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DAC Keynote 2: Why Cloud Computing Is Inevitable For EDA

Comments(3)Filed under: Industry Insights, DAC, IBM, Power, cloud, Meyerson, datacenters, stream

While the Wednesday Design Automation Conference keynote speech by Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation at IBM, covered several topics, what I found most interesting was his strong advocacy of cloud computing in EDA. He also provided a fascinating inside look at how IBM is using the technology.

Meyerson's talk was a perfect setup for a Wednesday DAC panel on "IC design in the clouds," which I'll blog about separately at a later time. Suffice to say that cloud computing is a significant topic at this year's DAC and one of growing interest within the EDA community. It's also an area of keen interest for Cadence, given the company's Hosted Design Solutions offering and its work with Xuropa on verification IP evaluation.

After a discussion about stream computing, which is an interesting topic in its own right, Meyerson said "there is another thing coming along that I believe will have a seminal impact on your future. You will see more of this to the point where it will become dominant in 5 to 10 years. It's cloud computing."

Unsustainable Expenses

What's driving the movement from in-house datacenters to the cloud? Cost and power. Server costs are around $50 billion per year, but that's not the real concern, according to Meyerson. He presented a chart that showed exponential increases in server administration costs and power consumption. Meyerson noted, in fact, that 1.2 percent of the world's power output is now going into server farms and their cooling equipment. Spending on datacenter power is growing 600 to 800 percent faster than spending on servers.

The bottom line, Meyerson said, is that "IT spending is growing at unsustainable rates." This is making innovation very difficult. No longer can two guys in a garage start a major company (a reference to Hewlett-Packard), he said; today, startups must equip themselves with a lot of expensive compute hardware. Unless, of course, they decide to use the cloud.

The IBM Experience

Meyerson said that IBM has been working on cloud computing for 20 years, and is now at the point where all of its EDA software runs on a cloud infrastructure. "After all, IBM is a global company," he said. "We have 3,000 designers from around the planet. If you start giving them a common infrastructure, efficiency goes up dramatically."

The IBM cloud, he said, has 20,000-plus cores, controls 150 terabytes of memory, and runs 40,000 discrete jobs per day plus 50 million simulation cycles. "It's an enormous undertaking for us and it's global. It's the same thing whether you're in Bangalore, Austin, or Poughkeepsie."

The cloud, he noted, uses different hardware for different tasks. Optical proximity correction (OPC) requires a supercomputer. Logic synthesis runs on FPGA engines. But that's all hidden from IBM designers because it's handled by the cloud.

IBM aims for 80-90 percent CPU utilization in their cloud. How can that be obtained with a mix of batch and interactive jobs? "The way we solved it," he said, "is that if you have an interactive job you get priority. We will unload the batch jobs so the interactive jobs run with no delay. That turned out to be the right balance."

Parting Words

Meyerson concluded that cloud computing "enables you to say that I am not going to make this massive capital investment in building out my IT infrastructure, I'm going to link into it. Then the whole business paradigm starts to shift regarding how you run your business, where you get your IP, where you keep your design. That design is precious - to fully design a major microprocessor, there could be a half-billion dollars of value sitting out there on somebody's cloud. You do want to ask about things like security, data integrity, and backups."

"I'm not saying this is easy," Meyerson continued, "but this is the direction it's going because it gives you an economy of scale you cannot achieve on your own unless you intend to be an IT company."

There are many challenges with cloud computing, and these were discussed in the panel I'll write about later. Some EDA applications will be more appropriate for tre cloud than others. But I found Meyerson's arguments to be persuasive, especially since IBM has shown it can be done.

Videos of the DAC keynote speeches are now available on line.

Richard Goering




By theASICguy on June 16, 2010
Hi Richard,
I missed the keynote, but feel like I was there from your writeup.
It sounds like IBM has implemented a Private Cloud, which is basically adding virtualization (e.g. VMWare) to an existing fixed cluster (20,000 CPUs). This has benefits as you mention, but the real benefit will be to move to a hybrid cloud that keeps a baseline of in house computing CPUs and used the public cloud (e.g. Amazon EC2) for peak needs. And that's where the question of licenses comes in. If you can get 1000 CPUs added for an overnight run, then how do you get 1000 EDA tool licenses for an overnight run? IBM has an advantage that it still does a lot of it's own EDA tools, so licenses are a non-issue I imagine.
Broadcom is doing something similar according to a briefing they gave this week. Since they have quite some influence, I'd expect EDA companies to start to respond soon.

By Gary Dare on June 18, 2010
Add to that, Xuropa.com which is lead by James Colgan ... it's a cloud computing service that can massively extend the reach of EDA technical marketing to geographic nooks and crannies like (e.g.) Winnipeg or Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, and probably frustrate a lot of sales and marketing folks' efforts to maintain their silver/gold/platinum status on airlines, hotels and auto rental companies! :)

By rgoering on June 20, 2010
Gary -- Good point. Xuropa is a pioneer of cloud computing in EDA, and James Colgan was on the DAC cloud computing panel I'll write about shortly. In contrast to IBM, this would be a public cloud approach.

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