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The OpenAccess standard, which includes a common data model, API and reference database, has been one of the most successful and impactful standards in EDA history. Those who imagined, created, and continue to maintain and improve OpenAccess got some long overdue recognition June 4 at a Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2) OpenAccess "10th anniversary" lunch at the 2012 Design Automation Conference (DAC).
The OpenAccess effort actually began in the 1990s, when large EDA customers - including some who were just starting to buy commercial tools - decided they wanted a common data model and C++ API to help provide interoperability among EDA tools. When Si2 put forth a request for technology in 2001, Cadence responded by offering what was then called its Genesis database. Today OpenAccess has been adopted by many EDA vendors, particularly in the analog/custom world, some of whom read and write to the database and others who use it natively.
Steve Schulz, Si2 president, started the 10th anniversary event by talking about photonics - a new technology that, he said, OpenAccess will help enable. "The exciting thing about OpenAccess is how it helps innovation," he said. "We've seen, in the last ten years, how it went from a crazy vision to something very sophisticated and complex. A lot of people didn't think it was practical, but now it's at a point where its use is just assumed for startups who want to get venture funding."
A Quick Look Back
Sumit DasGupta, senior vice president of engineering at Si2, offered a five-minute retrospective on its history. He talked about the consistent delivery of new and more powerful reference implementations from Cadence, starting with the first delivery in 2002 (hence, the 10-year anniversary). This includes recent additions of multi-threading and native 28nm support. He also talked about the many companies who adopted or built interfaces to OpenAccess -- including Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, SpringSoft, Ciranova, Gradient, Invarian, Silicon Navigator, Aprio, Pyxis, and of course Cadence, to name a few.
DasGupta noted that the OpenAccess ecosystem includes the database, a C++ API, a scripting language API, adoption aids, and various industry contributions, as shown in the diagram below.
Tom Arns of Altera, current chairman of the OpenAccess Board, cited the 12 companies represented on the board today - Agilent, Altera, AMD, Cadence, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Samsung, Synopsys, TI, and TSMC. He then gave two awards to Lip-Bu Tan, Cadence president and CEO. One was for Cadence as a company, and another was for the still-active OpenAccess development team at Cadence, which handles maintenance and upgrades for OpenAccess.
Tan noted that the initial OpenAccess development was "before my time" but said that "I'm delighted to continue this contribution to the industry. It is a very good demonstration of how the industry can come together and create something great." He thanked other industry members of the OpenAccess Coalition and also thanked Si2 for doing a "marvelous job" of managing OpenAccess.
Following are some other comments made at the event (comment from Ray Bingham was pre-recorded):
Scott Peterson, founding chairman of OpenAccess Coalition:
"It's been really good progress with strong contributions. The key is that we're making products and tools that have really made a difference in the industry."
Paul Lo, senior vice president, Synopsys:
"I think this is a very significant event for the industry. Synopsys decided to join the OpenAccess Coalition in 2007 and to develop a new tool from the ground up based on OpenAccess...this could not be done without the generous offer from Cadence.
Looking into the future we need even more interoperability. I'd like the industry to work together to speed up this process."
Joe Sawicki, general manager, physical design group, Mentor Graphics:
"Integration standards are incredibly useful, not just for us, but useful for customers who don't have to put glue in place. Six years ago we had the first capability for Calibre to read the OpenAccess database...I'd like to thank everyone for the effort that went into this. Thanks to Cadence for the original donation."
Jim Hogan, EDA investor and former Cadence executive:
"It takes ten years before you really understand the impact, but it's great that people are using it and using it productively. I'm glad that Cadence allowed us to do that."
Ray Bingham, Cadence president and CEO during early OpenAccess days:
"A lot of Cadence customers used internal tools, which had some form of a common database and API. They felt that was a requirement for future design projects, and they wanted to transition to commercial EDA tools, but without a common standard that would be an ongoing barrier for all of us. Then large customers, through Si2, asked the leading EDA vendors to partner with an open industry standard API and database. Cadence saw a match with that vision.
This was a big risk for Cadence. We were effectively setting up an environment our competitors could use, and it required a large and ongoing investment in key resources on our part. The leadership team spent a lot of hours debating the tradeoffs, but in the end we felt that providing this leadership to the industry could really lift all boats and enable greater synergy with our corporate strategy."
A conclusion: Ten years later, and OpenAccess is a risk well taken that has indeed lifted a lot of boats in the EDA industry. May it sail on for another ten.
Related Blog Post
Q&A: OpenAccess 10th Anniversary - A Look Backwards and Forwards