Jace Allen, Lead Technical Specialist – Simulation & Test Systems, dSPACE Inc.
SYNECT is a relatively new product in the dSPACE toolchain. It was introduced in 2012 and has been growing and developing in many ways since then. The concept of a global database to store items that are used for the Model-Based Development (MBD) process is not new , but there are relatively few tools out there today that do this in the MBD workspace. SYNECT is one of those tools … and more.
SYNECT is more than a database (dB) − it is a database that supports a lifecycle. This means that the SYNECT base module supports integrating the data in a process, supports user/group access rights, and provides for version management of the artifacts stored within the SYNECT dB. If one looks at the user-interface for SYNECT, it is not flashy or eye-catching like a Ferrari, but SYNECT has a lot of power “under the hood”. It is this low level of flashiness and powerful API that makes SYNECT a great set of tools for many companies.
SYNECT is a data lifecycle management system, so it is usually compared against Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools (such as Siemens Teamcenter, PTC Windchill, etc.) or Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools (such as Polarion, PTC Integrity, Agile Tools, etc.).
PLM Tools are generally used by a company to manage the products they are making, generally in the mechanical domain, so it is easy to think of a PLM as a tool which has the bill-of-materials (BOM) for a company’s products and helps them keep track of all of the data related to building, developing, or manufacturing those products.
ALM tools originated in the software domain as a way to manage all of the pieces needed to develop and build an application (software, generally). There are many new tools in this domain (along with IBM, PTC, etc.), such as Polarion, Rally, and others. It is very popular today to have an ALM system/tool that supports the Agile development process.
PLM tools need to manage the embedded software that is a part of the BOM for electronic systems, and ALM tools can help manage the software process that is used to create the software, but these tools generally have poor support for all of the pieces our customers need and use when doing MBD or using models and other MBD tools in their development.
A great value of SYNECT is that it is built for the MBD environment. It supports open standards in order to directly support interfaces and file formats with little customization. SYNECT can import and use requirements from different systems, such as Doors or even Word/Excel format. It is of great value for some companies that it can support bringing requirements from different sources and connecting them to the process/assets as needed.
When companies look at using other ALM tools, it may force them to adapt or change their processes to support a new “Agile” process, or whatever the chosen tool embraces. This is also a great value of SYNECT. We do not force customers to use any set process, but can easily adapt SYNECT to fit within a customer’s MBD process very easily. This is because SYNECT has a simple process interface and a powerful API – so “little footprint, big power”.
The first SYNECT module was Test Management, and this is the most defined product and relatively well understood in the dSPACE toolchain, especially when talking about HIL or MIL/SIL testing. AutomationDesk (AUD) is a powerful test development and execution environment, but it does not provide test management.
SYNECT can easily automate AUD tests and give us the ability to develop different interfaces into the test environment, depending on whether the user is the tester, developer, or manager. The key is that SYNECT manages all of the information related to the tests to help organize, plan, execute, and keep track of testing.
Many companies have developed different test interfaces (e.g. Excel-based) to help them define, plan, and execute tests, but even these were lacking when it came to keeping track of all information that may be needed in order to have true repeatability, or even to just manage the differences and information similar between tests.
SYNECT provides a powerfully-adaptable interface to drive any kind of testing tool and allows the user to keep track of ALL testing, not just HIL or SIL. We have used it to manage testing done in Simulink and other MIL tools. It can even be easily used to manage manual testing in a vehicle or on a bench. This may be especially important if a customer wants to do back-to-back testing from MIL to SIL to HIL.
SYNECT can run the different test tools and keep track of the testing done at any level, making it easier to reuse test assets across a toolchain and making it much easier to find the information or assets related to testing at any point. This gives us a nice positioning of SYNECT to bridge the gap between ALM/PLM systems and MBD-based tools and testing.
Variants are a critical aspect to consider for OEMs or Tier1 suppliers as they try to manage their product development and testing. We have had success helping customers manage their testing process with Variant-based Workflow Management (VBWM), but this only helped automate processes and made customers more efficient at testing. There was still a big need to manage and track the testing to be done, in the scope of the variants, and to try to utilize variant management as a tool to help optimize the models or testing done.
SYNECT provides the ability to manage tests,
or models, or parameters, using variants, at the item level, and not the
file level. This can provide for handling less data and files, but can
also help ensure that the proper pieces are used when one switches their
system between different variants.
SYNECT uses a variant model to define the variations of a system, and then allows rules and configurations to be defined from the model, giving the appropriate level of abstraction needed to optimize MBD processes and data. It is also intuitive and able to understand and find information relating to the myriad of variants many of our customers deal with day to day.
We have seen companies try to track their variants in other ways – with attributes on requirements, with model and test structures, but these approaches are limited and prone to user-error or even make things more difficult when managing or using the information. The approach of SYNECT to provide variant model abstraction and powerful mapping to specific configurations makes SYNECT unique in the industry when integrating with the MBD world.