Recently, I attended the latest OpenAccess (OA) conference put on by Si2. Attendance this year seemed to be up from last year. Whether the increased attendance was due to the increased adoption that we’ve seen in the industry or the fact that the conference was free this year is unclear. However, it is crystal clear that OA is no longer just a promise, and that adoption has moved from the true early adopters into the mainstream market. Adoption is still in its early stages when you view the industry as a whole, but both our own experiences and the presentations at the conference show that customers want to use OA “out of the box” for their design flows. Perhaps the strongest statement came from Mark Magnum of MicroMagic, who said that OA support was a customer requirement for at least 10 of the evaluations for their 3D layout tool.
Much of the activity revolves around the battle for a piece of the custom design market. Cadence has been aggressively deploying their OA-based version of Virtuoso for several years now and all of the other players either have OA products on the market or in development. Eric Leavitt of Synopsys introduced their new OA-based custom design tool, cleverly named Galaxy Custom Designer. Eric gets the award for the best quote of the day — “GUI — such a small word, such a lot of code.” Can’t agree more, Eric.
Of course, tool developers are finding out that just being on OA doesn’t automatically mean that your tool can completely reproduce everything that is in Virtuoso. There are some very key bits of the database that Cadence was smart enough to keep to themselves. You can be sure that the developers at Cadence will be amusing themselves for years with a lively game of “keep away” with those key pieces, to ensure that Virtuoso compatibility is an ongoing challenge for their competitors.
Another interesting talk was from Michaela Guiney, Change Team Co-Architect from Cadence. While she covered all of the expected topics such as bugs fixed, new enhancements, and so forth, the part that I found most interesting was about constraints for 32nm. Cadence is currently working with customers to define and implement new constraint types for 32nm processes and expects to contribute them in mid-2010. According to Michaela, the focus is on representing those constraints relevant to routers, ala LEF/DEF rules. When asked whether the constraints would also cover the DFM constraints that Jake Burma talked about, she answered (paraphrased) “Yes, we should cover the DFM rules and more for the routers.” The constraints sound like an elegant solution, although it seems that they will always be behind the technology curve, since it requires new code for each new constraint type — which has to go through development, testing, donation, deployment, etc. I am interested to see how this evolves.
Finally, my favorite talk of the day was from Luigi Capodieci now at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Even though his talk wasn’t really about OpenAccess, his presentation was my favorite for two reasons. First, he talked in depth about how DFM-related issues can affect yield and performance variability in real life and he set a vision for the foundry to provide “IDM-like” DFM collaboration to foundry customers. This is a tall order, but Luigi and his team have a lot of experience with providing infrastructure to get bleeding edge designs to yield well. The second reason is that Luigi showed screenshots of Calibre RVE and Calibre LFD in his examples of how GLOBALFOUNDRIES has implemented their DFM flows. We in the Calibre team have been collaborating closely with AMD, the progenitor of GLOBALFOUNDRIES , for many years (see refs: 2006, 2009_a, 2009_b, Gabe on EDA) and look forward to continuing that work as they move into the foundry business as GLOBALFOUNDRIES.