Welcome to part two of my four-part (part one) ESC 2010 blog series. Today’s topic: shifts in the industry. One of the biggest trends I observed at the show was the start of a paradigm shift in the evolution of Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software companies and their products.
EDA software companies have traditionally provided the software tools and services to create modern day semiconductors, but there has been a change in the way consumers look at hardware. Software apps have recently been tied directly with new hardware and there are two camps of development methodologies.
The iPhone model (hardware-driven) has a single hardware platform tied to an OS (operating system) but widely distributes the SDK (software-development kit) for anyone to develop apps for Apple’s revolutionary platform. The other method is employed by Google’s Android OS (application-driven) which dictates basic hardware requirements (multi-platform), but the core software (the OS and applications) are completely open source. Both of these methods foster “homegrown” development in the application arena, which is increasingly becoming the focus of new platforms.
It never used to be this way. Hardware and software development were almost always independent. Engineers in both labs hardly even spoke to one another—and when they did, they each spoke their own language! The silicon was designed, produced, and then handed over to the software side—often a different company altogether—which took it from there.
Systems integrators are now asking silicon providers to supply parts of the software stack, such as drivers, operating systems, and middleware. With hardware manufacturers developing the software stack, they are providing integrators with a head start for this new app-driven generation of systems, by producing an application-ready platform.
Hardware companies writing software is a game changer for EDA companies that are going to have to innovate and embrace this changing market. EDA companies are no longer being asked to design only gates and transistors; customers want a solution that works with both hardware and software development.
Industry hardware manufacturers, formerly only concerned with EDA for hardware development, now need an all-in-one EDA solution with hardware and software development attributes. They need a flexible EDA tool that enables them to meet customer needs not only for a complete, reliable hardware solution or System on Chip (SoC). but also for basic software – including diagnostics, drivers, operating system, and middleware. In short, they want their familiar EDA product to help them take their hardware concept all the way from silicon through to an app-ready product.
What this means for integrators is that they are going to have software directly tied to and developed by the hardware companies creating a complete SoC.
In systems designed for military and aerospace environments, soldiers on the field are fed up with feeling like they are stepping into the 1950s when they set foot on the battlefield. They have robust personal cell phones capable of more than military-qualified handheld computers. EDA tools that encompass hardware and software development can help change all this.
The military can begin to receive SoCs and develop their own secure applications on a single device to modernize equipment for the network-centric battlefield. As EDA companies evolve to bridge the gap between hardware and software design and development, the military may soon have an all-in-one handheld device capable of securely and reliably performing myriad functions. The infamous Star Trek Tricorder may soon be fact, rather than fiction. Geeks rejoice!