As chip designs move to 90nm and 65nm, chipmakers face new challenges including differences in temperature, stability and power reliability or power efficiency. The industry has attempted to address these issues in several ways. One of these efforts is PFI (Power Forward Initialization), started by EDA market leader Cadence Design Systems, Inc., to further accelerate the Accellera industry standard system through the Universal Power Format (UPF).

PFI became the big event at the July 2006 Design Automation Conference, which unveiled the roadmap for the Common Power Format (CPF). In October, the Low Power LPC Consortium was formed under the efforts of the Silicon Integration Initialization Si2 Consortium.

Just a day after the announcement on LPC, Cadence handed over CPF standardization work to the Si2 Consortium under pressure from the results achieved by other low-power standardization entities.

Now, Si2 states that it will join the IEEE SA as a community member, and once the CPF working group is approved by IEEE, Si2 will further synchronize its work with its LPC as the secretariat of the IEEEC PF working group. As part of this effort, the CPF will have access to LPC members – although it's unclear if they will have a say when circumstances change or there are updates.

Membership in the LPC is open to all members of Si2, which currently includes 108 companies – although Cadence has opted to become a member of the PFI. Si2 President and CEO Steve Schultz said CPF has excellent potential to serve a foundational role in the low-power design flow. Pankaj Mayor, director of the Cadence Industry Alliance Working Group, said, "Cadence fully supports common power formats, and all the feedback we've had from the industry is that CPF meets the needs of all users." The purpose is to make CPF more comprehensive, so that CPF can be applied in a wider range of industries, so as to see the prospects of the standardization process.

Even with all this time and effort from the EDA vendor, is this what the designer really needs?

Michael Kaskowitz, senior vice president of semiconductor IP supplier Mosaid Technologies, warned that EDA vendors are trying to fight physics. Based on this, their work may be in vain – it's actually IP vendors who create technology to solve low power consumption.

Kaskowitz said Mosaid has seen tangible interest from customers who are making rapid architectural changes to address power consumption. "There are a lot of concerns about power consumption, but can it be addressed under a standards body? There are certain issues that can be addressed in those groups but some issues may not be addressed because no one will want to share patented technology," he said. Kaskowitz said.

Moreover, he believes that the standard work currently provided by EDA vendors is limited, and the above problems will be solved by IP vendors. "I don't think a standards organization and EDA vendor can solve these problems. They raise these problems, so they have to solve it through technical means through IP vendors and fabs," Kaskowitz said. Fundamentally, he believes, in design, all issues involving power consumption are being manipulated by the wrong industry players.

"At an advanced level, I don't understand how EDA companies can essentially solve physical problems. Mosaid has solved these problems through unique design methods, and manufacturers are solving these problems through changes in processing methods. For those standards organizations Speaking of low power, it makes sense. Maybe something from an EDA tool allows you to do measurements or simulations, but they don't address power consumption," he continued.

"A lot of companies will hold patented solutions that address power issues, and consumers will be judged. These solutions will be patented or trademarked and it will not be ready for use in a standards organization environment," he said. Before joining Mosaid, Kaskowitz was president of the VSI Alliance Semiconductor IP Standards Group and general manager of the IP and Embedded Software Group at Mentor Graphics.
"The secret to a lot of standards work is that if it doesn't get people outside through a smell test, it can be a show. There's a lot of work going on in our industry for standards, especially those driven by EDA companies. standards efforts are market-driven," he said.

"The real solution will come from the customer and the IP vendor, there are ways to save energy, but you can't expect to take the solution you did two years ago and just tinker with it. It requires an architectural shift," Kaskowitz concluded. .

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