SANTA CLARA, Calif. A new power format standards effort emerged here Wednesday (Sept. 13), as the Accellera standards organization held a kickoff meeting for its new Unified Power Format (UPF) technical subcommittee. But with Cadence Design Systems and its allies still targeting the IEEE for the Power Forward Initiative (PFI), the industry remains divided over power standards efforts.
At the kickoff meeting, the UPF technical subcommittee received offers of technology donations from Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, Magma Design Automation, and Sun Microsystems. Technical presentations showed that Cadence's Common Power Format (CPF) isn't the only technology aimed at low-power specifications, although Cadence claims CPF is further along.
The formation of the UPF working group followed a meeting at the July Design Automation Conference organized by Texas Instruments and Nokia. These companies, along with Synopsys, Mentor and Magma, felt PFI was not sufficiently "open, inclusive and fast." Cadence has since invited its EDA competitors to join and has speeded up the original PFI timetable for IEEE submission by over a year.
Controversy remains, however. Cadence believes CPF is past the Accellera development phase and is ready to go directly to the IEEE for standardization. Companies behind the UPF effort want a standard that results from contributions from multiple vendors, and they note that CPF is still owned by Cadence.
Everyone wants a power format standard quickly, and the UPF technical subcommittee has outlined a very aggressive schedule. It calls for a first draft for review by Oct. 30, a draft for Accellera review by Nov. 30, and a handoff to the IEEE or another standards body by January 31, 2007. The window for donations will be open past an
Oct. 5 meeting called by Accellera and the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2) to get user input on power standards.
"The timeline is aggressive, but we believe there's existing technology that can be leveraged to get us there," said Stephen Bailey, UPF technical subcommittee chair and product marketing manager for functional verification at Mentor Graphics.
Bailey presented a detailed technology proposal from Mentor Graphics for specifying power intent. It uses an ASCII "side file" to capture intent, along with a set of corresponding modeling guidelines. Called Power Configuration File (PCF), the file captures information about voltage domains, power islands, the power control network, and power-aware functionality such as retention. PCF, Bailey said, is in "limited availability" but is working in production flows today.
Jim Sproch, senior director of R&D at Synopsys, said his company's proposed donation covers two areas extensions to existing languages to define power characteristics, and specifications for the representation of signal switching activity. Sproch also announced that Synopsys' Switching Activity Interchange Format (SAIF), presently open-source, will be donated to Accellera to "elevate the level of standardization."
Yatin Trivedi, director of product marketing at Magma, listed a number of requirements for a low power standard, including RTL pragmas. Magma will donate "to the extent we have something to contribute," he said.
Sun Microsystems will donate ASCII text files that it uses internally for power behavior, said Rob Mains, senior distinguished engineer at Sun. He noted that Sun has developed its own power analysis tool and does its own leaf cell power characterization.
System-level design should be a crucial part of a power standards effort, said Graham Hellestrand, founder of Vast Systems. Meeting participants agreed that moving to the systems level is important, but noted that the initial UPF standards effort will focus at the RTL and gate levels.
Victor Berman, group director of industry alliances at Cadence, sat through all the UPF presentations, but he said later that CPF is still far ahead because it "unifies information in one place that goes through the entire flow." But Berman didn't rule out a possible contribution of CPF to Accellera. "That's not the course we're taking right now, but we're talking. No doors have been closed," Berman said.
Presentations from the Sept. 13 meeting will be available at the Accellera web site later this month.
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