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A Novel Approach to IC Design in the Cloud

A Novel Approach to IC Design in the Cloud
by Daniel Nenni on 05-23-2014 at 3:00 pm

Migration to cloud computing for scientific and engineering applications is inevitable. More specifically for IC design, the benefits are significant:

  • Common IC design infrastructure to unburden each user from setting up and maintaining a separate infrastructure
  • Cloud based IC design enables global collaboration among IC designers, independent of their geographical location
  • Scalable computing resources and EDA tools

However, the actual use of the cloud for IC design has been very limited due to three primary and correlated factors:


  • Data bandwidth between local compute machines and remote cloud computing servers
  • Segregation & synchronization of the remote cloud-based & user’s local design environments
  • Data security and IP protection

    The traditional use model for IC design in the cloud has been premised on providing “excess capacity”. The cloud provides additional computing hardware and/or EDA tools to augment users’ local resources. Under the excess capacity model, the design data base, design flows, and Process Design Kits (PDK) reside on the user’s local machines. The user moves a portion of the design data and the relevant design environment into the cloud, performs specific tasks on the design data and transfers the design data from the cloud, back to the local machines.

    For mid to large-sized designs, the excess capacity use model requires a significant transfer of data between the users’ machines and the remotely located cloud. The delay associated with large data transfer prohibits interactive IC design operations (e.g. physical design). Even batch IC design tasks (e.g. simulation) become inefficient and performance degrades.

    Additionally, in the excess capacity model, the user needs to establish and maintain two separate design environments in complete consistency and synchronization. The design environment for modern IC designs is very complex with many user-defined and system variables for the hardware, operating systems, Electronic Design Automation (EDA) design tools, and PDKs. It is pragmatically impractical to establish end-to-end workflow consistency and synchronization between two disparate design workflow environments that are on two physically and logically distinct computing platforms.

    With the cloud solution provided by Silicon Cloud International (SCI), the entire design infrastructure (design data, design tools, design flows, PDK) resides in the cloud, i.e. “cloud resident” model. No design data resides on the user’s local computers. The cloud is not used for excess capacity, but rather for the entirety of the design process. With the cloud resident model, there is no design data transfer between the user’s local computers and the remote cloud servers, and Internet bandwidth between the user’s local machines and the remote cloud becomes a non-issue. Further, with the cloud resident model, there is only one design environment, thereby eliminating the need for synchronization of two segregated design environments.

    Data security and IP protection have been another concern in both conventional and cloud based IC design. In the conventional IC design environment, each user (or a team of users) must download the intellectual properties of the entire eco-system onto their local machines. This includes PDK, EDA tools, and design IP. The owners of the intellectual properties lose connectivity and track of their IP. What systems and methods do we currently have in place to protect unauthorized use, unauthorized copying, and unauthorized sublicensing of the eco-system IP? Other than “personal trust”, there are no systems and methods currently available.

    SCI has developed a unique technology to specifically address the above challenges. This technology provides a novel security and control model for semiconductor eco-system providers and users through:

    • Private cloud centers
    • Thin clients with a customized Operating System, eliminating unauthorized downloading
    • Secure cloud infrastructure with individualized Role-Based-Access-Control (RBAC) policy enforcement
    • High performance virtualization technology, optimized for compute intensive applications

    Silicon Cloud International establishes cloud computing centers for universities and research institutions across the world with turn-key semiconductor design workflows.

    Mojy C. Chian, Ph.D.
    CEO, Silicon Cloud International

    lang: en_US

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