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Altium Enables Remote Electronics Design with Altium 365 on AWS

2021

Altium, developer of the world’s most widely used printed circuit board (PCB) design tools among engineers and designers, is committed to bringing transformation to the electronics industry through a digital service that connects PCB design to the supply chain and the manufacturing floor. Altium 365, the world’s only cloud service for the design and realization of PCBs, uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to achieve this goal.

Altium 365 works harmoniously with Altium Designer, the industry standard for PCB design, to deliver the most connected experience for PCB design and manufacturing. This enables design teams to drastically reduce miscommunication, the number of redesign iterations, and the time to market. Using several AWS services, the Altium 365 cloud-based service takes Altium Designer to the next dimension of PCB design by creating seamless collaboration points across the PCB development process, making it the most connected design experience in the industry. Altium 365 has been especially useful since many Altium customers have had to leave the office and adjust to remote collaboration because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Designers use the Altium 365 service.
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Being able to get access anywhere and collaborate is vital. You can be anywhere on any device and still access Altium 365 on AWS and do what you need."

Leigh Gawne
Chief Software Architect, Altium

Enabling Designers, Engineers, and Manufacturers to Collaborate on the Cloud

In 1985, the company that would eventually become known as Altium developed the first low-cost, easily accessible PCB design system as an alternative to expensive and complicated PCB design tools. Since then, Altium has become the most requested brand in PCB design software, relied on by multiple industries, including automotive, consumer electronics, and life sciences. “Altium offered the first Windows-based unified design system, integrating things like schematics and layout that ordinarily would have been separate,” says Leigh Gawne, chief software architect at Altium. “It was the pioneer of enabling electronics and design engineers to visualize their PCBs in 3D inside their design environment.”

A long-term change in how the various stakeholders in the electronics industry work together is taking place. Whether working from home, working from the office, or traveling for business, the need to be able to work from anywhere in the world without being tethered to your desktop is here to stay. Altium is paving the way for engineers and designers to work from anywhere and connect with anyone by making the Altium Designer user experience more collaborative and more readily available than ever before. “With Altium 365, users can bring together the stakeholders and participants of their choosing (even those who do not have Altium Designer) while keeping their intellectual property secure and their designs under control,” Gawne explains. “This cloud-based service provides an entirely new way to share, visualize, and mark up PCB designs for all stakeholders involved, from design managers to manufacturers. And it enables other designers to connect to the same PCB design and use Altium Designer to author changes.”

Teams can organize designs, libraries, and participants in one place and share links to their designs for simple, real-time collaboration. Designs are accessible at any time, on any device, anywhere. By using intelligence specific to computer-aided design, Altium 365 can store design data in a way that makes projects, files, and version history accessible and simple to navigate on the web.

Having already migrated smaller applications, like online forums, to AWS, Altium again turned to AWS to refactor its existing systems for the cloud. “Rearchitecting for the cloud is not straightforward,” says Gawne. “So we wanted to be able to use existing services where they made sense and then adopt new services where they made sense. AWS made that transition simpler and more straightforward for us.” For example, the team used AWS software development kits, which enable users to access and manage AWS services using their preferred development language and system. Using these kits made it simple for the team to switch from a legacy file system to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and take advantage of things like object versioning. Amazon S3 is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

Achieving Global Collaboration and Streamlined Production on AWS

Officially released in May 2020, Altium 365 helps key stakeholders from design, manufacturing, and supply collaborate on a global service. This seamless collaboration and access to information were crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the globally distributed team at the Open-Source Ventilator Project used Altium 365 to quickly produce field emergency ventilators to offset the strain on the medical supply chain.

Altium 365 has a multitenant architecture in which every customer has a separate database schema. The backbone of that architecture is Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for MariaDB, which makes it simple to set up, operate, and scale MariaDB server deployments in the cloud. MariaDB is an open-source relational database by MySQL. “We chose multitenancy with maximum isolation because we wanted a very hardened separation of customer data,” explains Gawne. “It’s simpler to manage when it comes to backup and restore from a security perspective, but it also gives us another layer of protection. Issues in application software are less likely to expose data of other tenants because that data doesn’t all live in the same place.” Security is essential for Altium, especially with a cloud-based service. The company performs several automated backups on Amazon RDS daily. “We are the custodian of our customers’ data today in a way that we haven’t had to be in the past, and that comes with big responsibilities,” says Gawne.

On AWS, Altium has maintained high performance and availability for Altium 365 even as demand across its four global regions has increased. Running its application stack on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure and resizable compute capacity in the cloud, Altium uses Amazon EC2 Auto Scaling to provision and automatically scale compute capacity. On the data storage side, Amazon RDS and Amazon S3 scale rapidly as needed. For intensive workloads at any scale, Altium uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), a simple-to-use, high-performance block storage service designed for use on Amazon EC2.

All of those AWS services operate across the multiple Availability Zones that Altium uses. “Being able to get access anywhere and collaborate is vital,” says Gawne. “You can be anywhere, on any device and still access Altium 365 on AWS and do what you need.”

By using Amazon AppStream 2.0, a fully managed nonpersistent application and desktop streaming service, Altium enables its customers to access Altium Designer on a web browser in moments. “If a user has a specific feature or capability in mind,” says Gawne, “Amazon AppStream 2.0 makes it simple for us to preconfigure the application to expose that capability or feature to that customer so that they can explore it easily.”

Now, not only does Altium host its production environment on AWS, but it also hosts all its internal development and staging environments there too. “When we onboard development engineers, we easily spin up new development environments for them,” says Gawne. “We have staging areas that closely replicate the production environment so that we can have confidence that when things roll out to production, they’re going to work.”

Leading an Industry Transformation

Looking ahead, Altium envisions a much closer relationship between designers and the manufacturing process to increase yield and reduce costs and time to market. Altium 365 is a game changer for the electronics industry. In conjunction with Altium Designer, Altium 365 is poised to transform the electronics industry by bridging the gap between PCB designers, mechanical engineers, manufacturers, and part suppliers through seamless collaboration between all key stakeholders as designs evolve.

By using AWS to create Altium 365, Altium has brought previously disconnected islands of design, manufacturing, and supply into a cohesive loop, enabling seamless collaboration that saves time, costs, and effort during the design process to create higher-yield products faster. On AWS, Altium continues its reputation of being an innovative leader that is transforming the electronic design industry.

To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/rds.


About Altium

Since 1985, Altium has been at the forefront of developing printed circuit board (PCB) design software. Altium Designer, the company’s flagship program, is the leading choice of PCB designers worldwide.

Benefits of AWS

  • Removes the disconnect between designers, engineers, manufacturers, and suppliers
  • Enables collaboration for users across four global regions
  • Enables teams to create higher-yield products faster
  • Provides high performance and availability
  • Scales rapidly
  • Makes development cycles more efficient
  • Performs daily automated database backups

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. 

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Amazon RDS for MariaDB

MariaDB is a popular open source relational database created by the original developers of MySQL. Amazon RDS makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale MariaDB server deployments in the cloud. 

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Amazon AppStream 2.0

Amazon AppStream 2.0 is a fully managed non-persistent application and desktop streaming service.

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