Making Important Choices

Select a solution or a college with care. You may have to live with it for the next four years.

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By Nithya Ruff
Last year, my daughter was a senior in high school, very busy finalizing her college selections and completing college applications. For anyone who has gone through this recently, it is not a trivial task to select a place where you will spend the next four years, a place that will shape your future and where you will be spending a good amount of your parent’s money. This experience got me thinking about how we go about selecting a solution for problems we want to solve at work.

Creating a new SoC or chip and even a derivative chip is not a trivial task. Millions of dollars are at stake and large hardware, software and business teams are all working hard to make this product successful. You need all the help you can get to ensure that you have the best tools, the best partners and ecosystem all lined up and working with you. You cannot afford delays or re-design. Many of my customers face this situation. To me, there are four things that stand out as selection criteria to ensure that you have the right partner in this critical endeavor:

1) Is the supplier a vendor or a strategic partner? For solutions that are critical to our success, we can no longer afford to have suppliers who are just vendors. We need someone who understands what we are trying to do, is an industry leader in that area and able to provide advice, best practices and guidance to ensure our success. For example, thought leadership in a space can be market share, number of successful customers and stability as a company. As a lot of critical solutions like virtual prototyping become a key part of a company’s software development process, our customers tell us that they want a partner who has staying power and leadership in this area.

2) How complete is a technical solution? Does it have all of the pieces we need—product, support, services, training, collateral and documentation? Is there a predictable roadmap that assures me that this solution will continue and be maintained? Is there support for standards and key developments in the industry? How is the usability and quality? If I run into bugs, how does the company respond? In my own product area, solutions consist of such things as:

  • A broad library of models that can be used off the shelf. This helps a customer focus on creating models where they add value or differentiate and use off the shelf high-quality models for the non-differentiating parts of the solution.
  • Tools for easy creation and debugging of prototypes are also important as many customers create their proprietary models.
  • The end game is often the software developers who need to be able to use them just like any other software tool and to be productive from day one.
  • Services and training: The ability to jumpstart a program with highly skilled teams till the teams get up to speed is an important buying criterion for many. Training and mentoring programs get the teams ready, but only until they can do their own work so knowing that highly experienced teams can create the prototypes is important.

All of these considerations have us balancing our investment to insure that we make customers lives easier and productive.

Almost all of my customers have teams all over the world. They are no longer are all located in one physical site, which leads to the next point.

3) How well can they be supported worldwide by their partner? Does the partner have offices, services, local language support in the geographies they care about? Even the design of the solutions need to take into mind the notion of global collaboration. Virtual prototypes, being 100% software-based, can be sent and used anywhere without logistical challenges, risk of getting damaged, or being held up in customs. Provisioning licenses for a team in India or anywhere must be easy. Being able to work on a common reference virtual prototype or assemble one from sub-systems across the world is a key deciding factor.

4) How complete is the ecosystem? You also want a solution that is well connected and networked. A solution that supports standards and works with a broad set of companies in the industry, to bring the solution together. You also want a company that participates in technical organizations that help move the industry forward. It provides forums for users, industry players and customers to get together and share practices. We cannot afford to bet on solutions that are islands and not connected. We need solutions that broaden our reach by working with them.

This was something that was of importance to us as we put together the virtual prototyping solution. We wanted to make sure that we had a partner program such as the Catalyst Program. We worked hard to create a TLMCentral site as a forum for models and model practice information. We also ensured that we were working with a broad and great set of model partners to bring models to our customers of high quality. By supporting SystemC and Transaction Level Modeling standards, we make sure that our customers are able to leverage the work of standards and the assurance of interoperability. All of this has helped move virtual prototyping forward to where it is today; a well-established solution for early software development.

Coming back to my college selection story, I am happy to say that my daughter not only got into her first choice school, Vanderbilt University, but is also happy to be there. The size of the school, the quality of the program, the city of Nashville and the variety of experiences the school offers is something that we are happy about. Putting some thought into all aspects of a selection does pay off.