In the News
What's been said about SiFive and the future of semiconductors
SiFive, the first fabless provider of customized, open-source enabled RISC-V semiconductors, has been named “Startup of the Year” at the UBM Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards held in conjunction with the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley in San Jose.
The ACE Awards, given in partnership with EE Times and EDN at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7, showcase the best of the best in today’s electronics industry. The “Startup of the Year” category recognizes companies less than three years old with working prototypes or proof of concepts of innovative new electronics technologies. The award was judged by a panel comprising UBM editors and dignitaries from the electronics industry.
SiFive, the first fabless semiconductor company to build customized, open-source enabled semiconductors, today announced its flagship Freedom family of system on a chip (SoC) platforms. Built around the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture invented by the company’s founders at the University of California, Berkeley, SiFive’s Freedom U500 and Freedom E300 platforms represent a fundamentally new approach to designing and producing SoCs that redefines traditional silicon business models and reverses the industry’s prohibitively rising licensing, design and implementation costs.
The SiFive business model is that lots of people are locked out of silicon. SiFive can do custom design and deliver chips. “We believe we can do it cheaper, quicker and more predictably than anyone else.” They have also been getting lots of calls to help with designs. Growing the RISC-V ecosystem is a big opportunity.
The traditional semiconductor business models take a lot of resources, so you have to pick the winners. But there aren’t any $1B sockets anymore, so you can’t easily pick the winners. The market is fragmented. SiFive wants to give everyone a chance. In a bit more detail, they will do a customer microcontroller platform and deliver 100 or so chips for under $100K.
One of the lessons learned years ago in the open-source Linux world is that free software isn’t always good enough. Consequently, being able to add commercial value around freeware can turn into a lucrative business.
Enter SiFive, a startup that has been building customized platforms based on the RISC-V CPU. Started by the creators of the RISC V instruction set architecture (ISA), the company’s stated goal is to shake up the economics of the chip industry.
Moore’s Law is dead…just not in the way everyone thinks. Technological advances keep allowing chips to scale, but the economics are another story – particularly for smaller companies that can’t afford chips in the volumes that the big chipmakers would like from their customers.
The solution, according to San Francisco-based startup, SiFive, is open-source hardware, specifically an architecture developed by the company’s founders called RISC-V (pronounced “risk-five”). Done right SiFive, which was awarded Startup of the Year at the 2016 Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards, believes that RISC-V will do for the hardware industry what Linux has done for software.
Startup SiFive started selling today a $59 Arduino board running its first RISC-V-based SoC and made open source RTL code available online for the chip. The news marks a milestone for a still nascent open source hardware movement.
Open source cores have been available previously but they tended to be academic efforts or lacked broad commercial support. The HiFive board is intended to drive demand for custom SoCs SiFive will design and comes with a growing pool of open source Linux variants and tools fed by an expanding foundation that maintains the RISC-V instruction set.