Ask a chip designer if the work he or she does is an art or a science and you will more than likely hear the former. But Naveed Sherwani, the outspoken president and CEO of fabless ASIC vendor Open-Silicon Inc., takes issue with that. "I believe it is a science," he said over lunch recently.
Sherwani believes that if the industry had accepted that design was a science 10 years ago (and treated it as such), the industry would be in better shape today and the design process would be a lot shorter.
Why? Sherwani argues that chip design is complicated, but can be broken down into steps. It can employ prescribed, documented methodologies that dictate the manner in which a device is designed. Some argue that this type of methodology restricts designer freedom and creativity.
But Sherwani says a scientific approach means less reliance on "rock star" designers who have the skills and know how to do great designs, but no motivation to share their methods with others. With multiple people trained to do various parts of a design, each should be able to do work of the same quality, he argues.
Sherwani points out that chip manufacturing (which he argues is 10 times more complicated than design) adopted the mentality two decades ago that it was a science and has thrived since. While the industry has continually refined manufacturing and constantly pushed the technology envelope, advanced on the design side have been much less pronounced, he says.