Taming The PDK Beast At DAC

How to create a write-once, use-many approach for PDKs.


A quick Web search on the phrase “process design kit” reveals about 48 million matches. This happens to be about 10 times larger than for the current pop dance sensation “twerking,” so I guess that’s at least something to brag about. Yet if we now add the word interoperability to our PDK search, we find only 200K matches, or less than 0.5% — and therein exposes the chronic problem with PDKs.

Unfortunately, the PDK problem lately has been getting even worse. If we consider that the cost of PDK development has been rising at an accelerating pace, and that quality and time-to-market risks have been increasing, we can see that the problem ultimately becomes one of survival in our modern semiconductor world. The solution, it would seem, would be to efficiently capture 100% of the PDK information in one place, automatically, and reliably generate the various files needed—and have the entire system aligned as an open industry standard. We could call that a “write-once, use-many” approach, and it would be a beautiful thing.

It turns out that this is precisely the approach taken by the expert members of the OpenPDK Coalition in defining the Open Process Specification (OPS), which is now ready to begin broad adoption across industry (see http://semiengineering.com/a-perspective-on-open-process-specification for a technology overview).

In addition to the OPS standard, the OpenPDK Coalition is defining an intriguing new standard dubbed OpenPcells, which addresses interoperability for the pcell executable code and pcell data parameters (which are also contained within OPS). In January, Si2 hosted a well-attended OpenPcells requirements workshop in Santa Clara, CA (see http://semiengineering.com/inside-si2s-openpcell-workshop for specifics).

For those participating in this year’s Design Automation Conference, the best way to learn about how OpenPDK works in practice is to attend any of Si2’s numerous activities on this important topic:

All of the events above are free of charge to DAC attendees.

Also, don’t forget to mark your calendar for the annual Si2 Reception and Members meeting, Monday 4:30-6 p.m. in room 300 at the Moscone Center, featuring food and drinks, social networking, announcements from the CEO, and a special keynote talk by Leon Stok, Vice President, Electronic Design Automation Technologies, IBM and Chair of Si2’s Board of Directors.

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