Designers have been complaining about silicon IP integration and interoperability for years, but attempts to ease the challenge haven’t generated much excitement. Standards have lagged, proposals have seen slow adoption, and the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA) has come and gone. The announcement that the SPIRIT Consortium will merge with Accellera, however, may help move badly needed IP reuse standards onto center stage.
Accellera and SPIRIT announced June 11 that the two organizations will merge under the Accellera banner, although the SPIRIT name will remain attached to the organization’s two standards, IP-XACT and SystemRDL. IP-XACT provides a meta-data XML schema that creates a common way to describe IP, enabling integrators to use IP from multiple sources with IP-XACT enabled tools. SystemRDL is a high-level language for register design.
SPIRIT was founded in 2006 and is thus relatively new. Accellera, on the other hand, was formed in 2001 with the merger of two rivals, Open Verilog International and VHDL International. SPIRIT intends to take IP-XACT 1.5 to the IEEE but has not yet generated any IEEE standards. Ten Accellera standards have been ratified by the IEEE, including Verilog (IEEE 1364), VHDL (IEEE 1076), and SystemVerilog (IEEE 1800). While SPIRIT focuses on IP reuse from a system-level perspective, Accellera’s focus is primarily on languages and verification.
Shrenik Mehta, Accellera chair, told me that Accellera views IP deployment and reuse as a “critical component” of today’s design flows and that SPIRIT’s work is complementary to that of Accellera. He noted that Accellera currently has a standardization effort in the verification IP (VIP) area, one of several possible points of synergy between Accellera and SPIRIT. “We have VIP, we have low power, and we have AMS [analog/mixed-signal],” he said. “Now, how does that get integrated into IP reuse and deployment? We have to think through how we can solve an industry problem.”
Ralph von Vignau, SPIRIT president, said the combined organization will be able to facilitate a flow that extends from the system level to RTL. He also noted that IP-XACT adoption by large companies “is not as far down the road as we would have liked. This [merger] will certainly help support it.”
Stan Krolikoski, group director for standards and interoperability at Cadence, has a unique perspective – he’s secretary of the boards of both Accellera and SPIRIT. The merger, he said, “is a sign that you can’t package, distribute and use IP without having something like IP-XACT and all the Accellera based standards that underlie it.”
Stan noted that EDA vendor members have different groups of people working on Accellera and SPIRIT standards. “There will be a whole group of new Cadence, Synopsys, and Mentor people working inside Accellera,” he said. Thus, there should be some new opportunities for cross-fertilization between language standards and IP reuse standards.
Accellera, Stan noted, has a widely recognized “brand name” and an extremely efficient process for taking standards to the IEEE. The Accellera “stamp” may help speed adoption of IP-XACT, he said. He noted that IP-XACT describes metadata for IP blocks, which are mostly written using HDLs defined with Accellera standards. The standards that Accellera develops in areas such as VIP could tie into the IP-XACT metadata.
For now, Accellera and SPIRIT are sorting through logistical matters and are not providing many details on how the organizations will work together. They have promised to announce further details at the upcoming Design Automation Conference. But the big picture is promising. If language/verification standards and IP reuse standards can be developed with an awareness of each other, taking advantage of any possible synergies, then maybe IP reuse standards will spark some excitement – and widespread adoption – after all.