Custom Chips For Under $100K

It was exciting to see how much activity has developed around RISC-V and SiFive at the recent 5th Workshop here in Silicon Valley. No doubt there’s still work to be done, but the ecosystem has come such a long way in the past 12 months. Once again, the workshop was sold out! More than 350 attendees, 107 companies and 20 universities were represented, and those people were all in awe when they saw SiFive’s real silicon come out with the message that SiFive is open for MORE business. The community also was impressed that we made open-source RTL code available online for our Freedom SoCs. All this news marked a milestone for a still nascent open-source hardware movement.

And the interest in an alternative to existing architectures is growing as well. We have always claimed that Alternatives Really Matter, and the world is continuing to prove that that really is the case as we see traction on the sales of the dev boards and customers working with us to build real silicon and do projects together. Following the SiFive workshop presentation (where people waited in line to ask questions and asked how to obtain the dev boards), we were swamped with people who wanted to learn how they could get their hands on SiFive chips, and how to get their own customizable designs.

In fact, SiFive sold out of the first run of boards just days after our launch (don’t worry, more are definitely on the way)! Most excitingly, sales have occurred in over 30 countries worldwide — proving that technology and open-source knows no bounds. Check out our partner, Crowdsupply, which is selling our HiFive1 Arduino-Compatible development board with FE310, the first RISC-V-based SoC, for just $59.

We made one other interesting observation following the workshop. In the coverage, we saw a quote from ARM that claimed RISC-V was an “early research” project. If “early research” is capable of attracting customers to SiFive because of a poor customer experience, and produces commercial silicon with more than 11x Dhrystone score and 2x power efficiency, then perhaps the industry monopolists should engage in some more “early research” type projects.

At the workshop, people asked me what it would cost to make a chip with SiFive. The room went quiet … people expected me to dance around the topic (like all other people do). Jaws dropped when I simply said “system architects and designers can get customized chips for less than $100,000” – less than the cost of just licensing most CPUs today.

That’s SiFive. Simple. Open. Easy to work with.