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The Cost of a Millisecond: HPC Job Scheduling for Semiconductor Design

In a fast-moving business landscape, a competitive edge can be carved out in surprisingly small increments, in some cases as small as milliseconds. Getting to market first is a big advantage, but every company faces the challenge of accomplishing product development goals within budget constraints. Tools that make the design process more efficient, like high-performance computing (HPC) job schedulers, are key for optimization and cost savings.

Winning semiconductor design and electronic design automation (EDA) companies use HPC and high-end design software to stay ahead of the game. As these design tools often come with a high price tag, maximizing utilization to ensure that design and development costs don’t outweigh the financial benefit of reaching market quickly is a requirement for competitive chip manufacturers.

More designs in less time

Testing more designs in less time means you can reach the market first with a superior product.

A complex set of variables is often involved in each step of the design exploration and verification process. Engineering teams may run millions of jobs per day, testing variables that can include raw materials, environmental conditions, human factors, and many more. With each additional variable, more time is required to analyze each piece of the puzzle and determine how they all interact. Missing even one interaction or potential interaction can significantly impact the final product.

Achieving maximum throughput allows your team to test as many variables as possible, so you can boost productivity without investing in additional infrastructure or multiplying your workforce.

Avoid opportunity cost

Smaller and faster is what organizations and consumers demand when it comes to the chips inside our datacenters, computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, watches, and other technology. When considering the time it takes to commercialize those technological advancements and package them within the devices we use today, new chips have a narrow window of competitiveness. Consumers expect to have the newest and best products, which creates a self-perpetuating loop that manufacturers scramble to maintain.

The debate about whether Moore’s law still influences the lifespan of a chip is ongoing, but there’s no doubt that designers and manufacturers in the semiconductor field face a unique pressure to innovate faster. While opportunity cost can be hard to quantify, it’s felt acutely in hindsight by chip designers and engineers in this highly consolidated space, for whom one missed opportunity can mean the difference between pulling ahead and facing extinction.

Save on expensive licenses

When running millions of computing jobs per day, it’s easy to get bogged down in a queue of users waiting for resources. One of the most common reasons for delay is an inadequate number of software licenses. This can be for a wide range of EDA tools that enable design, verification, packaging, and manufacturing test and are especially needed when demand is high or bursty. Delays lead to lower productivity, slower design and testing, and ultimately a lag in sending a product to market.

EDA software licenses can be very expensive, and the EDA tools market is expected to be valued at 17.35 billion dollars by 2024. With per-seat fees that can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, larger companies regularly spend tens of millions. If licenses are underutilized or work is impeded due to a lack of availability, the cost can be exorbitant. The right scheduling software should ensure engineers have access to just enough licenses to perform their work without having to absorb the cost of over-provisioning for moments of peak demand.

Altair’s solution

Altair Accelerator™ is a high-throughput, high-efficiency job scheduler designed to meet the complex demands of the semiconductor industry. The high-performance computing requirements of EDA tools make Accelerator an excellent solution to achieve top performance and optimize EDA license and hardware expenditures. It’s a highly adaptable tool capable of managing compute infrastructures from small, dedicated server farms to complex, distributed HPC and cluster environments.

So how do you measure the true impact of effective workload management and scheduling in EDA? Customers report Altair Accelerator performs 10x faster than competitive solutions when it comes to scheduling speed, and improves license utilization.

Leveraging a scheduling speedup and better license utilization across multiple users results in big savings in terms of time, resources, and license costs. Milliseconds add up. They can make the difference between good product designs and great ones, in getting them to market before the competition, and in maintaining the profit margins you need to reap the business benefits once you do.

Learn more about Altair Accelerator.