MaxLinear developers around the world run compute-intensive simulations to create new semiconductor products. How could the company make best use of costly high-performance (HPC) computing and applications licenses resources?
Using IBM Spectrum LSF and IBM Spectrum LSF License Scheduler for workload and license scheduling, MaxLinear gives users faster access to tools for innovation while minimizing idle HPC and licenses applications capacity.
Raiseslicense utilization from 70 to almost 100%, delivering significant cost savings
Acceleratesdevelopment cycles, reducing time-to-market for new products
Boostscomponent quality by enabling thorough testing without disrupting priority jobs
Business challenge story
Staying at the forefront of the industry
Rapid, effective innovation is at the heart of the semiconductor industry. To thrive, companies must balance their investments in new chip design and fabrication techniques with cost-efficient approaches to development. At MaxLinear, the pursuit of excellence in design is a key differentiator that has helped it grow.
Jean-Sebastien Gagne, Co-founder and Senior Director CAD at MaxLinear Inc., begins: “The components we create are technically complex. HPC resources for R&D [research and development] are expensive, so it’s important that we don’t over-provision and have them lying around unused. At the same time, if users have to wait to run simulations or verification [when designs are tested for functional correctness] cycles, that can affect time-to-market, so it’s a delicate balancing act.”
MaxLinear saw an opportunity to use its HPC resources more efficiently across its global operations. Although the company’s previous workload scheduling tool worked well for individual HPC clusters, it didn’t allow MaxLinear to manage its HPC environment and application licenses from a global perspective. Gagne comments: “With data centers and design centers distributed around the globe, we didn’t want to restrict our employees to hardware and application licenses resources in their region.”
Paolo Miliozzi, Vice President of SOC Technology at MaxLinear Inc., adds: “Also, it was difficult to share EDA [electronic design automation] licenses between groups. To ensure that we could accommodate peaks in demand, we kept utilization at an average of 70 percent. EDA licenses contribute far more to our development costs than hardware, so we knew that overcoming this limitation could increase efficiency dramatically.”
Managing resources on a global scale
Gagne explains why: “Our main selection criteria included stability, as we needed to manage the solution with a relatively small IT team. The solution also had to be cost-effective, so it didn’t cut into our already tight infrastructure budget. IBM Spectrum LSF delivered on all these requirements. It was also one of the only offerings to meet our needs around multi-cluster application licensing management.”
With help from IBM, MaxLinear deployed IBM Spectrum LSF technology. Today, the company takes advantage of the solution’s intelligent, policy-driven scheduling to create queues of jobs and prioritize tasks. The company introduced license scheduler capabilities, enabling it to share and prioritize EDA resources across its worldwide operations.
“We use IBM Spectrum LSF and IBM Spectrum License Scheduler 24/7 around the globe,” says Gagne. “It allows us to assign and prioritize compute and licensing resources to users automatically, wherever they are. We also have far more visibility of each company projects resources utilization than before, enabling us to fine-tune our environment to meet demand from engineers and developers.”
Whenever the queue is free of higher-priority jobs, MaxLinear uses IBM Spectrum LSF solutions to run more verification cycles as part of the testing phase for new designs. If a higher-priority job arrives, the solution immediately stops the verification process to free up resources and allow the higher-priority job to execute. The verification cycles job will resume later when resources become available.
Miliozzi comments: “The more verification scenarios you can run for a new design, the less likely that you’ll find problems in the fabrication stage after tape-out – which is when solutions go into manufacturing. But in an industry where time-to-market is so crucial, we can’t afford to tie up resources with endless testing cycles. With IBM Spectrum LSF, we can run verification jobs whenever resources are idle, giving us the best of both worlds.”
Boosting quality, slashing time-to-market
With greater control over how HPC capacity and EDA licenses are distributed to its users, MaxLinear can drive up utilization of resources and help ensure that high-priority tasks are completed rapidly. And by reducing waiting times and making the allocation of resources a more transparent process, the company is also enhancing satisfaction for its engineers.
“Our end-users don’t care about the hardware or license resources behind the scenes – they just want them to be available whenever they’re ready to run a simulation,” says Miliozzi. “Before, we’d immediately receive requests to buy another license or some more hardware if users faced a delay once they submit a job. With Spectrum LSF License Scheduler, we can run at near-100 percent utilization of our licenses, compared to 70 percent in the past. As well as saving us a lot of money, we can be confident that we’re serving up resources quickly when our users need them. Today, they rarely ask us to make new HPC investments.”
By accelerating access to HPC and license resources, MaxLinear is speeding up its development and verification cycles. If the company finds errors in a design after tape-out, it can add six to nine months to development time, so the ability to verify products more thoroughly contributes directly to speed to market.
“With help from IBM Spectrum LSF, we’re giving our developers and engineers the tools for greater productivity,” comments Gagne. “We can assign HPC capacity and application licenses to users in different geographies and increase our confidence levels in new designs by running more verification scenarios. As a result, IBM Spectrum LSF helps us bring higher-quality products to market sooner, preserving our strong track-record of first silicon success.”
Founded in 2003, MaxLinear provides high-performance broadband and networking semiconductors based on its highly integrated radio frequency analog technology, high-performance optical networking technology and its pioneering MoCA and Direct Broadcast Satellite ODU single-wire technology. Headquartered in Carlsbad, CA, MaxLinear has locations in North America, Europe and Asia.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Spectrum Computing, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/spectrum-computing