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Fortunately, we are well beyond the contentious “standards wars” that brewed in the 1990s and 2000s, when EDA vendors took sides in various standards disputes. Today, the process for adopting a standard is much more civil and even collaborative.
“Now we’ve learned, after a number of standards wars, that it’s better to cooperate,” says Cadence Distinguished Engineer Stan Krolikoski, who leads the company’s involvement in EDA standards development.
So, what is the process for getting an EDA standard adopted? And why would you want to get involved?
“If someone wants to create a standard, typically they will have some sort of technology they feel is interesting to the industry. Most standards come from vendors, but not all. It’s also not leading-edge work—we don’t do standards to do research,” explained Krolikoski, who was honored by IEEE in 2012 as an EDA standards pioneer.
Standards organizations typically consist of working groups made of up like-minded individuals who are interested in interoperability. You’ll generally find, together in the same room, competitors, customers, industry leaders, and representatives from academia, noted Aparna Dey, a technical marketing group director at Cadence who also chairs the Electronic Design Process Symposium.
Rules of Engagement
Each organization has its own bylaws that working groups must follow to move a standard through adoption or revisions. Generally, the groups must determine whether the proposed standard will be helpful to the industry as a whole, or if it is too specific or narrowly focused. Following the standards organization’s rules, the groups will refine the standard, get it in the proper format, and publish it.
“The actual procedures are only half the story,” said Krolikoski. “There are always the offline meetings and discussions. In the best of all worlds, the various participants of the standards groups agree and move forward.”
For engineers, participating in a standards organization can garner respect among industry peers and also provide a unique way to interact with colleagues in other companies. “Being part of a standards working group is an extension of the engineer’s work,” said Krolikoski. “Their circle expands.”
When Industry Cooperation Benefits the Greater Good
Companies, of course, need to protect their trade secrets, However, as Dey noted, there is another value to the industry when a group of companies comes together to discuss a contribution. Explained Dey, “A company might have a patent and may decide to provide a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) license, where they charge a lower fee for users to gain access. This is another aspect of industry cooperation.”
Cadence has a long history of contributing to EDA standards, both as an active participant in Accellera, Si2, and IEEE standards committees and as a provider of languages, formats, and reference implementations including the Verilog language, the OpenAccess database, and (with Mentor) OVM, which formed the basis of the very successful Accellera, and soon to be IEEE, UVM standard.
“As an industry, we had some rocky times in the ‘90s and the 2000s, but we understand the pitfalls of standards wars and the benefits of cooperation,” said Krolikoski. “I personally would like to invite as many of the younger generation of engineers to participate in standards development as possible. The process is pretty stable now, and we can all benefit from new ideas.”