SAN MATEO, Calif. The Virtual Socket Interface Alliance, an industry effort to create standards that would simplify the reuse of silicon intellectual property blocks for system-on-chip designs, has made progress in four years but still has challenges to address, the body's newly appointed president said.
ARM Inc. president Tim O'Donnell, who added the VSIA responsibility in June, said that since its inception in 1996 the VSIA has established eight development working groups which have released 13 standards.
More specifications are set to be delivered by year's end, said O'Donnell, and the group hopes to tackle design quality and maybe even establish standards for software virtual components.
"The biggest issue now is adoption," said O'Donnell. "When VSIA was founded, I don't think anyone had a grasp on the size of the problems. Now I think we have our arms around the problems and are addressing them we just have to get companies to use the standards."
In 1996, the VSIA was established by a combination of IP, EDA, systems and semiconductor vendors looking for a way to take advantage of the millions of gates now afforded to them by deep-submicron processes.
The theory was that companies could reuse blocks of legacy IC designs and transfer them to new designs, much in the same way components are attached to pc boards in system design.
Many had predicted that this would create a large cottage industry and that small "mom and pop" design shops anywhere in the world could make a business out of it. But the cottage industry never really materialized.
O'Donnell said he isn't surprised that the third-party IP industry didn't take off as many had expected. "The problem with developing IP was that until recently there weren't any standards in place," said O'Donnell. "When ARM got started 10 years ago we had a tough time figuring out the files each customer needed for their design. They a ll needed different formats and used different methodologies. It is really a chicken-and-egg problem."
O'Donnell said that now, however, many standards are in place and at least reuse within companies is beginning to thrive. Whether VSIA standardization efforts help new IP companies to bubble to the surface remains to be seen.
The VSIA, O'Donnell said, is not sitting on its laurels waiting for wide adoption. The organization is throwing several member meetings worldwide, with the next scheduled for Aug. 31 in Cambridge, England.
The group has also helped its Japanese member companies to form the JCIG group, chartered to get Japanese member companies more involved in the organization's development working group efforts efforts as well as encouraging them to adopt VSIA standards. O'Donnell said the organization is also moving forward in its DWG campaign.
Earlier this year, the Virtual Component Identification Physical Tagging Standard (VCID)was released, which provides an automated method of id entifying and tracking IP through the semiconductor fabrication process and helps companies track royalties.
O'Donnell said VSIA has also formed a study group to examine design quality and may create a development working group to establish or standardize on an industry-wide metric for virtual component quality.
VSIA is also considering creating virtual component standards for software blocks. "We don't have any real solid effort into defining specifications at this point, but it is something under review by the System Level DWG," O'Donnell said.
The organization also elected its Steering Working Group, adding Motorola's semiconductor products sector and Sonics Inc. as new members for the next two years.
VSIA members also re-elected Alcatel, Cadence Design Systems Inc., STMicroelectronics Ltd. and Toshiba Corp.
Continuing members include ARM Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd., Mentor Graphics Corp. and Nokia Mobile Phones.