Steve SchulzSteve SchulzThis year, Si2’s OpenAccess standard turns 10… so we are announcing a year of special celebrations to mark this very significant occasion! I will use this blog to reveal some of the plans for this year, so read on.. but first, a little historical perspective.

The origins of OpenAccess reach back to the mid-90’s and the SEMATECH Design FTAB, which envisioned a common data model and interoperable C++ API that would enable high-performance, fully integrated design tool flows, with the flexibility to mix and match best-in-class commercial EDA tools with selected in-house tools. Led by major semiconductor IDMs, several Design FTAB members had already proven the concept’s value with internal technology, but wanted to shift to more commercial EDA tools. The FTAB developed excessively detailed specifications for both the design environment and base set of tools (“Chip Hierarchical Design Standard”), however this was not a good recipe for EDA vendor adoption and failed. Eventually, the concept, with some seed funding, was transferred to Si2 around year 2000.

A new Design API Council (DAPIC) was formed at Si2, which took a decidedly different approach. Si2 realized specs alone were insufficient, and that the EDA industry needed to be an integral partner for any chance of buy-in and adoption. Following DAPIC’s release of a Request For Technology (RFT) to industry, Cadence was the sole vendor to offer a database / API technology in line with the RFT, and even so would need to be re-written in C++ from scratch. The final sticking point was the need for source code, which nearly killed the deal, however some very open-minded people worked together and pushed this through in what was a revolutionary first in EDA. Incidentally, Motorola’s Board representative at that time led the campaign for ’source code’… that person is Dr. Sumit DasGupta, now Si2’s Sr. VP of Engineering (this may very well be another case of, “Be careful what you ask for…”)!

Starting with the DAPIC core members, Si2 formed a new OpenAccess Coalition (OAC) and recruited 12 founding members, which quickly grew to 16 in 2002. After Cadence contributed the first C++ reference implementation (RI), Si2 did some testing and packaging, and released OpenAccess 2.0 on Si2’s website for OpenAccess Coalition members in December 2002, and then to the general public in February 2003. All changes to OpenAccess since that initial contribution are controlled by the OAC’s elected Change Team and owned by Si2 on behalf of the OAC. Si2 has developed user guides and reference manuals, (online) training classes with labs, add-on software utilities, and received numerous contributions of additional software and other technology. Today an “Extension Steering Group” complements the Change Team to support such useful extensions as the new OpenAccess scripting language framework (currently supporting four languages).

OpenAccess has progressed from raw vision to early reality, and crossed the chasm of mass adoption over 5 years ago. It continued to expand in its scope of adoption as it grew in confidence – from SoC, to FPGA, to analog/RF circuits, to memories, to MEMS / sensors, and up to the most advanced microprocessors. Foundries are OAC members because it is part of their reference flows and library development. VC funding for EDA startups has been conditional upon building their product lines on top of OpenAccess for efficiency. Cottage industries (and external standards groups) have emerged around the OpenAccess ecosystem. Researchers are now using OpenAccess for the co-design of silicon photonics with electronics. The sky is the limit and the future is bright.

In the coming months, here are a few things to anticipate as we mark the ten year milestone of OpenAccess (many of these will be rolled out at DAC):
• Special event at DAC 2012: “OPENACCESS @ TEN”, includes free lunch (Monday 12;15-3pm)
• Si2 Annual Open Reception at DAC 2012: A Celebration of OpenAcess (Monday 4:30-6pm)
• Live / recorded reflections on how OpenAccess came to be, from some of the original visionary leaders that made it possible
• Testimonials on OpenAccess’ current value, spanning the semiconductor supply chain
• Special recognition awards given to some of the key technical leaders over the years – unsung heroes that deserve our thanks
• “Ten Years of OpenAccess” giveaways, such as polo shirts, notepads, pens…
• Media articles covering new (or lesser-known) capabilities of OpenAccess you may find useful
To learn more about the DAC events, just click on:, or click on to register.
All of us at Si2 want to share with you our excitement about this very special milestone in EDA. So, let’s all celebrate and have some fun!

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