It’s The Data, Stupid!

Networking, connectedness and collaboration are driving hardware and software growth—and system-level design.


By Frank Schirrmeister
January is prediction month! After writing my 10 year Look-Back on Technology last week, I attended an IDC briefing called “Riding the Momentum: IDC Software Predictions 2013.” IDC is looking at the IT world from four angles that they call four pillars: Cloud, Big Data/Analytics, Social Business and Mobility.

In the opening presentation—called “In a Diverse World of Software, Where is the Growth?”—the term “Consumerization of IT” came up. I had heard that term quite a bit before. As matter of fact, a talk by Joe Costello on that exact topic pushed me over the edge in 1997 to pack my bags, move to the United States and to join Cadence. But the same slide also showed the term, “ITization of Consumers.” That was new to me.

The graph illustrated how enterprise cloud computing enables the access, sharing and integration of content across devices and teams and is blended with consumer mobility, which allows creation of many types of content on many devices. Similarly, the consumer-driven social web that generates real-time and continuous collaboration blends with big data and analytics that allow monitoring the social web, aggregation and the delivery of analytic applications for enterprises and consumers.

When looking at that blended picture, I realized that BYOD does not only mean “Bring Your Own Device” anymore. It also means to “Bring Your Own Data.” And it is a good example how true system design—the system, semiconductor and its associated software—impacts design needs. Applications and their needs drive both the system and the system on chip needs! In this scenario both enterprise and consumer data reside in several locations. They need to be synchronized and accessed from various locations. Tools are working both locally on the mobile systems we carry as well as in the cloud where a lot of the data resides.


Incidentally, that same week I had switched on iCloud for synchronizing my contacts, calendar and some key photos, as well as iTunes Match to enable synchronization for my library of songs. The impact on my home network was severe, and exactly as the picture above shows, it let me experience the blending of my consumer needs with my professional needs, between Apple, Cadence, my home and my phone. While the volume of my calendar and contacts is relatively small, my audio collection has grown to 23,334 songs totaling 124 GB. It turns out that iTunes Match is smart and only uploads songs it does not already know —but still, there is a lot of synchronization going on. iTunes Match does not support video, which would be at least a 10x multiple of my audio bandwidth and storage requirements. Now imagine how this would extrapolate for a chip design …

Going back to my 10 year Look-Back on Technology, in which I concluded that a surprising number of predictions actually came true, the January issue of IEEE Spectrum from 2003 had a section on networking and telecom. The main two items, with admitted 20-20 perfect hindsight, are cloud storage and the sheer need for bandwidth. A couple of articles stand out:

In “What’s wrong with Telecom,” Peter A. Bernstein describes the dilemma telecom was in back in 2003. The “Telebomb” as he called it had five key ingredients—Greed, Corporate Crime, Misguided Regulation, Too Much Debt and A Broken Business Model. He concludes the article with a section that there is hope, but correctly points out an issue we are still dealing with 10 years later: “Fixing the business model is more problematic. It will get fixed, to be sure, because in a world that is ever more network-centric, what the network does and delivers will always be valuable. But figuring out exactly where that value lies is still a challenge.” The value chain in networking has been completely changed. I am well aware that with synchronizing my 124 GB audio collection combined with my Netflix streaming and my daughter’s “My Little Pony” downloads, I am now very easily approaching the 500GB limit that my ISP imposed before my bandwidth is getting throttled or I have to become a “business user.”

In “What’s Right with Telecom,” Steven M. Cherry predicted that “Reliable high-speed mobile Internet access will be a foundation for products and services we can barely imagine. Only when the networks are built will the lightning bolt of invention strike clever engineers and entrepreneurs. But we already know that our increasingly mobile lifestyles will make cell phones and PDAs even more important than they are today.” As my iCloud/iTunes Match example shows, there have been enough “lightning bolts of invention” to simply burst available bandwidth. My eight-year old daughter at this point expects instant media access in a way that she asks “whether the episode of My Little Pony has been downloaded yet” before she actually considers watching it.

So what does all this mean for system-level design? Well, there are two perspectives here—enablement and use.

On the enablement side, the need for networking, connectedness, and collaboration drives a lot of the software and hardware developments our tools are used for. It is a key driver for emulation and acceleration and our virtual platforms are connected virtually to virtual networks via Ethernet.

On the use side, using cloud- and networking-based techniques for development of chips and systems, the security and synchronization of data will be a key issue. Extrapolating from my iCloud and iTunes Match synchronization networking issues, keeping the database of a chip-design project synchronized with a cloud based copy seems to be a very challenging undertaking, not even considering the security and IP concerns. But then again, with more networking bandwidth enabled by semiconductor technology and its associated software ahead, even that will be in the cards.

More fun for us is ahead in EDA!

—Frank Schirrmeister is group director for product marketing of the System Development Suite at Cadence.