configuration management
February 18, 2021

What Is Configuration Management? Prevent Hardware + Software Configuration Management Issues

IP Lifecycle Management

Configuration management is important to maintain stability and reduce risk. Especially in semiconductor development, when you need to have control over hardware configuration management and software configuration management. 

In this blog, we provide a quick overview of configuration management and why it is important — and share how to prevent hardware and software configuration management issues with IP management tools like Helix IPLM. 

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What Is Configuration Management and Why Is It Important?

Configuration management is the process of establishing and maintaining consistency in a product from performance to functionality to physical attributes. Both hardware and software configuration management involve efficiently managing requirements, design, and operational information.

Configuration management is important because system-level design is challenging. It's hard enough managing hardware and software development projects independently. But being able to manage all the dependencies between the two disciplines — while also accounting for security concerns, scheduling, and distribution — is a very complex problem to tackle.

Unfortunately, configuration issues between hardware and software can cost your business millions of dollars if you make a mistake in releasing incorrect software. Recently, a major systems provider released an embedded software update that “bricked” half the devices in their product line. The cost of this mistake was monumental, not only in the time and effort required to quickly release a patch to fix this issue and the cost of lost productivity, but the company’s market cap was hit severely as a result of this mistake.

👀 Related resource: How to Keep Your Systems Consistent

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Hardware Configuration Management vs. Software Configuration Management: Key Issues

The underlying issue is in how companies manage these complex projects. Too often, each discipline is managed in its own silo. Hardware teams and software teams are often kept separated and rely on documentation to coordinate their development efforts. Embedded software teams often wait for register specs to be developed and then delivered to them after the hardware teams complete their designs, and hope that they are updated correctly while verification and design changes are happening. IP lifecycle management tools can help streamline this workflow and prevent breakdowns in communication.

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Streamline Your IP Design Lifecycle and Get to Market Faster

Ready to eliminate design silos and get your team on the same page? Helix IPLM, formerly Methodics IPLM, is your solution to hardware and software configuration management challenges. 

Hear more about how we can make software configuration management easier. >>

Complicating the process, there are often hardware platforms that offer slight differences between each item in the family. While a single version of software may run on the platform at first, slight hardware changes may make the updates to the software incompatible with all the products in the family. This was the issue that affected the company I mentioned above, where a slight difference in the embedded processor made the software update incompatible with half the product family.

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Get Expert Tips for Reducing Risk and Improving Software Configuration Management

Our How to Stop Hardware and Software Configuration Issues from Impacting Your Business webinar breaks down best practices for discovering software configuration management issues and addressing them quickly. Watch it now to reduce risk by developing a bill of materials, planning an effective IP hierarchy, and more. 



One way to solve this challenge is by creating a system-level bill of materials (BoM) of all design assets, both hardware and software, so that all dependencies can be tracked between hardware and software. While most companies keep track of some representation of design assets, whether in a BoM or another form, tying all the BoMs together at a system level will allow for configuration mismatches to be spotted early, long before any designs get released.

Helix IPLM has been used by many companies to create the BoM of IP for hardware designs for years, but more and more of our customers are now adopting it for software design, as well. By abstracting design elements to the IP level, a single system level BoM for all hardware and software configuration management can be created. 

With a system-level BoM in place, configuration rules can be applied to the entire BoM to find and identify issues early, before any software or hardware releases. If there are slight hardware IP differences between BoMs in a product family, Helix IPLM can quickly highlight those inconsistencies at the system BoM level, long before any software releases are performed.

The Helix IPLM platform has enabled companies of all sizes to have complete control over the design and integration of digital assets as IPs, whether these assets are hardware blocks, software components, or firmware. In all cases, the base features of Helix IPLM all contribute to providing the traceability and configuration management checking needed to spot issues early in the process -- before they become costly mistakes that impact customers. How? With a versioned, hierarchical BoM for a project, access control management, seamless Data Management (DM) support, and managed user workspaces. That’s why Helix IPLM is trusted by 9 of the 10 top semiconductor companies

Find out how Helix IPLM can keep hardware and software configuration issues from impacting your business. Talk to one of our semiconductor experts today.



Related Reading

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