Electronic Design

Is True EDA Tool Interoperability Finally On The Horizon?

True interoperability between EDA tools has long been a dream for users, but the EDA industry's past efforts in this regard have failed. As a result, design teams can spend as much time coaxing tools to work together as they do using them, blowing much of their EDA budgets in the process.

But lately, the prospects for interoperability have brightened. Earlier this year, Cadence Design Systems announced its donation to the OpenAccess Initiative of its next-generation Genesis application programming interface (API) and reference database. The initiative hopes to establish the newly renamed OpenAccess API and database as the platform for an open design infrastructure to significantly ease interoperability issues.

This user-driven initiative should induce euphoria among EDA customers, if not among EDA vendors. Some vendors may opt to cling to proprietary and incompatible data I/O syntaxes and file formats. According to Andrew Graham, CEO of the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2), the organization that spawned the OpenAccess Initiative, two key drivers are behind the effort. "One is to reduce the cost of deploying design systems," Graham says.

Optimizing tool flows is costly, says Scott Peterson, director of silicon optimization at LSI Logic. "We're in the business of making silicon, and we want to find the best tools in the class to make that happen. No one vendor can supply the whole answer," he adds.

Widespread adoption of OpenAccess would mean an end to writing file translators to get one vendor's tool to read another's data. Wouldn't you rather have the money you spend on that effort available to buy more OpenAccess-enabled tools? The EDA industry might like that as well.

The other key driver is the need for a common platform for design data. "Today's tools need broad and real-time access to a wider array of design data," Graham says. "Detailed signal integrity analyses, for example, require that tools touch a number of different views of the design data pretty much at the same time." The OpenAccess database is the key technology on that side of the effort.

Now available for download at www.openeda.org is Version 1.1 of the API and database specifications and binaries. Cadence has committed to opening the source code.

When can tool users expect to see OpenAccess adopted? Graham projects full proliferation of OpenAccess to take three to five years. Peterson expects the catalyst for widespread adoption to be the debut of Version 2 of the specification, which he anticipates by next year's DAC. "I think you'll see the ASIC vendors jump on it pretty quickly. There will be pressure on the EDA vendors to jump on it too," Peterson says.

Key to the initiative's ultimate success is cooperation from EDA vendors. In spite of the EDA industry's fractious tendencies, there's hope. "A few months ago, OpenAccess would have been soundly denounced as a competitive play by Cadence," says Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest. "That doesn't seem to be the case today. The EDA technical community is looking at OpenAccess with an open mind."

Simplex Solutions has already ported its SoC verification tools to OpenAccess, and other vendors have downloaded the specifications for examination. Synopsys will consider supporting the effort if and when Cadence makes the source code freely available to all.

Already on board with the initiative are Agere Systems, Cadence, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, LSI Logic, Mentor Graphics, Motorola, Si2, Simplex, and STMicroelectronics. Let's hope this group of EDA tool users and providers can mount a strong effort toward tool interoperability.

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