Should a semiconductor/IP company use a proprietary data-management (DM) environment? Or even develop their own? After all, every company is unique and developing a unique DM allows a perfect match of just what is required for that particular company. And, in principle, a proprietary DM system can underpin the design management solution perfectly. On the other hand…
There are several industry-standard DM environments that are widely used. Probably the most famous are Perforce, Subversion and Git. Methodics ProjectIC environment can use any of them. These are actually two separate decisions that Methodics made early on:
- do not develop their own proprietary DM environment
- make ProjectIC work with any DM environment
Here is a list of reasons why it makes sense to use an industry-standard DM rather than using something non-standard, even if it is hidden under the hood of the design management solution selected.
Software/Hardware compatibility: since most (hopefully all) software developers already use industry-standard configuration management tools, it makes the interface between the hardware designers and the software designers more efficient and effective if both are using the same underlying system. In the software world these DM environments are often called source-code management, but for IC design, data management seems like a better general term.
Industry-standard DM solutions make typical software development methodology such as Agile available to hardware designers. This methodology has a proven history of making large teams more efficient at collaborating and working on pieces of a design that must all come together seamlessly at the end. Like a chip design or releasing a block of IP.
Zero cost of development: companies are not indirectly (or directly if they are insane enough to develop their own) paying for a proprietary DM environment with the cost amortized over a small user-base.
Lower cost of maintenance. Again, everyone can focus all their resources on doing design rather than wrestling with a proprietary DM and paying a large percentage of its ongoing maintenance costs.
With industry-standard DM solutions, the installed base is much larger than with proprietary tools. Most industry standard DMs are open-source and so the number of contributors to the ongoing development is large. Consequently, new features are constantly updated as new requirements emerge from this large user base and its associated cohort of developers.
There is no rule 6. Obligatory Monty Python reference.
There are integrations to a long list of existing third-party tools already in-place, including MS Word, Emacs, Eclipse, and others.
There is a huge online knowledge base that can be accessed for quick answers to a wide range of questions based on other users’ experiences, so users can easily and quickly search and find answers to problems.
Industry-standard DM solutions have better tuned performance profiling since a greater variety of use models will have been seen and handled and problems already seen and addressed.
The needs of any company change over time, especially in IC design where designs only get larger and more second order effects become first order. There is only ever more data to be managed. An industry standard DM is much more likely to already support any new requirements and to scale to future needs. A proprietary DM may require extensive development which can put the DM itself on the critical path to tapeout.
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These reasons together make a compelling case for not reinventing the wheel in the DM area. There are plenty of excellent wheel providers already out there.