EDA is sitting nervously on the side of the pool, dipping one toe in, pulling it back out quickly. The cloud is out there, calling… EDA is both intrigued and afraid.
More than just about any segment of the software industry, EDA has struggled through the years to find the right business model – one that would let them make reliable, predictable profits – earning a return on their development and marketing investment, and serving their customers well. We’ve seen a variety of attempts including perpetual licensing plus maintenance/support fees, term licensing, and complicated all-you-can-eat or remix deals.
Now, there is this cloud thing, and the idea of software as a service.
For customers of EDA, maintaining in installation of tools for a complex, global electronics company is a huge effort and expense. Dedicated resources are required for maintaining the installed versions of all the tools, managing licenses, archiving and securing design data, providing the right access to the right users – the list goes on and on, and each customer has to re-invent the IT infrastructure for this complicated task.
The current model does a disservice to the EDA industry as well. The complex nature of sales deals obfuscates the thing that tool developers need most – an understanding of who uses their tools, how, and why. EDA management is forced to make funding decisions based on incomplete and inaccurate knowledge of what their customers are actually doing with their products.
Support for the current model also poses big problems. When the first ten questions an EDA support engineer has to ask relate to versions of software, patches, licensing, hardware configurations, and other IT-related minutiae, that’s a lot of support bandwidth being eaten up before we even get to helping out with the tools.
The biggest problem with the idea of cloud-based EDA tools (for some design teams) is the lingering concern over security. A realistic assessment of the risks might validate that concern, or it might push it into the background along with myriad other vulnerabilities in the current design process.
However, for most of EDA – cloud-based delivery of design capabilities on a software-as-a-service model could revolutionize the industry. EDA just needs to get it done.
The biggest obstacle face by EDA companies offering cloud-based services is probably their own sales channels. If you’re the account manager pulling down huge bucks for wining, dining, and golfing with your customer every day – and taking a big-ticket order once every couple of years, the last thing you want to see is your customer’s EDA tool process simplified. You’ll pull just about every political string you can inside your own company to avoid that risk.
When do you think we’ll see major EDA companies offering their flagship tools as pay-as-you-go services on the cloud?