September 11, 2006
Midnight at the OASIS
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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"GDS, and then GDSII, became the defacto standard because it worked, and was a fairly efficient format for designs of the size and complexity of the day, but most importantly because EVERY IC designer and foundry had a CALMA design system. We owned the market. What wasn't designed on Calma was designed on proprietary systems (very few), or people hand-cut rubylith (in the old, old days). It's like Microsoft Word or PDF are today, except that Calma wasn't evil.

- Rob Kuhling, Calma veteran

"Why does all great journalism happen between midnight and dawn?"

- Anon

Midnight at the OASIS

The GDSII data stream format files that go from design to manufacturing in the IC industry are becoming ponderous, and something has got to be done. That "something" is probably OASIS - Open Artwork System Interchange Standard - although not everyone is completely sold on the idea. This column is about OASIS and includes comments from three different companies who are supporting it.

Last year, Jack Horgan wrote a column here in
EDA Weekly on the new OASIS format based on a conversation with Tom Grebinski, CEO of OASIS Tooling. Consider today's column to be Chapter 2 of that discussion. This time, however, it's a roundtable that also includes Tracy Weed from Synopsys and Steffen Schulze from Mentor Graphics. Joe Basques of VitalcomPR set up this roundtable, which was supposed to be a conference call between the participants.

Unfortunately, at the last minute Steffen found himself stuck in a plane on the tarmac in Macao, unable to access a phone. Because of that, the conference call went forward without Steffen, and I composed a set of questions, after the fact, which were sent to him by e-mail; Tom and Tracy also received the questions. Steffen responded the next day in writing from Taipei; Tom Grebinski also submitted some additional comments.

Because of the way this roundtable discussion evolved, there's a certain skew-ed-ness to the conversation here. Tom and Tracy's comments are organic and spontaneous - they did not have a set of questions before the phone call. Steffen's comments have a more studied air. This presents a problem if you, the reader, conclude anything about the three companies, or the three participants, based on these differences - so, please don't. Please do, however, read this column to completion and conclude something about the current status of OASIS, and its future in the industry.

Things you probably already know

Calma - per Wikipedia, "Calma Company, based in Sunnyvale, California, was, between 1965 and 1988, a vendor of digitizers and minicomputer-based graphics systems targeted at the cartographic and electronic, mechanical and architectural design markets. The company's best known products, both targeted at the integrated circuit design market, were GDS, introduced in 1971, and GDS II, introduced in 1978. By the end of the 1970s, Calma systems were installed in virtually every major semiconductor manufacturing company."

Cal and Irma Hefte - Calma founders and, hence, the company's name

GDS, GDSII - "Graphic Data System" layout design computers, and stream formats for representing geometric shapes and text labels; today only the stream formats remain in use

1978 - Calma purchased by United Telecommunications

1980 - Calma sold to GE

1988 - Some parts of Calma sold to Valid

1991 - Valid acquired by Cadence

Roger Sturgeon - led GDSII team at Calma; later founded Transcription Enterprises, which produced CATS (Computer-Aided Transcription System), which was acquired by Numerical Technologies (a.k.a. Numeritech or Numerical) in 2000, which was acquired by Synopsys in 2003.

Kevin MacLean - helped found Transcription Enterprises, was part of Numeritech after the TE acquisition, eventually joined Cadence after Numeritech was acquired by Synopsys, and now a VP at PDF Solutions.

CATS - Computer Aided Transcription System, originally produced by TE, then part of Numeritech's portfolio, now part of Synopsys' portfolio.

OASIS - new format designed to be a replacement for the GDSII stream format, developed by a SEMI technical committee

$75 - how much it will cost you to buy the SEMI P39-1105 OASIS standards spec

December 2003 - OASIS 1.0 specification first released

December 2004 - OASIS 1.0 update released

Tom Grebinski - CEO of OASIS Tooling, chairman of SEMI OASIS committee

Tracy Weed - CATS Product Manager at Synopsys

Steffen Schulze - Product Marketing Manager at Mentor Graphics, Calibre MDP and Platform applications

The Roundtable Discussion - OASIS Tooling & Synopsys

Peggy - Tom, please identify yourself and tell me what's wrong with GDSII that we need to go over to OASIS.

Tom - I'm Tom Grebinski and I'm CEO of OASIS Tooling. OASIS is a data format and next-generation replacement for GDS II stream. Our interest is in building OASIS infrastructures for companies who need it.

Peggy - What's wrong with GDSII?

Tom - There are file limitations in GDSII. With OASIS, we can compact data fields by as much as 10-to-50 times. [That's important] because there's a 32-bit implementation with GDSII that could possibly cause problems below 65 nanometers. It's related to a 32-bit spillover, and OASIS [has solved this].

Peggy - Why is this happening at 65 nanometers, and not 90 nanometers?

Tom - It has to do with data volume and how we represent data in design layout. As more and more data becomes required to express IC designs, the greater amount of that 32-bit capability is required. We're pushing things at 28 bits, but for many companies, they'll soon need 33 or 34-bit capability to build the next generation design. At 90 nanometers, the data files are at 20 or 30 gigabytes, but at 65 nanometers, they're at 80 gig. Down at 45 nanometers, they're even larger.

Peggy - Who else, besides you, is driving OASIS?

Tom - Intel, TI, Fujitsu, NEC, IBM, Mentor Graphics, of course … those are just a few.

Peggy - Are these all your customers, and are there any companies who aren't your customers who aren't driving the process?

Tom - There's at least one company on my list, and that's NEC which is not a customer of ours, but is driving an aggressive OASIS effort. [Editor's note: Neither is Mentor a customer.] TI says they'll be OASIS-ready this year. At least one mask company is building commercial masks using OASIS, and IBM is also building commercial masks using OASIS.

Peggy - Tracy?

Tracy - I am with Synopsys now, but I've been in the industry working on this for a number of years. The [SEMI] P39-1105 OASIS standard was the outcome of a number of folks driving the process. We're part of that committee and have been working on defining the standard. Tom, the standard is still at 1.0?

Tom - Yes.

Tracy - Moving to a higher version requires quite a bit of time from a committee standpoint, but OASIS has received a very good reception and responsiveness from our customers in the big IDMs. [We see] major customers looking at implementing OASIS. Synopsys has done a number of surveys … a year and a half ago, we did our first survey, and found that OASIS was on the horizon. A few months ago, we did another survey and found that about 10 percent of our mask data prep tool users with a high presence in the industry are using OASIS at some level. Our expectation is that [within several years] that number will be up to 30 to
50 percent.

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-- Peggy Aycinena, Contributing Editor.


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