Microelectronics and Supply Chain Innovation: Siemens to Collaborate with Microsoft

Strengthening U.S. microelectronics and ensuring compliance with stringent supply chain requirements for defense and critical infrastructure.

RAMP stands for “Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes”— a program initially launched in 2020 by the United States Department of Defense (DoD). It is part of the government’s wider initiative to promote state-of-the-art semiconductors and microelectronics technologies by developing secure design and manufacturing integrated circuit (IC) prototyping capabilities.

 All major industrial platforms, and a fortiori defense systems, rely heavily on semiconductors for their operations and competitive sustainability. Supply chain capability gaps and global component shortages are direct threats to nations in their ability to drive industrial innovation, both in terms of economic stability and national security. (Image courtesy of Bigstock.)

All major industrial platforms, and a fortiori defense systems, rely heavily on semiconductors for their operations and competitive sustainability. Supply chain capability gaps and global component shortages are direct threats to nations in their ability to drive industrial innovation, both in terms of economic stability and national security. (Image courtesy of Bigstock.)

RAMP Phase I (initially totaling $24.5M) was awarded to Microsoft and IBM to advance commercial innovation in leading-edge microelectronics physical “back-end” design methods with measurable security and workflows. The initiative was described by Michael Kratsios, acting Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, as being “critical for the DoD and American industry to work together in meaningful partnerships to ensure the United States leads the world in microelectronics far into the future.”

RAMP Phase II was announced a year later in December 2021, extending into secure, cloud-based environments built on the Microsoft Azure Government platform. As described in a press release from Microsoft, this solution aims at “offering the broadest range of commercial innovation for governments with services available across all U.S. data classifications” to support “mission-critical applications, with cloud, AI and machine learning-enabled automation, security and quantifiable assurance.”

RAMP involves a coalition of commercial partners across the defense industrial base, which includes contributions from Ansys, Applied Materials, BAE Systems, Battelle Memorial Institute, Cadence Design Systems, Cliosoft, Flex Logix, GlobalFoundries, Intel Federal, Nimbis Services, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Intelligence and Space, Siemens EDA, Synopsys, Tortuga Logic and Zero ASIC Corporation. Though the level of ownership and cross-company collaboration across these organizations is now known, Siemens Digital Industries Software announced in August 2022 that its participation with Microsoft in the RAMP Phase II initiative was being extended.

In this post, I elaborate on EDA data management considerations and debate how PLM contributes to enabling secure product innovation and supply chains across hardware and software integration.

Electrical engineering, electronics, semiconductors, electronics, microelectronics and integrated circuits, paired with complex and multi-layered software are all together driving product innovation. EDA refers to tools and processes used to design, engineer and verify ICs, PCBs and other systems—covering electrical and mechanical CAD integration, logical and functional architectures, circuit schematics, layout simulation, state transition diagrams and more.

Product development is an iterative process combining “trial and error” and continuous improvement, which involves experimenting with new technologies, new supply chains and new commercial models, for example. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) purposely supports the product development process and end-to-end data continuity across engineering disciplines. The EDA-PLM duality translates in terms of product differentiation, faster time-to-market and other value streams by.

  1. Integrating multi-CAD and CAE disciplines for greater traceability and complexity management. This answers questions such as: How much automation and integration is required? What can be achieved out-of-the-box from Xcelerator (or similar) platforms? How does it contribute to more robust impact assessments and effective decision-making?
  2. Aligning hardware and software releases and holistically synchronizing changes. Here the questions answered include: How are feedback loops implemented? How effectively are change impact assessments conducted? How are mitigations implemented and managed throughout?
  3. Integrating logical and functional models towards model-based systems engineering (MBSE). The questions answered here include: How are product specifications and detailed requirements managed? How is the record of authority moved from documents to digital models, including mechanical/electrical CAD, SysML, UML, and more?
  4. Tracking product changes and value realization through iterative design and verification cycles. This tracks questions such as: How is data authored, released, consumed, augmented, changed and shared across functions? How are changes prioritized? What are key factors involved during the decision-making?
  5. Connecting domains across the enterprise and the supply chains, by timely and securely sharing released materials and BOMs. This includes questions like: How are the relevant data objects and associated artefacts connected and maintained across the Digital Threads? What level of engagement is expected across internal and external teams? How is supply secured?
  6. Managing IP and verifying should-cost forecasts with actual spends and commercial models. This serves to answer questions including: How do the product development and sourcing strategies link to the PLM strategy? How are strategic components sourced, considering quantitative data and manufacturing knowledge for fact-based procurement negotiations?

Consider Siemens EDA, which presents its Calibre Design Solutions as an industry leader for IC verification, that “delivers a complete IC verification and DFM optimization [and EDA] platform that speeds designs from creation to manufacturing, addressing all sign-off requirements.” It covers physical verification, circuit verification, reliability verification and design for manufacturing (DFM), with the ability to interface with other specialized design and data management tools. This made it a good choice in the eyes of those working on the RAMP program as a means to better ensure supply lines.

“Siemens’ participation in the RAMP program brings the industry-leading back-end verification solution for DoD’s use for secure development of microelectronics for defense technologies,” said Mujtaba Hamid, General Manager for Silicon, Modeling and Simulation at Microsoft. “Our experience with Siemens for EDA on the cloud to address commercial customer needs is now being leveraged in the RAMP Phase II program, to help the government and the defense industry develop silicon with secure access to advanced commercial design processes.”

Furthermore, Michael Buehler-Garcia, Vice President for Calibre Design Solutions Product Management, highlighted that “expanding our cloud collaboration with Microsoft Azure Government is expected to generate valuable insights that can be fed back into the RAMP program in an effort to enhance the design and security of next-generation integrated circuits derived from the DoD’s RAMP program.”

But this isn’t the only way that Siemens technology can be used to shore up supply lines for microelectronics or other commodities. Supply chain collaboration implies robust data management, system engineering practices and integrated change traceability; a core capability of Siemens PLM with their Teamcenter platform, part of their extended Xcelerator solution portfolio. PLM processes and secured data repositories are essential when driving concurrent engineering across multi-CAD and software deliverables.

Public press releases omit mention of if or which data management practices are part of the RAMP program. Nevertheless, it can certainly be assumed that cybersecurity and DevSecOps requirements are integral to its scope. Scalable enterprise architectures are now the norm when it comes to fostering rapid and secure product development, and is essential when it comes to safety-critical and DoD related product applications.

What are your thoughts?