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Understanding Process Design Kit Standards: Part II   
March 08, 2010

Steve Schulz
President and CEO, Si2

Last week, I explained why PDKs are so fundamentally important to our semiconductor business, and why the need for PDK interoperability has dramatically increased in recent times. In that blog, I also noted that current industry practice spans a variety of languages and formats, primarily rooted in proprietary offerings that have not simplified the goal of achieving broad interoperability objectives. This week, I will give readers a 10,000-foot summary of how Si2's members are tackling this issue in the new OpenPDK Coalition. I believe it is very important to understand the reasoning behind the OpenPDK approach, so I will dedicate today's blog to this understanding .

Incidentally, last week several of Si2's members (TSMC and Springsoft) wrote a summary of some of the pieces that go into a PDK and how they interact - you can read it here on the EE Times website: http://i.cmpnet.com/eetimes/news/online/2010/03/TSMC_SpringSoftWPMarch4.pdf.

So, given that we live in a complicated, multi-lingual PDK world, where roughly 95% of the market uses proprietary technologies, how can anyone deliver on the promise of broad-based interoperability? What practical value could open standards have in such an environment, and how can standards enable a better world given these complexities?

First, we must recognize that there are multiple components within PDKs, in which some have more near-term convergence potential than others, and some offer greater practical cost and efficiency savings that offer solid return-on-investment value. In such cases, we can all quickly benefit by direct alignment to a (possibly enhanced) existing format that meets all needs and can gain wide acceptance just by gaining trust in its ability to meet the technical requirements for relevant process nodes, and by securing the confidence of an open and non-discriminatory standardization process.

Second, for remaining component pieces where near-term convergence would be less likely or impractical, the intelligent approach would be to somehow architect standard interfaces at a higher level of abstraction that can automatically generate any of the existing variations, targeting assured lossless translations for optimal efficiency. While proprietary technologies may or may not be converted into standards, having access to knowledge that permits this interoperability "bridge" architecture toward open standards allows the relative value, and speed of migration, to be determined by the marketplace. In this way, we do not ignore current practice, yet we deliver strong value to all players and simultaneously increase the pace toward market-determined open standards migration.

The OpenPDK Coalition, driven by major foundry requirements and guidance, is taking on the need for broad-based market interoperability through open standards. This includes an architectural approach that supports plug-ins for generation of specific delivery formats, of course centered on technologies suitable as open standards, but also seeking interoperability with current practice to co-exist and migrate. This is a business and market-friendly approach to enable broad-based industry adoption. In addition to new standards work focused on this plug-in architecture for multi-format PDK generation, there are also a set of seven component areas of focus for delivered PDK contents. More on those seven areas will be explained in next week's blog.

Members of the OpenPDK Coalition are meeting next week (hosted by Mentor Graphics), and they will be including an open session for interested visitors who may wish to consider participation. Please visit Si2's website or contact Sumit DasGupta at Si2 for more details. For more information about the OpenPDK Coalition, please visit: http://www.si2.org/?page=1118.


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