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Process Design Kit standards elude industry

Posted: 09 Feb 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:process design kits? p-cell library? PyCell Studio? Skill? Virtuoso?

DesignCon panelists including representatives from Cadence, Synopsys, Tanner EDA, TowerJazz and TSMC debated over process design kit (PDK) standards that could enable and speed up new analog and mixed-signal designs in foundries. With ongoing disagreements over the standards however, don't expect a solution anytime soon.

In the past, each foundry had to build specialized PDKs for each and every EDA vendor. Such is expensive to maintain for the foundries. A PDK is a set of technologies to enable a complete analog and mixed-signal design flow.

Synopsys and TSMC are pushing for the so-called�interoperable process design kit?(iPDK), a scheme backed by the Interoperable PDK Libraries (IPL) Alliance. It uses a p-cell library from Ciranova's PyCell Studio.

''We are confident that standards are the way to go,'' said Ed Lechner, director of custom design product marketing at Synopsys, during the panel. ''If you don't get on board, you'll fall behind.''

John Stabenow, group director for custom and analog product management at rival Cadence Design Systems Inc., disagreed, saying that ''a fully implemented iPDK is not the right approach.''

Cadence refuses to join IPL and views the IPL-backed flow as a competitive threat to its analog EDA tool suite, dubbed Virtuoso. Cadence's p-cell libraries are written in a rival and proprietary language called Skill.

In terms of standards, Stabenow said that there is a better solution, which is based on a technology from the OpenPDK Coalition. This technology is proposed for the 22nm node. In concept, Cadence said it backs OpenPDK, because the technology calls for an ''abstraction layer,'' which is said to support Skill and the rival technologies. Others charge that Cadence is creating fear, uncertainty and doubt in PDKs, thereby stifling innovation.?

Tom Quan, deputy director of design methodology and service marketing at TSMC, said the concept of an ''abstraction layer'' is not the right approach. In other words, OpenPDK shall accept various EDA tools and PDK technologies. The ''abstraction layer'' will translate that into a ''universal PDK'' via a complex translation or compilation step.?

By using that approach, a foundry like TSMC must validate each PDK that goes through that step, which defeats the purpose of a ''standard PDK, Quan said. In other words, a foundry may end up supporting multiple PDKs, he said. ''From a foundry perspective, that's where we were 10 years ago,'' he added.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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