More Intelligent Standards

Standards groups are stepping cautiously into stacked die, and that’s a good thing.

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There is a lot of talk these days about holistic power intent. The terminology may sound new, but the underpinnings are not.

This was the idea behind the Common Power Format, which was proposed by Cadence back in 2006, and the Unified Power Format (more recently known as IEEE 1801), which was introduced the following year. These ideas were forward-looking at the time. They grasped the growing importance that power would play in designs, and ultimately all the way through the design chain. The only problem was that there were two of them.

That may not have seemed that important in 2007, but as more IP was developed in one or the other format, and companies bought other companies that had standardized on one or the other formats, it created chaos. We’re now at the tail end of 2012 and it appears that progress finally is being made in reducing the differences between the two formats while keeping the best features of each.

Sumit DasGupta, senior vice president of engineering at Si2, said a standard will be introduced in 2013 that includes a subset of CPF contributed by Si2 that will bring the two formats closer together. “It’s a big step in the right direction,” he said.

He’s right. But another outcome of this competing-standard confusion is a more intelligent approach to standards themselves, which is particularly important as the industry begins stacking die. More pieces of IP from more companies will have to work together more seamlessly than ever before, and the only way to do that is to add more standards.

Si2, Accellera and IEEE have been careful about setting up standards too early for many parts of this evolution in design. They have identified the friction points, assessed the level and speed of development in this field, and are just now beginning to take action. While it may slow initial adoption of stacked die—and there is plenty of clamor for standards in this part of the market—this approach ultimately will prove to be the right one. The battle over holistic power intent was bad enough. Having a similar problem in a complex supply chain dealing with stacked die could be much worse. Proceed with caution—please.