Chipmaking: June 2009 Archives

Two of the standards-creating bodies around EDA have decided to merge their operations. By the end of the year, Accellera and the Spirit Consortium expect to have thrashed out all the details needed for the actual merger between the two groups to take place next year, after the end of their respective financial years.

Shrenik Mehta, chairman of Accellera, said the organisation had been looking harder at developing standards around IP for chip design. "IP has become a more important component. We looked towards the future and how work in this area could benefit the industry. Spirit was a complementary effort and we felt that if we merged together we would get a stronger organisation that can address the industry’s needs, covering the entire spectrum of design verification and IP reuse," he claimed in a phone interview.

The combined group, which will keep the Accellera name, will derive some savings. And Spirit, which plans to hand off version 1.5 of the IP-Xact IP-description standard to the IEEE will benefit from the experience of an organisation that has been through that process a few times now.

At DAC, the Accellera and Spirit board representatives expect to be able to tell their respective memberships how the merger will pan out and what changes will have to be made in the combined organisation. Ralph van Vignau, president of Spirit and who has been driving the group enthusiastically since the idea first got off the ground around the middle of the decade, reckons the process should be reasonably straightforward as the working methods are not all that dissimilar.

There are likely to be some differences, but this is one of those deals where the interests of the two groups align pretty well. The merger will probably help garner more interest in IP-Xact among US-based companies. A number of the bigger multinationals have embraced IP-Xact but the difference in awareness of the Spirit IP-description scheme across the Atlantic is still palpable - it's better known and understood in Europe, and I believe in Japan, than in the US. The companies who haven't looked at it are missing out.

At DATE this year, engineers from ST-Ericsson gave a good description of how they use IP-Xact to ease the job of building prototypes of SoCs on programmable logic. IP-Xact was never designed to support that but when you've seen someone show how they did it, you realise how effective the database format can be.

Spirit also brings with it the SystemRDL specification, a language for defining registers in an SoC, which has a close fit with IP-Xact. This started life at Denali, which then donated the specification to Spirit. The other main standard that Spirit hosts is the IP Tagging format that it inherited from the ashes of VSIA. Von Vignau pointed out that, long before there were any thoughts of merging with Accellera, Spirit considered a merger with VSIA. However, VSIA decided to dissolve before any negotiations began.

The open question is how far consolidation of standards bodies can and will go in design automation. The Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2) and OCP-IP are possible candidates for merger. A merger between Accellera and Si2 would be a lot more complicated but would help solve the lingering problem of having two competing and not very different formats for co-ordinating low-power design.

OCP-IP, which kicked off as the host for an IP interconnect standard, has been working on a variety of IP-focused initiatives that can dovetail with Spirit's own efforts quite neatly.

Mehta and von Vignau said Accellera and Spirit have quite enough on their plate right now before anyone can think about any further merger. "The full focus is on this merger and at this point there are no other thoughts in our minds," said von Vignau.

But, this is a period when people don't want to think about dealing with too many different organisations, standards or policies. "The times are inviting consolidation with the industry," said von Vignau.