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Big news! OpenAccess enables new analog design solutions

Posted: 20 Oct 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:OpenAccess? analog? EDA?

By Karen Bartleson
The Standards Game

For many years, OpenAccess had promised to bring interoperability to the industry via a common standard database. Albeit fraught with challenges as it evolved, it has ultimately enabled a leading EDA provider (my company, Synopsys) to make a significant entrance into the custom/analog/mixed-signal IC design market. (Our solution is called Galaxy Custom Designer and is built natively on the OpenAccess database.)

Products aside, this is a success story in the standards game. Until now, custom/analog designers were largely trapped into a single vendor solution because of long-time investments in legacy intellectual property (IP) which was written in a closed, proprietary language. This IPthe pcells (parameterized cells) that are in essence building blocks of an analog designwas developed and maintained over generations of technologies and engineers.

Because the pcell language, SKILL, wasand still isproprietary, only the owner of the language and the pcell developers were allowed to use it. The owner of the language capitalized on its closed, proprietary nature, selling tools that interacted with the pcells to create custom designs and capturing a dominant market share. Any other vendor who wanted to sell products into this market would have had to create a new language and get potential customers to rewrite their pcells in the new language. The perceived ROI for customers was, obviously, negligible. Duplication of effort, additional learning curves, interoperability faults between languages, and increased maintenance meant even the slickest new tools would have been too costly to obtain. The challenge went beyond simply to develop a new language for everyone to start using. The enormous amount of legacy pcells had to come along without the requirement to be recreated from scratch. Thus, designers were stuck with one vendor's products and healthy competition was essentially non-existent in the analog market.

A common database for custom design which contained the pcells and provided access to them without using the proprietary SKILL would solve the problem. OpenAccess has done just that. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the standards arena, the previously closed, proprietary pcell format can now be accessed through the OpenAccess database. Vendors can offer custom/analog/mixed-signal design tools that interoperate with pcells and each other.

The success story of OpenAccess is a good example of the 1st Commandment for Effective Standards: Cooperate on formats, compete on tools.

I have to admit that due to some kind of hard-wiring in my brain, every time I start typing "Custom Designer", it comes out "Customer Designer". Now, *that* would be quite a product!

- Karen Bartleson is part of the Synopsys OpenCommunity.org. In her blog, The Standards Game, Karen shares her perspective on what's going on in the standards arena.





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