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VLSI Conference panel discusses EDA standards

Posted: 16 Feb 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:VLSI Design Conference  Accellera  EDA standards 

The panel discussion on "Standards in EDA" at the 2008 VLSI Design Conference had representatives from Accellera, IEEE, Si2 Consortium, AMS Committee and VSIA, agreeing that the Indian engineering community is gradually becoming a part of the standardisation process.

"I think it is radically different from the way things were about five years ago. In the world of global design, Indian companies and engineers play a crucial role in design success," said Dennis Brophy, a member of the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors and the IEEE SA Corporate Advisory Group. "An example of this is how SystemVerilog came into being. Synopsys made some compelling contributions that started it. But now we have reached the point where we are beginning to actually use it in different ways. If we take a look at the ecosystem of companies that are important to that standard's success, a lot of them are based in India. Therefore, it's necessary for engineers here to not only learn about these standards, but also to consume them."

Sri Chandra, who has been driving Verilog-AMS language development efforts for the past four years through his role as the technical chairperson of the AMS Committee said, "For analogue and mixed signal, we don't have many people participating from India. One of the reasons behind it is that digital [design] proliferated in India much more than analogue or mixed [design]. Essentially, the technology is still in the U.S., but people setting up companies in India should look forward to it, as it's eventually going to come here. From an engineer's perspective, there is very little participation from the academia, which means that people have to be trained in the industry—which is not an easy task. Thus it's necessary to address the grassroots level."

Shrenik Mehta, the current chair of Accellera, an industry standards organisation, added, "We have seen that a lot of engineers contribute directly to their own projects. Once they are comfortable with it, and have contributed to multiple projects, they want to start influencing things. But at times, they have not looked at the ideas people support or have not seen an alternative way of doing it. We encourage them to participate. But the traditional mindset is how we start influencing matters more and more in the industry. How do we take the view of the industry vs. our own personal view?"

"Besides, it's necessary to have the support of a corporation. The corporation has to understand that there is a need to drive these things," added Kathy Werner, manager of the corporate standards, IP and writers recognition programmes at Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and past president of the VSIA industry consortium.

Consolidation of standard bodies
Design chain standards are ultimately aimed to make the task of the design integration and manufacture of SoC products more efficient, improving turnaround time and effectively improving quality and yield.

John Goodenough, board member of Accellera, SPIRIT and Si2, said, "There are challenges in managing viable standards to broad market acceptance and the consequent need for an integrated roadmap between various standardisation activities to give maximum benefit and leverage to the final end customers. It's a great opportunity for the Indian engineering community—here are the people who are participating and affecting the agenda with the supply side, and time will eventually come when standards will play quite a vital role in influencing roadmap and strategy in how we do designs."

The session ended with a question about the consolidation of various standard bodies.

Shrenik commented, "Accellera was formed by consolidating two bodies. We always look at the prospects of consolidation—is there a reason for collaboration; if there is an alignment, is it complimentary to all requirements, what would we gain if we merge and finally, what is driving that reason—is it efficiency, infrastructure, technical expertise? So as with any other business deals, we have to see why it is important. However, the most important factor is expertise. "

"Accellera's strategy is to accelerate standard development. We transfer all our work to IEEE. I believe that the individual standard mostly depends on the leadership, while IEEE depends on the processes, branding and establishment. Within IEEE and different groups, we often meet to see whether there is an alignment or room for consolidation," Shrenik added.

Dennis believes that consolidation might lead to loss of dynamics of competition. "One thing about having multiple organisations is that even if they are doing competitive things or seemingly similar things, they will compete. Competition is a very big motivating factor."

John has a different viewpoint. "There is a balance to be struck. Particularly in design automation related IP standards, there have been merger of a number of organisations. I agree with all the comments made about competition and diversity. But one of the other challenges is that we don't necessarily leverage all the aspects because of the competition. Even in different standard bodies competing with each other, it's the same technical guys doing the work. Then why is consolidation not happening? The reason is marketing gimmicks," he said.

"If you look at it from a user's perspective, he or she is interested in the whole process up to front-end design. This is a major reason to let all the standard bodies reach a common roadmap to make sure that there is no unnecessary duplication in a particular area. I don't know the right answer but it's an ongoing debate," John added.

Agreeing with John, Shrenik said, "It's the responsibility of every corporate member to bring their ideas to table before creating something new. But I found that due to the secretive nature of design or competition, most people don't discuss their ideas, which leads to the creation of another standard body."

The session, chaired by Gurudutt Bansal from Cadence, saw active participation from the audience. In his concluding remarks, Gurudutt said, "Increasingly, we are seeing a major change in India. Engineers are becoming the owners of their products and technologies, their roadmaps—which means they have to drive the standards activity, as they are accountable for the same. We should be part of standardisation process to be successful in the industry."

- Dipti Agarwal
  EE Times-India

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