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EDA Start-up story from the trenches

How can a small, self-funded start-up ever build a commercial quality EDA (Electronic Design Automation) tool that has chance of survival in a multi-billion dollar market?
The only way this is feasible, is through aggressive reuse, automation and agility.

At Sigasi, we built a modern IDE for hardware description languages (VHDL) out of frustration with our old editors. We want to bring hardware designers all the power of Eclipse-based IDEs like the JDT: refactoring, navigation, intelligent auto-completion, etc.

By building on top to the Eclipse platform we had a working GUI from day one. It is incredible what we can reuse out of the box. Our compiler is developed with ANTLR. Although VHDL is a very complex language, thanks to ANTLR we have written a recovering parser in about four man months. By leveraging ANTLR and Eclipse we could focus on our core competence, hardware design, without spending too much time on supporting technologies.

Although the long term vision of our start-up is clear, the short term goals and circumstances change very rapidly. Since the only constant is change, we have to be extremely agile in order to respond to critical bugs, killer feature requests and sales opportunities. Business-wise, this implies releasing very early and very often. Technically this requires a strong testing framework.

For a two-man team, it is just not possible to do a lot of manual testing on each bi-weekly release. A Hudson-based regression test server continuously builds and tests the entire application. For every commit we test our parser for every line of VHDL code we could find on the Internet. If a test or a build script fails, an array of lava lamps immediately brings a healthy doses of panic to our office. This usually results in immediate bug fixing and even more automated tests.

In this short talk we will demonstrate how a two-man engineering team can build a refactoring IDE for a hardware language in less than twenty man-months. We will report on our experiences with Eclipse, the technologies and methodologies we use and the problems we encountered. We hope our story will stimulate new start-ups to use the power of Eclipse in their venture.

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EDA Start-up story from the trenches

  1. 1. EDA start-up story from the trenches Hendrik Eeckhaut, CTO
  2. 2. Challenge self funded, two man team ? Commercial quality Electronic Design Automation tool 2
  3. 3. Approach Reuse Automation Agility (Release soon, release often) 3
  4. 4. About Sigasi Frustration during PhD: digital HW design Software Hardware Java VHDL 4
  5. 5. HW Development Toolkit • Navigation • Autocomplete • Syntax errors • Semantic errors • Quick-assist/fix • Refactoring 5
  6. 6. Technology Reuse • Antlr v3 : parser • Eclipse RCP: • IDE : framework • LTK : refactoring • CNF: extend project explorer • Multi-platform : Windows, Linux, Mac • p2 : updates • Help : documentation (Sphinx) • Cheat Sheets : tutorials 6
  7. 7. Agile development release soon, release often • First demonstrations after 6 months • First testers afters 11 months Invaluable • Biweekly releases feedback • Currently 600+ beta users 7
  8. 8. Automation • Setup development environment • Product Build • Regression test server • Weak points 8
  9. 9. Setup development environment • 1-click download of entire Java IDE: • JDT • PDE • SVN • Groovy • Mylyn • Findbugs 9
  10. 10. RCP Product Build • First : PluginBuilder (3.3 and 3.4) • Now (3.5): PDE-build scripts • Few modifications in customTargets: • obfuscation • p2-director • extra files in final zip file (JRE, license, ...) 10
  11. 11. Regression test server • one button release 11
  12. 12. When things go wrong 12
  13. 13. Test flow ~ 4 min ~ 24 min ~ 10 min Maven build for every commit PDE product + headless plugin tests and every night: junit tests build PluginBuilder plugin Entire RCP is build tests that need IProjects,... VHDL project tests ~ 15 min parser tests All VHDL code we could find on the web ~10 Mloc (≈400MiB) 13
  14. 14. History 14
  15. 15. Extras 15
  16. 16. Weak points • UI tests performed manually: acceptance test before every release: • test new features (3x10’) • follow strict scenario (3x7’) • Plugin tests: complete rebuild with PluginBuilder instead reusing product build 16
  17. 17. Conclusions Sigasi: commercial quality EDA tool? • Reuse • Agility • Automation 17