IC Designers Now Have a Platform to Design Chips in the CloudJune 22, 2020 by Jake Hertz
Samsung Electronics, in collaboration with Rescale, has just announced the launch of the Samsung Advanced Foundry Ecosystem (SAFE) Cloud Design Platform (CDP).
Integrated circuit design is an extremely meticulous, challenging, and expensive process. The cost of a fabrication plant alone can be on the order of billions of dollars, meaning that only major companies can afford to build them. Still, companies all over the world work to design their own ASICs and SoCs, generally paying fabrication plants to use their foundries.
Samsung is one of these major companies, but it is unique in that they don’t only manufacture ICs for their customers; they help design them as well.
Samsung launched the SAFE (Samsung Advanced Foundry Ecosystem) program in 2018 with the goal of ensuring first-pass silicon success for its customers. SAFE assists chip designers by providing them with extensive EDA tools, access to application-specific IP, and design services and support.
Diagram of SAFE offerings. Image used courtesy of Samsung
Now, over two years after SAFE was launched, Samsung has provided their customers with a brand new service: the SAFE Cloud Design Platform (CDP).
Why Bring Chip Design to the Cloud?
With the announcement of SAFE CDP, Samsung has addressed some significant pain points for chip designers and companies.
For starters, chip design is a computationally expensive process, requiring some serious hardware infrastructure. This problem will only continue to get worse as chips scale and become even more complex. Cloud computing will afford companies the ability to cut down on these infrastructure costs by removing the need for on-site machines. In addition, it will allow engineers to do their work from anywhere; they don’t need access to physical machines to design chips—just the cloud.
Features of the SAFE cloud infrastructure. Image used courtesy of Samsung
Compute elasticity is also one of the biggest infrastructure-related problems that IC designers face. At various stages in the IC design process, engineers need different resources. This variable demand for computing resources is often met with fixed compute supply, which can create bottlenecks in the design process and cost companies serious money.
Cloud computing solves this issue by giving engineers access to the cloud’s resources as needed, and only for when it’s needed.
Samsung reports, "By adopting CDP, customers can reduce the burden of building their own server infrastructure, while flexibly utilizing additional computing power required for chip design and verification."
The Question of Security
With cloud computing already adopted by many industries, one might question why IC designers have been slow to embrace the technology.
As is well known, one of the major concerns of cloud computing is security, with companies like Microsoft, DropBox, and Apple all having infamous cloud breaches in the past.
Samsung employee giving a presentation on the new cloud-based platform. Image used courtesy of Asif S.
It is plausible that companies will be wary to trust their IP to a place as seemingly unsecured as the cloud. However, SAFE CDP does claim that it “supports a very secure design condition that has verified with cloud companies.”
Who’s Involved With SAFE CDP?
In order to bring IC design to the cloud, Samsung has collaborated with major service providers such as AWS and Microsoft Azure. Samsung has also collaborated with leading EDA companies such as Cadence and Synopsys. Boasting industry-leading names like this lends SAFE CDP credibility since designers are familiar with these more established players.
Samsung considers SAFE CDP a game-changer in the IC design world because it gives engineers access to professional infrastructure that companies would’ve otherwise needed to pay a fortune for.
Better tools for engineers at lower prices for companies will allow for more efficient design flow and, hopefully, lower prices for end customers. Collaborating with leading names in cloud and EDA products also affords SAFE CDP an aura of reliability that may placate any skepticism about cloud computing in the world of IC design.