, is an interesting trend that readers may want to follow upon here and here.].