Everyone in chip design uses a browser - there’s little doubt in that. I’d wager that most chip designers spend more time in a browser than in any other tool, including the command line, emacs or vi text editor, the Eclipse IDE, and the logic simulator.
Today, chip designers are likely to use a browser for:
Though not a chip designer anymore, I’ve been spending more time working in a browser, especially now that I’ve warmed up to Google Apps. And I’m not alone. I’ve even heard of some chip design companies using it too. Now that the word is out that Google is building chips, there is a good chance that they’d use Google Apps. Let’s face it, there is a lot of spreadsheet work in chip design and Google Spreadsheets is quite powerful, especially in a collaborative context. There is also a lot of block diagram work too and Google’s new Drawings tool offers hope there. Whether you like web-apps or not, I think most chip designers would agree, the browser is increasingly used for legitimate work.
There are many areas in chip dev where the browser can play a bigger role, especially in a collaborative context. One recent example, is Synopsys’ Lynx Design System which appears to have a browser GUI for it’s Management Cockpit. At PDTi we’ve been pushing the limits of using the browser for all things register management, for capturing and modelling the executable specification and generating dependent code and documentation.
Google has been pushing the limits of what is possible in the browser. The impressive video showing Quake II running in a browser is mind-blowing and highlights the possibilities of HTML5 and the next-gen browser. This supports the argument that graphical EDA tools such as the simulation waveform debuggers and graphical layout tools are possible and could be supplied as a web application; perhaps even under the SaaS model.
Are the naysayers missing something here - could the browser be the ubiquitous platform for everything, even EDA tools and Chip Design?
Last week at the Moscone Center in San Fransisco, the 46th annual Design Automation Conference (DAC) took place. I’ve attended this conference for the past 4 years and decided not to attend this year. This year I attended virtually using the web.
In the EDA media and for EDA trade shows, as Bob Dylan sang, the times they are a-changin’. It’s no secret that the incumbent media is struggling to find a business model that works in the uncharted waters of the future. As history repeats itself, the “hidden hand of supply and demand” will no doubt fix some shortfall with the traditional model — a shortfall that may not be fully understood until it is solved.
With the electronic media shedding their top writers, the coverage of DAC by trade publications is diminishing. At the same time, new media, such as blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn are picking up some slack. For example, Richard Goering and Michael Santarini who historically covered DAC for EETimes and EDN now write for Cadence and Xilinx respectively. Some of the best DAC summaries that I read were blogged by:
Additionally, on Twitter, the #46DAC tag provided useful information about what was going on at the tradeshow. For me, some tweeps who provided informative DAC coverage via Twitter included:
Based on the various reports and summaries from DAC, there is an apparent need for collaboration (as mentioned by keynote Fu-Chieh Hsu of TSMC) and productivity (as mentioned by the CEO panel). The same forces that are changing EDA trade media and conferences — the power of the Internet, coupled with economic forces –may enable the solution to better collaboration and productivity. Cloud computing business models like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are starting to prove themselves in other industries and will continue to find their way into commonplace. Exactly what the “hidden hand of supply and demand” has in store for EDA and cloud computing has yet to be revealed and we are just in the early stages now.
From various blogs and Twitter, without having attended DAC, I understand that:
In conclusion, I was able to absorb a lot of details about DAC without attending thanks to all the bloggers, Tweeters and trade media. EDA is changing in some exciting ways that scream opportunity for some and failure for others, and that’s what makes the future so exciting.