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Agilent tests its EDA software for quality, reliability

Posted: 10 Aug 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Agilent  EDA division  RF system  modelling applications  India R&D centre 

Agilent's EEsof EDA division, which supplies EDA software for high-frequency RF system, circuit, and modelling applications, initiated a series of steps in its India R&D centre, to improve quality and reliability of software developed at its design centres. Agilent EEsof vice president, Jim McGillivary, summed up the basis for the division's quality initiatives to EE Times India, "Reliability of software is a base quality assumption - customers expect that software works. However, for a supplier, having that reliability is a powerful capability."

Agilent EEsof pinned its expectations on its India R&D centre to improve the quality and reliability of software developed by engineers at its various design centres. A key step it took recently was to establish a separate group in the India R&D, to think and test software like users do. "This group in India tasks software like a customer would task. When you are developing software, the easiest thing is to have the people who wrote the software, to test it. However, they tend to test software the way they wrote it, and so they do not find errors that a customer would," explained McGillivary.

"Having this group geographically separated from our designers is a real advantage. What we are trying to do here is, hire people to act like a customer - get the software, install it, try and run some designs, and use it in a very 'free-form user' way. And, that finds errors that you are not normally testing for," he added.

Agilent's EEsof is expecting a sharp reduction in defect rate, as an outcome of this step. During the previous year, the division had carried out a study on the causal factors for software defects, and the key finding of that study was that it was not testing its software from a customer's perspective.

Agilent EEsof had also introduced a system of scheduling maintenance releases to reduce the time taken to fix software bugs, and meet critical user requirements. The maintenance releases take place every quarter between major releases of software, and reduce its customers' wait time for bug fixes and critical enhancements that they specified. The India team is charged with the task of making sure that the bug-fixes and enhancements work flawlessly, build the software release, and then deliver that.

"When we carry out the maintenance releases, our customers use these in their R&D work, and that should work seamlessly for the engineers - nothing should break. This has been our mission; it has been about two years now, and we have executed flawlessly. The Indian team has done spectacularly on that," McGillivary exclaimed.

Agilent EEsof's design centre in India mainly works on developing foundry process design kits. The division has been focusing on strengthening its India R&D operations to address the opportunity arising from many of its customers moving their design operations into Asia and India. It believes that having a local presence in India would enable it to understand the local market better, with its different needs, and support requirements.

At present, between 30 and 40 engineers work in the India R&D operations, a size that Agilent's EEsof plans to grow by 10 to 20 per cent. McGillivary provided the background for the relatively modest growth plan, "We had an initial period of pretty quick growth in the India centre, when we brought a lot of people on line. We then had to get our operating model working, define our objectives, and equip the team with the right leadership. We are reaching a stage where we think that all this is getting well established. I think we needed to have pause points, where we check the effectiveness of the team, and make sure everything is working well."

The development team in India is given total autonomy, with a charter to take charge of the company's process design kit development. "If you give somebody an objective it frees up creativity, initiative, and accountability. The leadership in India has groomed. We seem to have a relatively low attrition, and the team is excited about the opportunities," Mcgillivary added.

- Krishnan Sivaramakrishnan
  EE Times India

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