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  • CTO Interview: Peter Theunis of Methodics

    Article: 8 Reasons Why I Hate My iPhone 5-peter-theunis-methodics.jpgFascinated by computers at a very young age, Peter got his degree in Computer Science and was brought to the Bay Area via AIESEC Berkeley’s student exchange program to write his thesis. He has now more than 15 years of professional experience in software engineering, large scale systems architecture and data center engineering in Silicon Valley startups as well as with Yahoo! where he spent the last 9 years as a systems architect and principal engineer.

    So how does a systems architect at Yahoo! find his way to an EDA IP lifecycle management company like Methodics?
    After spending many years looking at system level issues across multiple industries, I realized that the semiconductor industry is on the verge of experiencing many of the challenges that I have seen before. Today's SoC’s are in fact very complex systems with many of the challenges that other “systems” oriented industries have faced. Semiconductor companies need similar solutions as other industries to allow the complexity of a modern SoC to scale to the tools and methodologies that semiconductor design teams have at hand, but make the overall process much more efficient. Methodics had an excellent foundation to build solutions for the future of Semiconductor design that will scale with the challenges that they will face around complexity.

    What type of solutions do you need to provide to design teams to allow them to realize these efficiencies?

    As with any other complex system, it has always been a divide and conquer approach. As SoC’s became common place, many companies started to focus on “reuse”. The main goal was allowing portions of previous designs to be reused to reduce the amount of design effort needed in new designs. As reuse in design teams became commonplace, the need to reuse designs outside of the immediate team, as well as acquire pieces of the design from partners or third parties lead to the notion of IP and IP management. As SoC’s grew larger and more complex, the amount of data and metadata associated with IP’s grew astronomically, and better technology was needed to manage the lifecycle of IP and more complex digital asset management systems were needed.

    I am familiar with IP within the SoC design process, but digital asset management is a new term, can you elaborate?

    Digital assets are the natural progression to IP lifecycle management. Original design reuse strategies started just with design data. As methodologies formalized around design reuse, you began to see IP methodologies evolve with the formalization of techniques and methods at making designs reusable. Soon, verification IP was added to these flows and now you had to also map verification and design IP together, leading to a growth in information that needed to be managed as you added the meta data associated with these types of IP. Eventually design scripts were added to the mix, timing constraint files, DFT information, as well as other design artifacts leading to another explosion in data that needs to be managed. With this complexity, the relationships between all these different pieces of data also need to be managed, and now you quickly begin to lose the traditional notion of IP. Today, with requirements systems producing myriads of requirements for systems, issue and defect systems tracking all aspects of design, and the need to trace information throughout the entire process, there is much more that just traditional IP that needs to be managed. There’s a whole range of digital assets that need to be managed.

    How is Methodics helping with digital asset management?
    Methodics’ most recent solution provides a true digital asset management platform. It all starts with effective design data management. It has always been Methodics’ strategy to work with industry standards when they are available. For design data management, we build on Perforce which has been providing leading enterprise data management solutions to multiple industries for years. Then the platform allows the integration of other engineering systems to provide communication across all solutions and the design teams where none has been available. Given that there are many engineering systems in use for issue and defect tracking, requirements tracking and other management tasks, the Methodics platform allows the integration of systems like Jira and Bugzilla for issue and defect and Jama for requirements management, allowing it to work seamlessly in existing engineering environments. The goal of the platform is to link all design data, IP data and metadata, design artifacts, requirements and issue and defect data together into a cohesive information system, that allows designers to not only to search for and find IP, but also to find all possible data associated with that IP and how it is connected through the various engineering systems. Engineering teams can now be more productive by quickly searching for and finding IP, quickly being informed of issues with the IP being used and when to expect resolution to those issues, and the ability to track quality and grade IP being used. In addition, management can quickly compile reports of where IP is being used, outstanding issues with that IP, traceability of requirements and other pertinent design data. The platform provides efficiency in design by streamlining the management and communication of data from multiple disparate systems, and can scale with increasing complexity by tracking the convoluted web of interconnected information throughout designs and organizations.

    What is unique to the Methodics technology that makes it able to provide solutions?
    We recently re-architected our underlying object store to support a graph database. We made this decision because of the highly complex and hierarchical nature of having to manage IP and digital assets. Graph databases allow the storing of direct relationships of data, allowing it to be quickly retrieved, often with a single operation. Compare this to traditional relational databases where links between data are stored in the data itself. In order to retrieve complex hierarchical and interrelated data, you would need to make multiple expensive calls to extract the required information. Our graph database has made possible greater than 10x performance improvements in just handling hierarchical IP in SoC designs. It has also allowed us to create the digital asset management platform linking in other engineering systems that would not have been possible with a traditional relational database.

    It seems that Methodics is investing in improving the efficiency of finding IP and critical information for SoC design, but designers still have to manage huge amounts of data itself in their workspaces. How is Methodics helping there?
    You are correct. We are seeing user workspaces routinely exceed 10’s of GB, sometimes 100’s of GB. Regression runs, characterization runs, design and debug workspaces all put a great stress on Network Attached Storage (NAS), create NFS bottlenecks and cause significant project delays. This situation is only getting worse. Last year we introduced WarpStor, a Content Aware NAS optimizer and accelerator. It excels at dramatically reducing user workspace storage requirements and creation time. With WarpStor, our customers can see up to 90%+ reduction in storage requirements and corresponding reduction in network I/O for user workspaces, regression runs, characterization runs, and the like. Creation time for multiple large workspaces is also reduced from hours to seconds. We have been using this technology internally for sometime and now our customers are realizing these same results. We now have many reference customers for this technology that are willing to speak with companies that are interested in this technology.

    Where do you see Methodics research and development efforts going from here?
    Since the complexity of SoC’s are only going to increase, we will continue to leverage our knowledge of solving systems challenges and adapting that for the semiconductor industry. There is a wealth of knowledge and methodology that can be adapted to the semiconductor industry and we will continue to do that. Likewise, the work we are doing around IP and digital asset management as well as workspace management can help other industries, so we will continue to synthesize across industries to bring solutions to those other industries as well. Stay tuned….