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Measuring Success in Semiconductor Design Optimization: What Metrics Matter?

Measuring Success in Semiconductor Design Optimization: What Metrics Matter?
by Kalar Rajendiran on 10-12-2022 at 6:00 am

Altair Generic Image for SDO Metrics

When it comes to electronic design automation (EDA), there are two aspects to this technologically challenging and highly competitive field. First, there is the task of designing very complex chips for which a full suite of various software tools are needed. Then there is the task of managing extremely complex EDA workflows and valuable licenses for maximizing productivity and quality. With chip development teams running tens of millions of compute jobs every day in a race to beat aggressive time-to-market schedules, workflow management takes on greater importance. Achieving profitability boils down to optimal use of compute-hardware resources and valuable software licenses. Gaining market share boils down to bringing a high quality product ahead of the competition.

Altair possesses deep knowledge and expertise in EDA workflow management and is a fast growing leader in this space. It recently hosted a round table discussion among a few of its own experts to spotlight the various value-added functionality delivered by various Altair products. The panel was represented by Dr. Rosemary Francis, chief scientist for high performance computing (HPC), Ketan Kulkarni, team leader for supportive services, and Stuart Taylor, senior director for product management for Altair Accelerator products. The session was moderated by Peter Dobzsai, head of sales operations for their EMEA region. The panelists discussed the metrics that leading semiconductor companies consider in their optimization strategies on chip development projects. The following is a synthesis of that round table discussion.

Why should customers choose Altair for EDA solutions?

The tools are very specifically designed for EDA’s complex workflow requirements based on Altair’s deep EDA insights and expertise. They are very easy to setup and run and customers love the simplicity, flexibility and power behind Altair’s products. The tools include the Accelerator and the Monitor and all other workflow management tools that are part of the full Altair EDA suite of tools. Altair solutions are so widely used that, to quote an example, at least some part of almost every cell phone is designed using Altair EDA solutions.

What are some key Altair tools for EDA workflow management?

The Altair Accelerator is for high throughput scheduling for short and very fast EDA workloads. The Rapid Scaling feature is a core component of the Accelerator, leveraged heavily for Cloud Bursting purposes. The Altair License Monitor provides historical as well as real time view of licenses being used and comes in handy for optimizing the use of valuable licenses. The Altair FlowTracer helps automate the EDA workflows, making it easy for new engineers to start running flows and iterating within a few days of their onboarding. There are other productivity tools as well, such as the Altair Breeze, which is an application discovery tool. The Breeze collects application dependencies which is very important when trouble shooting issues. Other tools are also available to help monitor CPU, memory as well as I/Os for optimizing EDA work flow management.

Why is the Altair Accelerator a cut above the competition?

Accelerator Scheduler is simpler than many of the solutions out there.  While it may take 15 seconds to a minute for a typical scheduler to schedule a job after resources become available, it takes milliseconds with the Altair Accelerator.

When using other schedulers, companies find 50% license utilization levels at the same time they notice jobs waiting for licenses. Based on these statistics companies end up procuring twice the number of licenses than actually needed. Accelerator helps manage the software licenses more efficiently by handing off when not needed and tapping licenses only when needed.

Another important difference is that the Accelerator checks upfront for license availability before it schedules a job that will lock up hardware resources. This aspect has beneficial cost implications when running jobs on the cloud using on-demand expensive compute resources.

Altair also provides a lot of interfaces to the Accelerator and the Monitor. Without such interfaces, it may not be obvious when secondary licenses are in use, which are needed to run some jobs. This functionality makes it easier for system administrators and end users to know the license usage and what jobs are using what licenses.

How does Altair offering compare against other tools out in the market?

What customers have learned is that average license utilization levels of 35% is not uncommon even for a frequently used tool license. When Altair Accelerator/Scheduler is used, customers see an immediate 20%-30% boost in license utilization levels. To take it from 60% to 90% utilization level requires concerted effort from system administrators and CAD teams and is certainly achievable. Altair customers have been able to achieve 97%-98% utilization levels. Higher utilization of valuable licenses enables more iterations within a shorter time, faster time to market and a better quality, higher-yielding product. The Altair FlowTracer enables reproducibility of a workflow, which is important for propagating optimized flows to other teams without an organization.

Overall, Altair’s products also help enhance engineering productivity by maximizing the use of engineers’ time on the right flow and right tools.

How does a new customer get started with a few EDA workflows?

Altair is skilled in workflow management, not chip design.  If a customer can describe their workflow, Altair’s consulting team can help encode it into the FlowTracer. Once that is done, the FlowTracer encapsulates the customer’s EDA flow. It may sound like a big investment but once done the payoff is huge.

Are there Altair tools to help make a move to Cloud Bursting?

Yes, there are some profiling and analysis tool that can be run on the flow meant for the cloud. This process identifies the resources that are needed to execute a design. The next step will be to benchmark these cloud resources to make sure the workflow would run cost efficiently. Once these steps are completed, the flow is established and ready for engineers to run as and when Cloud Bursting is called for.

You can listen to the full round table discussion from here. Anyone designing semiconductor chips can benefit from Altair’s suite of EDA workflow management tools. For more details, visit Altair’s website.

Also Read:

Load-Managing Verification Hardware Acceleration in the Cloud

Altair at #59DAC with the Concept Engineering Acquisition

Future.HPC is Coming!

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