I work as an electronic reliability engineer. In order to estimate the reliability of integrated circuits, I need to know their type. Thus my question.

Is this ethernet switch Marvell Link Street-88E6341 considered an ASIC, or it is simply a digital IC?

EDIT : It appears that this IC is more like an ASSP. Here is the définition of an ASSP from wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application-specific_integrated_circuit

An application specific standard product or ASSP is an integrated circuit that implements a specific function that appeals to a wide market. As opposed to ASICs that combine a collection of functions and are designed by or for one customer, ASSPs are available as off-the-shelf components. ASSPs are used in all industries, from automotive to communications.[citation needed] As a general rule, if you can find a design in a data book, then it is probably not an ASIC, but there are some exceptions.

For example, two ICs that might or might not be considered ASICs are a controller chip for a PC and a chip for a modem. Both of these examples are specific to an application (which is typical of an ASIC) but are sold to many different system vendors (which is typical of standard parts). ASICs such as these are sometimes called Application-Specific Standard Products (ASSPs).

Examples of ASSPs are encoding/decoding chip, standalone USB interface chip, etc.

IEEE used to publish an ASSP magazine,[2] which was renamed to IEEE Signal Processing Magazine in 1990.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure there's a useful distinction there - what would you consider to be a "digital IC" that's not an ASIC, things like 74 series logic? \$\endgroup\$
    – pjc50
    Dec 7, 2018 at 10:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ 1) the link does not work for me 2) an ASIC means that it is an IC for a specific application. Can the product do anything else than work as an Ethernet switch? Probably not and that means that the IC is an ASIC. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2018 at 10:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ What other categories you have on the list? \$\endgroup\$
    – Anonymous
    Dec 7, 2018 at 10:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bimpelrekkie The link works for me, but the PDF is generated in Word so it gave me nausea. \$\endgroup\$
    – pipe
    Dec 7, 2018 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im sorry if the link have a problem, it works perfectly for me: origin-www.marvell.com/switching/assets/… The categories are IC linear, IC digital, IC memory, IC Micropros/microcontroller/FPGA The IC work only as an Ethernet switch I hope that I have covered all your questions :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Amine
    Dec 20, 2018 at 10:06

4 Answers 4


ASIC means 'Application Specific IC', and that device is very application specific. If you want to build a 4 port Ethernet switch with it, it will do it, and only that. So yes, you need to use the 'ASIC' column for the MTBF figures from your reliability tables.

The fact that such figures are next to meaningless for each individual case is irrelevant for what you need to do. As a reliability bean-counter (bean-counter, perjorative term for accountant who does not need to understand what goes on underneath the figures), you only need to show that you have added up the correct numbers in the correct way.

The term 'ASIC' covers such a range of complexities, technologies and use-cases, the only realistic measure is whether the manufacturer can sell them successfully. If he can, it means they don't fall over too often. That means an asic intended for engine compartment use in a car is likely to be a lot more reliable than one intended for room temperature use in a cheap consumer item, and strangely enough, a lot more reliable than military use ones as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Gotta agree with Neil. Reliability depends intensely on luck of what the lottery draw provides you. I've chatted with medical IC designers (implanted devices). The processes are OLD, NEVER CHANGED, kept VERY CLEAN; the layouts use wide metal, and redundant vias and contacts (like JPL uses "z" wires thru PCB vias, even at cost of extra solder, to ensure the "z" path works even if the PCB de-laminates.) On silicon, as with other circuits, HEAT is big problem; keep temperature rise LOW, keep temperature cycling LOW, keep voltage gradients LOW. Wanna bet the best device physicts designed YOUR IC? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2018 at 13:14

The chip you are referring to includes Gigabit PHYs and TCAMs etc. So it has much more than what someone would loosely term as a "digital IC". So this should fall under the ASIC category in my opinion.


Historically they'd be referred to as Application-Specific Standard Products (ASSPs).

Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (MRVL) Moves Lower on Volume Spike for September 10:

Marvell Technology Group Ltd and its subsidiaries is a fabless semiconductor provider of application-specific standard products. The company's product portfolio includes devices for storage, networking and connectivity.

Profile: Marvell Technology Group Ltd (MRVL.O):

Marvell Technology Group Ltd., incorporated on January 11, 1995, is a semiconductor provider of application-specific standard products. The Company is engaged in the design, development and sale of integrated circuits. The Company develops System-on-a-Chip (SoC) devices. It also develops integrated hardware platforms along with software that incorporates digital computing technologies designed and configured to provide an optimized computing solution. Its product portfolio includes devices for storage, networking and connectivity. In storage, it is engaged in data storage controller solutions spanning consumer, mobile, desktop and enterprise markets. Its storage solutions enable customers to engineer products for hard disk drives and solid state drives. Its networking products address end markets in cloud, enterprise, small and medium business and service provider networks. Its connectivity products address end markets in consumer, enterprise, desktop, service provider networks and automotive. Its storage, networking and connectivity products power networks and data centers around the world.

Application-Specific Standard Product (ASSP):

An application-specific standard product (ASSP) is an integrated circuit (IC) dedicated to a specific application market and sold to more than one user. A type of embedded programmable logic, ASSPs combine digital, mixed-signal and analog products. When sold to a single user, Gartner defines such ICs as “application-specific integrated circuits”

An ASIC sold to multiple customers.


PHYs follow an ASICs kind of signaling generalizing block transfers. most ethernets are ASIC like but since parts of the stack are R/W asynchronous it has to be internally buffered and R/W asynchronously that is the device controller task and not a harwarde level implementations, thus it cannot be called properly an ASIC to my understanding.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not really a proper answer as the term "ASIC" relates to the application for which the IC is designed. most ethernets are ASIC like That is a confusing sentence, ethernet and an ASIC are different things so one cannot be "like" the other. asynchronous vs buffered has nothing to do with an IC being an ASIC or not. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2018 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ ASIC relates any IC that is uniquely a high-level series of gates leaving the protocol logics to a microprocessor or FPGA. lacking complete processing capabilities. Ethernet is a hardware protocol that can be decoded by an actual ASIC at your ethernet board and latched digitally to a bridge or microprocessor. In general that happens inside the IC itself but not necessarily. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lyx
    Dec 7, 2018 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ ASIC relates any IC that is uniquely a high-level series of gates leaving the protocol logics to a microprocessor or FPGA That's nonsense, where does it say that an ASIC needs to have digital circuits (gates) to be called an ASIC? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 8, 2018 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ very insightful. you're right. many analog signal processors can be asics too. but not a common ethernet IC. anyway i haven't seen any "analog" asics but i'm sure there are \$\endgroup\$
    – Lyx
    Dec 8, 2018 at 19:37

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