July 10, 2006
Standards - IP Arena
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor


by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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As a matter of history when did Spirit first publish a specification?

The first published specification was V1.0. I think that was at DAC 2004, one year after we started. We then published V1.1 a half year later which added some of the features that were missing in 1.0 but that people required to do some of the things which could be added fairly easily. In March of this year we have released V1.2 which basically completes the RTL. We believe that every form of IP can now be described. We also believe that in large part the verification if IP which you need can also be described in this common format.


On June 12th Spirit announced it would send IP-XACT to the IEEE organization for consideration as an industry standard.

We started up an IEEE working group, P1685. V1.2 is being prepared to drop into that. It hasn't actually been done at this moment. It is being correctly formatted and going through formal check. It has been out there. It has been reviewed. It has a couple of comments that have been corrected so that when it goes to IEEE, it will have fairly high maturity and have been tested fairly well in various environments.


What is the IEEE process on a go forward basis?

We don't just send it to IEEE as sort of mail. What happened is that all our members have become IEEE corporate members. We are part of IEEE-SA (Standards Association). The corporate members have to put together and form a working group under the IEEE which has its own standards and ways of doing things. Spirit has now formed this working group and has allocated resources and got others to join. There is now a team of engineers that have started to meet. You bring in or donate to this working group the specifications that then come out after the working group has gone through the formal IEEE way of making it public, of getting feedback, of getting more industry involvement.
Eventually it goes through the voting procedure and comes out as an IEEE standard.


How long do you expect that process to take in this case?

Expect? What? Believe? We would like to have it done in roughly 9 months. This appears to be the average that most standardization groups are achieving. There are signs that you can do it in 6 months but we are not going to push it because in bringing out the standard we will be dropping in a few other things which we may develop during the coming months to complete certain aspects or where the industry has said would you add this. I think 9 months is a fairly good time frame. It might take a year but we certainly do not want an 18 month or 2 year process. We would prefer to limit the content to ensure we bring it out in time.


Do you envision Spirit continuing to extend the specification or moving on to other issues?

We have quite a lot of input on certain things that the industry thinks has to be added to the spec. I can give you an idea that verification was done but it did not include all of the features that a verification suite would like. There are things to add to what has been done in verification. We expect that OSCI will proceed with TLM. There is a requirement for TLM interoperability which we would also like to add. We have been working with OSCI and the ESL part is being brought in. Also we keep up with what they are bringing out in addition to that. Interoperability is important. When they bring TLM interoperability out, we will obviously add that to the scope of the standard. The scope of the first IEEE standard will be clear in the next month. If we take this seriously and try to bring it out in 9 months, somewhere in the 2007 timeframe, we don't want a never-ending process. “Oh there is something else, let's add this and add that.” So we have stopped. We bring it out now. We go through the process of making this an IEEE standard. Probably one year or one and a half years down the road we will have a whole bunch of new things. We see this as an ongoing process but not that we don't bring out IEEE standards along the way. There may be IEEE 1585 then you get a version 1, version 2, version 3 and so forth. It may be that the new
information is so different that it doesn't go into IP-XACT but is something else. That may be a new IEEE standard. The intention is that Spirit itself will approve and make public its standards in the beginning. The whole idea is that we will call them specifications. They will actually go through the IEEE process to make them standards.


Would you describe the different categories of Spirit membership?

At the moment we have roughly 58 members. The members are split up into what we call reviewing members which is a membership that any company can enter into. There are no fees associated. Rather, we hope and expect that people who become reviewing members will in fact review the documents. They have access to alpha and beta versions and provide valuable feedback. We get an automatic buy-in from the people providing the feedback. We ensure the industry feels that what is being defined is something they can use. So the idea behind reviewing members is that we get industry feedback at an early stage. We then have contributing members, reviewing members who have said that they have an knowledge and are extremely interested in this and need to be able to influence it because it its one of their key knowledge or requirements. They can bring in engineering resources. Again, Spirit is not so much driven by paying members. Even contributing members don't actually pay a fee. We are more interested in them committing to provide engineering resources into the working groups. That's what really makes it work. When you look at the total cost, putting an engineer into a working group is much more expensive than a fee of $10K or $20K. That commitment is where the firm says “I have the interest. I want this to be done. I give my engineers into this.” You
see that the results are driven because in the end the whole idea is to bring out something of value for the companies. This has been one of the values of Spirit that it has the drive to bring these standards out.


The third class (class is probably the wrong word), the third type of company is what we used to call Steering Committee members, members who have a vote in the final approval. The working group member can vote on ongoing work and proposals of his group. The final vote is taken by the Steering Committee members who are expected to put engineers into two working groups. Normally one of these would be in the major group, the schema working group what brings it all together into the standard. So the expectation is that they have a high commitment of resources and thus earn the right to be on the Steering Committee. They also pay fees which allow the organization to keep running. We try to keep it a very slim organization so the expenditures are not really that high. Of course, as you get bigger, it does increase in terms of administration. With 56 members I can no longer run this organization with my secretary. We actually need to have someone administrating and dealing with all the things, making sure the mail is answered. We have people like Jayne Scheckla (PR Person who arranged this interview) contributing heavily into marketing and making sure we have the exposure we require and set up interview like this properly. We are sort of partially driven by the Steering Committee providing facilities, time and effort. This allows us to have an office, a website and an
administrative staff. There is also one other class which is new. That's a so-called associate member which cooperates with other groups. This is a very new idea. Towards DAC we will have this idea sorted out and will be announcing something.


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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.




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