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Power When You Need It

Aldec Harnesses Massive Server Capacity

Warning! We are going to say the “C” word in this article. If you can’t take it, just stop reading now and save yourself a lot of heartache and grief. We know a lot of you are sensitive on this topic and have deep-rooted emotional issues about it. Our advice is to seek professional counseling. 

For those of you who are less delicate (we assume you’re still reading), we proudly present a system that has the potential to accelerate your design verification efforts beyond anything you could currently achieve. You know how it goes. You do your initial debugging just fine with your local copy of your favorite HDL simulator, but then you reach a point in your project where you need to crank some serious vectors through that bad boy. That’s when it gets tricky. Your four-gigahertz quad core 64-bit badass laptop suddenly seems kinda wussy. It could take days or weeks to run all the simulations you need, and your machine would slow down even more while you watch YouTube videos to kill time waiting for it all. 

What you really want is rows of racks full of fast servers – dozens of ‘em – each all set up with your HDL simulation environment and ready to bite off big chunks of your verification suite. You’d tee up a big verification run and press GO. Before you even had a chance to tee off at the golf course, your simulation would be done and you’d have to go back to the office. Now, where’s the fun in that? Oh, yeah. We want to get our design out the door weeks faster. Right.

The problem with the “rack full of servers” dream… OK, the problemS (because there are many) are that you don’t have dozens of servers sitting around waiting for your big verification crunch. Chances are, if you go to your boss with an explanation about how that equipment could turn months of verification into days or weeks, he’ll look at you with excitement at first, and then he’ll start to wonder what all that gear (and the new IT guy he’d have to hire to manage it all) will be doing for the other eleven months of the year.

What you really need is a big ‘ol bunch of servers that you can rent just when you need them. You’d hit crunch time in your design, the servers-R-us trucks would roll up out front, the helpful dudes from IT Temps would parachute in, your EDA rep would show up with a passel of short-term licenses for your tools, and in no time you’d be experiencing the bliss of zillio-flops of vector-crunching simulation performance. Goodbye missed deadlines! Hello huge bonus checks!

Then, when you are done with that phase of your design project, the server room would be taken down, the meter would be turned off, and you could resume your normal EDA and IT life. It would be awesome. Well – except that it isn’t really available. But, it’s nice to dream.

Aldec actually now has the closest thing to our ideal setup. They’ve got a whole bunch of servers all set up with their latest simulation software. You can basically rent as many as you need during crunch time, and they’ll make hay with your heap of simulation runs. There is just one catch. They don’t bring the servers to you – you have to access them remotely… through… (Ah, dang, we can’t say it yet.) a secure TCP/IP connection.

Using this secure connection (which is doubly-secured by the host’s security plus Aldec’s added-on security measures), you can log in remotely to your temporary server farm, upload your design and simulation data, and unleash the awesome power of an array of finely-tuned servers doing your schedule-squishing bidding. It’s everything we wished for – servers at crunch-time – without the moving trucks, the electric bill, and the air-conditioned room at your company office.

Aldec Cloud (Ah, there. We finally said it.) is a new service from Aldec made up of both hardware and software resources that allows you to scale your simulation infrastructure to fit your needs. You basically pay only for the server resources you use, based on node-hours, so you can use as many servers as are required for any given simulation task. Aldec uses Amazon’s remote datacenters – which means that Aldec wisely didn’t try to re-invent the server farm wheel. Each server has Aldec’s Riviera-PRO simulator pre-installed and ready for batch-mode use. There is a special user interface that allows you to submit simulation jobs to multiple nodes, monitor their execution, and download the results back to your local machine when the simulation is done.

Of course, it will take some time to upload your design to the servers and download your results when you’re done. If your simulation takes less than an hour on your local machines, you probably won’t gain anything. If you have many simulation tasks that can be run in parallel (which most of us do), you can save incredible amounts of time.

Aldec’s service is batch only. You can’t run the interactive GUI. If you need the GUI, though, you’re probably not doing the sort of task that dozens of servers would help. Keep doing that work on your local machine.

Now, if you have heartburn about the idea of your design being out there in the cloud (those of you who ignored our advice at the beginning and kept on reading anyway), Aldec says that all data is encrypted at all times. No third party – including Aldec employees – can access your data. Encryption keys are maintained on a per-customer basis and are encrypted with your password. Authentication with this password allows only you to launch and access simulation jobs on Aldec Cloud. As you would expect, the password is encrypted with a 1-way hash algorithm so user passwords cannot be derived from the stored hash-code.

If you still have trepidation about letting your design out of your sight (or site), we understand. Although, you should still probably talk with your therapist about it. Realistically, for most of us, this will absolutely NOT be the riskiest thing we do with our design data. Nonetheless, if you’re squeamish about the stigma of cloud security, just pass on this service. Let your competitors use it instead. Although, if your competitors are getting their designs verified at warp speed while you’re sitting at home whining about internet security – or worse yet trying to crack into Aldec’s cloud to get your competitors’ design data – well, let’s just say I won’t be putting my money on your winning the design race. 

Aldec sells bundles of node-hours in 10-, 50-, 100-, and 200-node-hour chunks. As you get bigger bundles, the price goes down. You don’t have to be an existing Aldec customer to use the service. You just need to register for an aldec.com account. If you’re still skeptical, Aldec has a limited-time free trial running. You can grab your design, load it up, and see for yourself how it works. Then, let us know (in the comments below, even). We’d love to hear from you.

We are still very early in the cloud-for-EDA era, but it seems like a concept with too much benefit to stay in the margins for long. While there are those who feel that EDA will never move to the cloud, we’d like to point out that there was a time when EDA would “never” move off proprietary hardware, then would “never” move off engineering workstations, then would “never” be distributed on CDs/DVDs… It turns out “never” is quite a long time, and EDA progresses faster than you might expect.

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