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Issue 3, 2012

Standards Column:
Global Standards Development Requires Sound Fundamentals

Technical standards are created in a very formal setting, especially when they have global influence. A new paradigm is emerging for global standards development. Organizations such as Accellera and IEEE-SA are already practicing this paradigm. In this article, Yatin Trivedi, director of Standards and Interoperability Programs, Synopsys, shows how the fundamental principles of this paradigm are applied to EDA and IP standards development.

Some standards can be developed through informal collaboration while others, such as technical standards, require formal setup for collaboration. For example, if you have ever tweeted on a topic using a hashtag, you collaborated informally with the community that was interested in that topic. If the topic was interesting enough and your hashtag was appropriate, then other users in the community may have accepted this as the “standard” way to engage in the discussion of that topic. For example, if you search for the hashtag “#openstand” on Twitter, you will see a number of recent tweets discussed by the standards community.

Global Standards Development Requires Sound Fundamentals

On the other hand, global technical standards, such as those used for internet and electronic design, are developed through broad community collaboration in a much more formal setting of an organization such as Accellera or the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA). These organizations, often called Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), provide the foundation for individuals and entities, such as corporations and universities, to collaborate in creating standards that address problems within or at the boundary of an industry. They provide the infrastructure – legal, administrative and IT – so the collaborators may originate, expand and conclude discussions of topics related to technology standards within mutual interest.

The most successful SDOs operate on a few sound principles, widely accepted as the Modern Standards Paradigm for Global Standardization. These principles include:
  • Respectful Cooperation: Many SDOs are industry-specific or regional. For example, Accellera Systems Initiative is an SDO focused on developing standards for Electronic Design Automation (EDA) and semiconductor Intellectual Property (IP) industries. It collaborates with IEEE-SA to further ratify its standards by the global community, respecting each other’s processes and intellectual property rights (IPR).

  • Market-driven: Standards are created to address the need identified by the market. Recent examples in the EDA industry include creation and wide-adoption of Unified Power Format (UPF, later standardized as IEEE Std. 1801™) and Universal Verification Methodology (UVM™). On the flip side, there are several counter-examples of technologies that did not get broad adoption because they were driven by a single vendor (or a small number) seeking proprietary advantage.

  • Transparency of Process: Standards-setting and standards-developing organizations that truly care about their end customers (the product developers and their consumers) know that openness and transparency in their development process yield high-quality, widely accepted standards. There is increased awareness for openness in developing standards due to the success of many formal (e.g. IEEE-SA, Accellera) and informal (Apache open source licensing) activities. In general, including a broad technical community in standards development helps find comprehensive solutions to complex problems, which, in turn, expands the industry and increases business opportunities. Creation of System Verilog under Accellera (now IEEE Std. 1800™) is one such example where the community of design and verification engineers collaborated to define a language to address their needs (tools) for large, complex SoCs. Since its first standardization in 2003, more than 300 tools and semiconductor IPs have been made available.

  • Voluntary Adoption: Whether a standard is worth adopting or not should be left to the market. If a standard is high quality and useful for its intended purpose, producers will create products that enable interoperability and compliance with the standard. Similarly, the consumers will see the benefits of using such a standard for improved productivity, reduced cost or other appropriate benefits (e.g. migrating between competitive products). When a standard is forced upon the industry, it can reduce not only the competitiveness but also the desire to innovate based on mandated standards. If there is true business opportunity, the producer and consumer communities will come together to adopt the standard willingly.

  • Availability: The goal of creating standards is to solve certain problems faced by the industry. Often, in the semiconductor industry, the standards are addressing interoperability problems between tools. Therefore, creation of the standard must be followed by easy access to the standard so that its adoption is accelerated. Furthermore, implementation of such standards often requires access to intellectual property rights (IPR) which should be available under fair terms. Given market diversity, fair terms may vary from royalty-free to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND). Accellera and IEEE-SA are closely aligned on their IPR policies, where contributors to the standard provide Letter of Assurance (LoA) so that the community may access the required IPR under fair terms. Accellera also sponsors GET IEEE program to provide free access to several IEEE-SA Design Automation standards for the worldwide user and developer community.

This modern standards paradigm encourages the producers and consumers within an industry and without geographical borders to collaborate and seek standards-based solutions that become a win-win for everyone. To learn more about these principles and the successful standards development organizations that operate by these principles, check out

Global Standards Development Requires Sound Fundamentals

Until then, search for the hashtag #openstand and feel free to tweet your favorite standards story using hashtag #FavStdStory.

More Information:

About the Author
Yatin Trivedi is the director of Standards and Interoperability Programs at Synopsys. He represents Synopsys on the Standards Board and the Standards Education Committee (SEC) of the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), the Education Activities Board (EAB) of IEEE, the Board of Directors of IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO), and the Board of Directors of Accellera. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Standards Education Committee eZine, vice chair of Design Automation Standards Committee (DASC), member of IEEE-SA's NesCom, AudCom and ICCom governance committees, and member of the Corporate Advisory Group (CAG). He manages interoperability initiatives as part of the corporate marketing strategic alliances group and works closely with the Synopsys University program.

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