Wally Rhines, chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics attacked the Open SystemC Initiative (OSCI) at a chief executives' panel debate held 15 March at the Design Automation and Test Europe (DATE) conference in Munich, but said Mentor would embrace the group if key changes were made in the bylaws.
In response, Aart de Geus, chairman of leading EDA tool supplier Synopsys, described the dispute over the openness of OSCI as a "tempest in a teacup."
Launched by Synopsys and CoWare, the Open SystemC Initiative (OSCI) is in the process of forming an independent organisation. But according to recent reports there are no plans to change the licensing agreements or the controversial section that, according to some interpretations, appears to prevent licensees from suing any contributor over any software patent, whether related to SystemC or not.
De Geus said after the DATE panel discussion that he expected OSCI to be totally independent by the time of the Design Automation Conference in June, and he said, "If there is a legal issue we should address it."
But Peter Hardee, director of product marketing at CoWare and co-chair of OSCI, took a stronger line asserting that OSCI already is open. "If Wally were to listen to his customers, who make up three-quarters of the OSCI steering group, maybe he would realise it's no longer credible to question our openness," said Hardee.
Speaking third in the open forum, Ray Bingham, president and chief executive officer of Cadence Design Systems took a low-key approach and said, "The resolution of this issue has no bearing on the litigation between Cadence and Mentor Graphics."
Rhines had been originally asked what changes to OSCI would be required to allow Mentor Graphics to join.
Rhines asserted that as the OSCI bylaws stand, they protect Synopsys without protecting other participants and that the provisions refer to all software patents, not just those related to the development of SystemC.
Rhines said, "Synopsys can sue you and you can't sue Synopsys. We need to make it open. We need to give some power to OSCI members to decide on changes, not just [leave it to] Synopsys, CoWare and Frontier to decide on changes."
Rhines argued that the board of OSCI needed to be able to decide on detailed changes to the SystemC specification rather than the current situation, which only allows the board to vote yes or no.
When the panel moderator, Joseph Borel of STMicroelectronics, tried to move on to another question, the audience murmured its disapproval, and Borel then invited de Geus to address the topic.
"Synopsys had no plan to set up something pseudo-open or to set some mega-trap. It's not our intent. We copied the [form of the] agreements from IBM, OSF and Cadence LEF/DEF agreements," he said.
Speaking after the panel, Rhines said he suspected that many companies were simply unaware they had opened themselves up to a liability and had done so simply by downloading material from the SystemC Web site. Others, he said, were now disengaging from OSCI because of the problems. Rhines declined to name particular companies.
De Geus said, "This has mushroomed out of nothing. Our intent was clean. If it's a real issue we should address it. If there is a legal issue we should address it. People who give stuff should not be punished by risk because they gave a gift."
De Geus compared the rollout of SystemC and the Open SystemC Initiative to a product roll-out. "It's not trivial. It should be a controlled roll-out. Between now and DAC it [OSCI] should be totally independent," de Geus said.
Earlier in the panel Bingham, de Geus and Rhines outlined their views of the future of EDA. Bingham homed in on the importance of partnership, referring to Cadence's European Felix initiative and how that had stimulated the development of the Virtual Component CoDesign environment. He also pointed to cooperation with IBM on silicon-germanium and with Hewlett-Packard in hardware-software codesign environments.
De Geus gave an upbeat ten-minute talk in which he praised the engineering audience for their creativity and ingenuity and highlighted timing closure, verification and intellectual property reuse and system design as key but tractable challenges. "What about power?," de Geus asked, and "What about signal integrity?," before assuring the audience that they, with the help of EDA vendors, would prevail.
"When you come home after one more late night and your husband or wife asks you what keeps you so late, be cool and say, 'You know, honey, we just cracked the human genome and now we're fixing the design gap'," de Geus said.