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Two distinct messages emerged from the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2) OpenAccess Conference last week. One is that the OpenAccess database is a great EDA standards success story, perhaps the biggest such story of all. Another is that there’s still a lot of work to do so OpenAccess can offer even more capabilities for next-generation IC design.
OpenAccess, initially developed by Cadence, has been in the public domain since 2002. Today it is managed by Si2’s OpenAccess Coalition, which includes several dozen semiconductor and EDA vendors, including Cadence, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, and Magma. Many people may not realize that OpenAccess is constantly being maintained and updated by a sizable development group at Cadence.
Setting the theme for the conference, Sumit DasGupta, senior vice president of engineering at Si2, proclaimed that “OpenAccess is here and it is now.” All four major EDA vendors have adopted it for parts of their flows, and it’s become a compelling development platform for startups, he noted. But DasGupta cautioned that “this is no time for complacency. We have to get back to work and keep pushing the envelope with OpenAccess.”
Steve Schulz, Si2 president, said OpenAccess is “the largest EDA standards effort in the history of our industry.” Now, he said, OpenAccess is in the “early majority phase.” He talked about how Renesas uses OpenAccess throughout its IC development process, and how IBM bases its custom design flow on OpenAccess. Later at the conference, Jose del Cano of Intel described how his company uses OpenAccess to integrate internal tools with commercial EDA tools.
But don’t break out the champagne – at least not for long. There’s no rest in store for OpenAccess developers. In his keynote speech, Barry Dennington, senior vice president at NXP and chairman of the Si2 board, hailed OpenAccess as “something to be very proud of.” He said, however, that “OpenAccess needs a lot more work, it needs a lot more adoption, and the roadmap needs to be very clear.”
Specifically, Dennington said, porting existing libraries and design data to OpenAccess is not cheap, OpenAccess needs to be adopted by NXP’s IP providers, and 45 nm designs are taxing database performance and memory usage. How far can OpenAccess go, he asked? Could it replace other exchange formats, like GDSII?
“OpenAccess has proven to be a great standard,” Dennington said. “Cadence has led by example by pulling together Virtuoso and Encounter [on OpenAccess]. But we still need more EDA industry tools to connect with OpenAccess.” Intel’s del Capo wants OpenAccess to extend to new “domains,” such as post-silicon debug and large-scale layout visualization.
A presentation by Michaela Guiney, product engineering director for OpenAccess at Cadence and co-architect in the OpenAccess Coalition change team, made it clear that a tremendous amount of effort is going into improvements for OpenAccess. In January 2008, she noted, a new version called Data Model 4 (DM4) was introduced, with enhancements in such areas as constraints, routing constructs, and vias. Today it’s used in a number of popular EDA products, and the development team has improved its functionality, reliability, and performance in the meantime. In fact, there were 13 DM4 releases in 2008 and 2009.
An upcoming release at the end of 2009 will add more new capabilities, including performance enhancements. 2010 will bring further improvements in performance and capacity, as well as constraint modeling, Guiney said. She added that Cadence is working with foundries to understand 32 nm design rules, and plans to contribute 32/28 nm constraints to the OpenAccess Coalition in mid-2010. Meanwhile, coalition working groups are working to improve debugging, parasitic handling, and scripting interfaces.
A personal note: As an EE Times editor, I started writing about OpenAccess in its early days, and I followed its development as it moved from controversy to acceptance and adoption. It has, indeed, been a great success story, but the final chapter is far from written – we’re just getting to the good parts of the book.
A very well-written article. Thanks, Richard!