Accellera & IEEE-SA: A Case Study for Open Collaboration Success

Posted on April 23rd, 2014

At the end of last year, in a blog post titled Peace, Love and OpenStand, I talked about the first principle of OpenStand: respectful cooperation among standards organizations. In this post, I will provide a more specific example of the ongoing, successful collaboration between two specific standards organizations, which demonstrates the first Open Stand principle in action. This example comes from the industry I love the most – Electronic Design Automation (EDA).

But first, a little history: The Accellera Organization, which was also known in the semiconductor and EDA industry as Accellera, was formed when Open Verilog International (OVI) and VHDL International merged in 2001. Both of those organizations were the keepers of the two most widely used Hardware Description Languages (HDLs) used by the EDA industry since the mid-1980s. Each organization worked independently with IEEE[1] to create standards based on their HDL of choice. That’s how VHDL first came to be known as IEEE Std. 1076-1987™, and Verilog HDL became IEEE Std. 1364-1995™. Each standard also enjoyed several revisions as usage expanded across the globe — thanks in part to the global influence of IEEE. Three years ago, in 2011, the Accellera Systems Initiative (Accellera) was formed, when the Accellera Organization and Open SystemC Initiative (OSCI) merged.

As the semiconductor industry grew, so did the EDA industry. As chip design became more complex, the need for interoperability between complex EDA software packages and semiconductor IP was of great importance. The chip design community was developing reuse methodologies around semiconductor intellectual property (IP) blocks and EDA software, in order to introduce new efficiencies that would that would optimize reduce development time, lower total cost and improve overall design quality. These factors and many more business considerations became key drivers for creating and using new standards for the industry.

As the industry sought to create these standards, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) became a logical Standards Development Organization (SDO) with whom to partner for standards development. IEEE-SA had a rich history of standards development and the mature, disciplined processes in place to facilitate standards development with technical communities on a global scale. For example, one standout success is IEEE’s “802 wireless” family of wired and wireless standards, which is used across the globe and in everyday life. The IEEE-SA is also an independent SDO without political or regional divide. IEEE’s. IEEE’s proven process and worldwide reach has attracted more than 40 industries (known as IEEE Societies), which work with IEEE-SA for standardization within their respective industries.

As it stands today, Accellera has worked in an open, collaborative fashion with the IEEE and IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) for more than 25 years on the development of more than a dozen globally relevant standards. Today, Accellera has is participating in more than 10 active standardization projects which also have and aa sizable global participation healthy community, including more than 40 entity participants. This broad and open collaboration brings together some of the best minds in EDA with the time-tested, global standards development processes of IEEE for the creation of standards that help contribute to industry success and which answer the needs of a thriving market.

The Semiconductor and EDA community formally reside under the IEEE Computer Society. Working together, the Design Automation Standards Committee (DASC) acts as a sponsor for EDA standards development activities to which Accellera is a contributor/participant. In fact, with regard to its collaboration with IEEE-SA, Accellera website explicitly states:

“Through an ongoing partnership with the IEEE, standards and technical implementations developed by Accellera Systems Initiative are contributed to the IEEE for formal standardization and ongoing governance.”

The successful partnership between IEEE-SA and Accellera has also inspired a contribution from Accellera to kick-start new standardization groups under IEEE-SA. Accellera also recently adapted its intellectual property rights (IPR) policy to align with that of the IEEE-SA. This alignment leads to the easy transfer of technical document from Accellera to IEEE-SA, reducing cost and time-to-market.

No standard can be effective in contributing positively to the marketplace without the intended community putting it into practice. For EDA standards, the adoption of standards by chip design and verification engineers, semiconductor IP developers who enable the reuse methodologies, and the EDA software developers who implement (comply with) these standards in their tools is critical for success. Driving market adoption is another highly praiseworthy aspect of the collaboration between Accellera and IEEE.

Many standards are essentially documented best practices. However, no standard can become more than a document without the intended community putting it into practice through adoption. This is another area where collaboration between SDOs can be helpful. For EDA standards, the adoption of standards by chip design and verification engineers, semiconductor IP developers who enable the reuse methodologies, and the EDA software developers who implement (comply with) these standards in their tools is critical for success. For the EDA industry, this is where the collaboration between IEEE-SA and Accellera is really praiseworthy.

Since 2010, Accellera has worked with IEEE-SA to sponsor an “IEEE GET Program” through which electronic copies of sponsored standards are made available to users at no cost. These standards include IEEE Std. 1666 (SystemC), IEEE Std. 1685 (IP-XACT), IEEE Std. 1800 (System Verilog) and IEEE Std. 1801 (UPF). Cumulative downloads of these standards have exceeded 36000 38,750 in less than four years. The ability for the industry to obtain these standards at no cost benefits the entire EDA community. The availability of these standards also leads to increased adoption of the standards, and encourages the community to invest confidently in the standards-based tools and methodologies, as well as toand participate in future standards development. This, in turn, leads to greater engineering productivity and product quality.

Cummulative Downloads 2010-2014
Cummulative Downloads 2010-2014

Without question, the collaboration between Accellera and IEEE-SA is a great real-life demonstration of the first principle of OpenStand in action – respectful collaboration among SDOs. There are many more examples of similar collaborations within this industry – each with a slightly different flavor. Be sure to look up how IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO) fosters standards activities with Liberty Technical Advisory Board (LTAB) and Interconnect Modeling Technical Advisory Board (IMTAB).


[1] At the time, IEEE had no Standards Association

This post was written by Yatin Trivedi, Officer of Accellera Systems Initiative and Director of Standards and Interoperability Programs at Synopsys. He also serves on the Board of Directors of IEEE-ISTO and on the Standards Board of IEEE-SA.

Yatin Trivedi
Yatin Trivedi


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