The use of standard silicon building blocks is increasing in the networking and communications industry. Standard parts help to reduce product development and manufacturing costs and to improve interoperability across vendors and technologies. Of course, companies still need to differentiate their products, and one method is to integrate a customized ASIC to support specialized functions.

In creating these ASICs, the demanding requirements of networking and communication applications typically require the use of 0.18- or 0.13-micron process technologies. Yet ASIC design practices that were successful on earlier process generations are not sufficient to deal with these complex, high-density solutions. Advanced tools and methodologies are needed to address key challenges that have emerged as by-products of complex designs and high-density scaling.

This article describes the scaling challenges and offers suggestions for evaluating the ability of an ASIC vendor to deliver complex, high-density ASICs on spec, on time, and within budget.