When a foundry prepares a process for a designer to use, it’s got to communicate how that process works and how it can be used. Which has to be couched in terms that an EDA tool can use.
Problem is, each foundry has its parameters and such, and each EDA tool has its formats and such. The same information ends up getting done and redone and redone in order to cover all the players.
There have been efforts to corral this to some extent by TSMC (at the very least) with their ixxx (e.g., iDRC) efforts, but those have been “proprietary” even if developed in a more open way.
Si2 is attempting to reconcile this all in their OpenPDK project, which has been underway for quite a while. It’s really a nested effort, incorporating other DRC, DFM, and parametric extraction (PEX, as embodied in their OPEX effort, which shouldn’t be confused as contrasting with CAPEX) projects, to name a few.
This all comes together as a big XML schema that forms an Open Process Specification (OPS). As described at Si2’s recent tech conference, work groups are busily defining parameters and symbols and callbacks and such. The end goal of this, anticipated around the end of 2012, is that automation will allow a single populated OPS to generate the PDKs needed for any of the EDA tools. This separates the information content from the format, the OPS containing the content and a filter essentially skinning it for the EDA tools.
It is noteworthy that the word “open” appears in this context. Things have been gradually changing, but imagine if ten years ago you suggested that the foundries open up… well… anything. Would have been worth a chuckle then, so it represents quite the change of heart that this effort looks to be successful in the not-too-distant future. More on that in a few days…