The Spirit Consortium, an industry group working to establish IP and tool integration standards, is doing good work.
Whenever I get an e-mail from this group, the first thing that comes to mind is that it's a note from our company's internal pep squad, the group that goes around trying to raise the morale of employees. The Spirit Consortium (www.spiritconsortium.org) is actually an organization trying to establish IP and tool integration standards. It's composed of some of the leading EDA, IP, system integration, and semiconductor vendors. The end goal of the consortium is to adopt a unified set of specifications for configuring, integrating, and verifying IP in advanced SoC design toolsets.
The latest news emanating from this group is that it has added four new key members–FPGA vendor Altera, EDA vendor Synplicity (which specializes in tools for FPGA design), IPexpert (a consultant), and GPS vendor SiRF Technology. They've all signed on as reviewing members, which means that they can help validate alpha and beta versions of any specifications provided by the Spirit Consortium.
I must admit, I have not been in tune with the happenings of the Spirit Consortium. The original formation of the group occurred in 2003. The total vendor membership now stands at 61. The different levels of the consortium include contributing, associate, and reviewing.
It's seems like there's a logical reason for this group, seeing as how complex IP-based designs are becoming. By having the ability to more easily incorporate commercial IP into your SoC, you can potentially reduce your time to market and design costs. An admirable goal of the consortium is to synchronize its specification with those of other industry groups and environments, including the IEEE, Eclipse, OSCI, Si2, and VSIA.
An early specification from the Spirit Consortium is called IP-XACT. The purpose of this spec is for documenting IP using XML meta-data and interfacing tools using APIs that access design meta-data descriptions of complete system designs. Unlike other groups that have made similar attempts with specifications, the consortium has pledged to continually tune its specifications it ensure that it evolves with the industry. Other areas that will be tackled (or are already under construction) are ESL, schema, verification, and SoC debugging.
I'm usually in favor of companies banding together like this for the good of the entire industry. We've all seen great examples of how this can work to the benefit of all. Unfortunately, there are just as many examples of such groups that fell flat on their face. The Spirit Consortium looks like its off to a good start.
Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine. He can be reached at .