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For EDA Users: The Cloud Should Not Be Just a Compute Farm

For EDA Users: The Cloud Should Not Be Just a Compute Farm
by Randy Smith on 09-09-2019 at 10:00 am

When EDA users first started considering using cloud services from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others, their initial focus was getting access for specific design functions, such as long logic or circuit simulation runs or long DRC runs, not necessarily for their entire design flow. If you choose to use the cloud this way, you allocate virtual machines, and all the files related to the job are uploaded. Once the results are transmitted back to the user, you release the virtual machines, including their associated storage. While this sounds simple, it is likely very inefficient to keep uploading many of the same files with each job. We need to consider persistent storage in the cloud to see how it competes with on-premise design centers.

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Rather than looking to the cloud services as a one-off compared to your internal computing center(s), consider it yet another compute center. Users of ClioSoft’s SOS7 design management platform already have been efficiently managing the shared data between different worksites with great results. Frequently used data is cached locally for greater efficiency. It is also seamlessly managed by SOS7 along with revision control and all the other aspects of design data management. The main ingredient to add to your cloud solution to make this work is persistent storage, such as Google Cloud Filestore (GCF). Recently, ClioSoft worked with Google to obtain hard data to quantify the benefits of this approach.

Setting up the environment was straight forward as ClioSoft documented on Google Cloud Blog site.  ClioSoft than ran through some of its standard benchmarks that simulate typical EDA customer workflows. Some comparative environments were also set up to measure the differences in performance. The results were quite informative and contained some surprises.

Perhaps the first takeaway is that setting up a design center environment in the cloud is not significantly more difficult than setting up an on-premise design environment. Users now need to consider the cost of maintaining their on-premise design centers as opposed to building their design environment n the cloud. Certainly, costs will be shifted from capital expenses to operating expenses. I will leave that to the CFOs to study further.

Focusing on just the file system interactions is important here as obviously performance gains can come from faster CPUs, as well. In general, the simulations show that SOS7 performance on GCP is as good or better as compared to on-premise systems. When an on-premises network uses shared NFS/NAS storage, performance was measured to degrade by taking nearly three times as long. A most notable discovery was that Cloud Filestore provides a near-local drive performance level while providing all the benefits of a shared drive.

Worst case, I think these results show that you will not lose any performance by using cloud computing with persistent storage, at least not with GCP and Google Filestore. I should note that Google also just announced the acquisition of Elastifile. Google describes Elastifile as a pioneer in solving the challenges associated with file storage for enterprise-grade applications running at scale in the cloud. They’ve built a unique software-defined approach to managed Network Attached Storage (NAS), enabling organizations to scale performance or capacity without cumbersome overhead. Google is expected to integrate Elastifile with Google Cloud Filestore following the completion of the merger.

Cloud performance aside, I am anxious to see how the larger EDA companies will evolve their business models to handle the increased usage of the cloud. This issue was a significant point raised by Joe Costello at Semicon West in July (more details in my blog on that topic). Users are likely to want to pay for EDA tools only when they use them, as you would expect with a SaaS model. Hopefully we will have more to share about that topic soon as well.

The usage of the cloud is only going to increase for EDA designers. Thanks to ClioSoft for analyzing the different ways to use the cloud and showing the huge benefit of using persistent storage in the cloud.

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