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Evolving at the Speed of Software

Evolving at the Speed of Software

Sherry Hess, VP of Marketing, AWR Group, NI

Thank you, Dr. Joe Salvo of GE Global Research and the founder and director of the Industrial Internet Consortium for sharing this tagline with me. At NIWeek 2014, Dr. Salvo took the keynote stage to comment on the Industrial Internet in the “systems age,” which has superseded the information age. He shared that systems are critical in order to make decisions in real time, especially in the midst of trends like software disruption, data analytics and global distribution. He also recalled purchasing a 10 MB hard disk drive in the 80s for about $1,000 USD and noted if we apply that dollar-to-megabyte ratio today, he had more than $200 million worth of memory in his pockets.

What Dr. Salvo was really pointing out is that the physical world is evolving at the speed of software as the Industrial Internet—Internet of things (IoT), Machine 2 Machine—pushes the boundaries of minds and machines.

For years, we’ve heard how Moore’s law pushes technology forward with a faster, smaller IC mantra. With a significant portion of my career spent in EDA software, Dr. Salvo’s statement resonates because I’ve personally witnessed the evolution of software is to make customers/consumers more productive and efficient.

With the IoT, software is the connective tissue that makes it function or fizzle. This is particularly exciting because it is what professionals in EDA have been hoping to see this for a long time—software is taking center stage. But, how can we continue evolving technology at the speed of software? What does this mean? In the microwave and RF industry, EDA tools empower design engineers to get their products (circuits, systems and subsystems) to market faster and more reliably. How are these software providers evolving their tools to help the microwave and RF design community?

One way is with technology integration and automation. This typically goes beyond the walls of a single company as customers demand improved software efficiencies from their tools. It involves partnerships, often amongst competitive tool vendors.

Think in terms of DRC/LVS, thermal analysis, high-performance computing and process design kit. For instance, open industry standards organizations like Si2, which strives to achieve industry adoption of collaborative technology and services for IC design integration, pursue a number of initiatives to streamline design, remove bottlenecks and make the design community more productive.

Closer to home, I can attest to our own initiatives within NI AWR Design Environment™ software. We are removing barriers that our software users/designers previously faced when moving from one disparate tool to another in order to construct their own design flows/environments to meet their evolving needs.

For example, we recently announced a partnership with ANSYS to integrate the ANSYS HFSS full-wave EM field simulation tool into Microwave Office high-frequency circuit design software. This was inspired by customer requests to eliminate duplicity across the two tools when optimizing the design engineer’s time invested.

Additionally, our cooperation with Cadence for the past few years has led to bidirectional RF printed circuit board (PCB) design between the NI AWR Design Environment and Cadence Allegro PCB Editor. While the RF functions are only a small footprint in an overall PCB design, the importance of getting the design right is critical. Because the RF layout is often designed in isolation and later placed in the final design, RF performance can suffer as a result. This connected flow allows designers to export their RF design from Microwave Office (schematic/layout) into Cadence Allegro PCB Editor such that it can be immediately read, plugged into the overall PCB design and sent back for simulation/verification.

Software design tools will continue to develop and evolve to support new processes, materials and design methodologies. As a result, there will be greater expectations for EDA tool vendors to integrate and cooperate to ensure that the design environment utilized by our microwave and RF engineers is as efficient as possible. This concept of efficiency goes beyond design, as it should, by also looking to embrace the software tools found within emulation of prototypes all the way through to the testing of IP on the production floor. From my vantage point, the future looks bright for software and as EDA continues to leverage tool integration and cooperation for the development of new methodologies and design technologies. As such, EDA firms will be leading the way for the microwave and RF design community to evolve at the speed of software.