Cut Down Design Time by Moving EM Simulations to the Cloud
2021-03-26 | 6 min read
As next-generation product designs become increasingly complex, the simulations required to verify your designs can be massive and time-consuming. For example, if you’re designing high-speed digital boards, you have to consider your design’s signal integrity, transfer speeds, and reliability. As standards like DDR and PCIe require faster speeds and higher frequencies, the subsequent design complexities increase as well. There frankly isn’t enough time in the design cycle to simulate everything you need to.
The latest innovations in cloud technology have advanced to the world of design and simulation. Using high-performance computing and cloud simulation, design teams are cutting their simulation times by over 80%! Could moving your simulations to the cloud improve your design times?
What is High-Performance Computing?
High-performance computing (HPC) is the use of parallel processing algorithms and systems to solve complex computational problems. It incorporates both administrative and computational techniques to aggregate computing power and deliver much higher performance to solve large problems in science, engineering, and business.
As it applies to design simulation, HPC is a powerful tool that allows you to perform parallel simulations via a private cloud or on-premise server. However, if you don’t currently have this existing infrastructure in place, it is complex to set up and costly to maintain. An effective alternative is to utilize Keysight Design Cloud, which is available with Keysight’s PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS).
Figure 1. Parallel simulation via a private cloud, an on-premise server, or through a cloud simulation service.
How Does Parallel Simulation Work?
The most time-consuming part of electromagnetic (EM) simulations is usually the frequency sweeps. With parallel simulation, each frequency point is distributed across multiple remote machines, and each machine solves for its frequency independently. With this process, simulation time is significantly reduced because the processing power isn’t dependent on a single machine. Depending on how many machines you are running at a time through the cloud server, you can reduce your simulation time quite a bit.
Using standard simulation methods, simulating the device in Figure 2 at 26.5 GHz on a local machine took nearly three hours. Moving that same simulation setup to the cloud accelerated the simulation time to 1 hour 13 mins – 2.5x faster! This improvement occurred with just a single machine. When the designers performed the same simulation across eight machines, the simulation took 30 minutes. That’s six times faster than simulating on your local computer.
Figure 2. MMIC LNA with bond wires on parent assembly with 3D connector
Design workspaces can be gigabytes in size, but the simulation files you need may only be 10’s of megabytes. You don’t need to utilize the entire workspace file to simulate. By using cloud simulation, the software only sends the files that it needs in order to run the simulation. Although the service is installed, once you click “simulate”, your PC is decoupled from the simulation, and the simulation is now running in the cloud. When the simulation is complete, it will download the simulation files directly to your PC. In the meantime, you are free to utilize your PC without worrying about processing power.
The Keysight Design Cloud also connects to the different design elements used in PathWave ADS, such as SIPro, which provides in-depth signal integrity analysis of your designs. In the example in Figure 3, standard simulation times previously took up to fifteen hours to run. The engineers had to wait overnight to view their results. But with cloud simulation, they were able to simulate in just two and a half hours. They ran eight parallel jobs in the cloud, leading to an EM simulation time reduced by 83%. Not only do they not have to wait overnight, they can now run multiple simulations in a single day.
Figure 3. Signal integrity EM simulation on Xilinx evaluation board
By partnering with cloud platform provider Nimbix, PathWave ADS can be accessed through any web browser. This is a great method if your team uses multiple computers or if you anticipate working from multiple locations. Furthermore, you can keep an eye on how the simulation is going by checking through the Nimbix web service.