Design Tools “as-a-Service?”

By Dean ~ November 25th, 2008. Filed under: Industry.

The latest IT fad – “Cloud Computing” – seems to be making its way into the design tools space.  EE Times recently did a two part series (and here) on the subject.

“EDA has experimented with different types of hosted application services since the dot-com days. Cadence’s recent announcement that it plans to offer some tools through the hosted application model suggests that once again EDA is approaching the world of hosted software.”

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was involved with a company that tried to make this go several years ago.  The complete lack of real demand (the kind where companies will actually give you money) became clear to me after a few months and we quietly shut the effort down.  The promise is still alluring.  Someone else will worry about infrastructure, provisioning, security and maintaining the software.  All you have to do is create an account and set to designing.  You don’t even need to worry about coming up with the front loaded license fees.

Of course, when engineers and managers are actually evaluating the proposition, they ask some pretty tough questions.

  • Can you absolutely guarantee the security of my design data, including when it’s on the net?  What will you do if there is a breach?  Are you liable if a competitor gains access to my data on your servers?  Even if you are liable, how can you make me whole?
  • What happens to my data / service if you go out of business?  Am I going to be held “hostage?”
  • What kind of SLA will you commit to?  I demand 99.999% availability.
  • How can a hosted solution possibly handle the bandwidth / processing demands that I have?  Will my performance degrade as you sign up more clients?
  • I want to lock down the versions of the design tools at the start of a project (except for custom fixes, of course).  Can you support that in your hosted offering?

At least up to this point, we don’t have a single user requesting this sort of tool delivery from Foresight.  This seems more like a desperation move from Cadence than a genuine trend in the industry.

I’m quite comfortable with cloud computing for some IT functions.  We use third-party hosted collaboration tools at Foresight.  However, I’m just not sure that the world of complex system design is primed for SaaS delivery of design tools.  Have Salesforce and Google convinced you that cloud computing is safe and reliable?  Would you be interested in accessing design tools in this manner?  If so, what are your primary drivers?


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