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Standards inch forward with skeptics in tow

Posted: 12 Jun 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Design Automation Conference? EDA? Accellera? SystemVerilog? OpenAccess?

Two standards efforts will take major steps forward this week at the 39th Design Automation Conference, as the OpenAccess Coalition announces four additional EDA vendor members and much of the EDA community lines up behind Accellera's new SystemVerilog standard. But OpenAccess continues to draw skepticism from some major vendors, most notably Synopsys Inc., which has acquired Avanti Corp.'s Milkyway database.

SystemVerilog, a next-generation version of the Verilog language equipped with an "assert" construct, appears to be in for a smoother ride. A number of vendors, including Synopsys, are lining up behind that effort, although few thus far have been willing to provide a timetable for products.

The OpenAccess Coalition, backed by the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2), is arguably the most ambitious standards effort in EDA history. It is developing a standard IC design database and applications programming interface (API) that commercial, internal and academic EDA software can use. Launched by a powerful coalition of user companies, OpenAccess is building around Cadence Design Systems Inc.'s Genesis database, now called the OpenAccess database.

With Cadence's announcement last week of the availability of OpenAccess version 2 source code to coalition members, the coalition took another step forward. But it has struggled to generate EDA vendor support beyond Cadence. Until this week, the only other EDA vendor members were Simplex Solutions Inc., which is being acquired by Cadence, and Mentor Graphics Corp., which recently failed to renew its membership.

This week, Si2 will announce that EDA vendors Nassda Inc., Numerical Technologies Inc., Synplicity Inc. and Verisity Design Inc. have joined the coalition. All will serve on the newly defined "change team" that, along with Cadence, will suggest and approve changes to the OpenAccess database in 2002 and 2003.

Cadence's original Genesis database focused on physical digital IC design. Each of the new companies brings fresh expertise?mixed-signal simulation from Nassda, mask preparation from Numerical, synthesis from Synplicity and verification from Verisity.

It's no accident that the vendors work in different areas, said Si2 president Andy Graham. "OpenAccess is about building an open platform with a scope broad enough to go from concept all the way to the mask shop," he said.

Representatives of all four vendors expressed strong support for OpenAccess, but none said they plan to replace their existing databases.

"With so many leading-edge companies joining the coalition, we think it's a big step," said Charlie Huang, vice president of marketing for Cadence's IC solutions business. "There was a lot of cynicism and doubt when it was first announced."

Doubt persists

But some level of cynicism and doubt persists, especially at Synopsys. "We think there are significant issues with the structure of the OpenAccess Coalition that stand in the way of its success," said Rich Goldman, vice president of strategic market development.

Goldman's primary concern is that Cadence won't relinquish its shared veto power over OpenAccess until July 2004. He added that the coalition's "gated community" won't allow non-coalition members to see the version 2 source code until next year.

Meanwhile, Synopsys has said it intends to base its next-generation design system on Avanti's Milkyway database, which, unlike OpenAccess, is used in EDA environments today. Asked whether Synopsys might someday offer Milkyway or its API on an open-source basis, or perhaps donate it to OpenAccess, Goldman said only that "we haven't ruled anything out. All options are open."

Also skeptical about OpenAccess is Magma Design Automation Inc., where chief executive officer Rajeev Madhavan commented that the data formats required to populate an open database?such as design and timing constraints, floor plan files and library formats?are not themselves open today.

But the reception is warmer at Monterey Design Systems Inc. "We believe OpenAccess has a real chance of succeeding, and we fully support its mission," said marketing vice president Dave Reed.

Onetime member Mentor Graphics, meanwhile, is evaluating its future participation in OpenAccess, said Brian Derrick, vice president of corporate marketing at Mentor. The company expects to "support the initiative as the industry adopts Genesis and major applications are made available," he said.

Less ambivalence

There appears to be far less ambivalence among EDA vendors about SystemVerilog 3.0, which was approved last week as an Accellera standard. SystemVerilog blends Verilog, C/C++ and an assertion capability from Co-Design Automation Inc.'s Superlog language to provide a leap toward higher levels of abstraction. Accellera was expected to announce EDA vendor endorsements of the new standard Tuesday (June 11) at a DAC news conference.

Some have made their views known already. "We think the [Accellera] committee has done some very good work on SystemVerilog 3.0, and it has our full support," said Synopsys' Goldman. But he said it was premature to make any announcements about the addition of SystemVerilog support to Synopsys' VCS simulator or to its synthesis products.

Cadence supports SystemVerilog and wants to help make sure the standard is aligned with other Accellera standards and with SystemC, said Rahul Razdan, vice president and general manager of Cadence's systems and functional verification group. But he made no statement about tool support.

Mentor Graphics is more specific. The company issued a press release Monday (June 10) promising strong support for SystemVerilog and stating that it will support the new standard in 2003 with its Modelsim, HDL Designer Series and Seamless products.

Representatives of Fintronic USA Inc., Get2Chip Inc. and Verplex Systems Inc. said that those companies will support SystemVerilog in the future but declined to give a time frame. TransEDA Technology Ltd. has pledged tool support by the first quarter of 2003 and Real Intent Corp. by the third quarter of 2002. Co-Design Automation already supports SystemVerilog with its Systemsim simulator.

Most of what's in SystemVerilog was outlined in March at the International HDL Conference. In addition to the synthesizable subset of Superlog, it includes interfaces that allow module connections at a high level of abstraction; C-language constructs, such as globals; and an "assert" construct that allows property checking.

In March, the assert construct was still under development. It has been completed for now, but "there are still some technical issues the team needs to discuss," Accellera chairman Dennis Brophy said.

Close to Sugar

Accellera wants SystemVerilog's assert construct to be as close to the Sugar language as possible, Brophy said. Accellera approved IBM's Sugar as a formal property language in April.

At the same time, Accellera wants to guarantee backward compatibility with previous versions of Verilog.

"That's placed some constraints on the way we actually express certain things in the assert construct that might differ a little bit from the proposed Sugar standard," Brophy said.

Also unresolved in March was the proposal that allows SystemVerilog users to instantiate modules with implicitly named ports.

That proposal, now passed, "simplifies quite a bit of Verilog code," Brophy said. "You no longer have to connect things wire to wire. Named objects can be connected, and it can be done implicitly."

? Richard Goering

EE Times

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