Chris Jones, Vice President, Products—February 14, 2022
The Investment Heard Around The World
The RISC-V revolution continues to advance as the technology industry embraces open computing to address semiconductor design and business challenges
Last week saw momentous announcements, with Intel Foundry Services (IFS) enabling RISC-V alongside other processor architectures as part of Intel’s dedication to an open ecosystem and to help make IFS become one of the world’s leading foundries. By joining RISC-V International and investing significant money and resources in the open specification RISC-V instruction set architecture, Intel is empowering the RISC-V ecosystem and helping drive further adoption of open computing. A great recap of these announcements is available from EETimes, and you can read the Intel original news here, and the SiFive news here.
As always with big announcements, people want to know the bottom line - what does this mean? For SiFive, this week’s announcements mean opportunity, validation, and support for our vision of technology–a clear indication of the need for competitive processor IP to build SoCs that will support the market needs of automotive, data center, hyper scale, and edge computing platforms. Industry analysts predict there will be 25 billion RISC-V based AI SoCs in the next 5 years, representing a 34% CAGR for RISC-V CPU semiconductor IP(1).
We hear from our customers and partners that the need for specialized SoC design is key, along with a quick time to market. SiFive’s portfolio and approach enables a common, open standard to be the computing base, with focused products that align the hardware to the software. There is no incumbent in these market opportunities, enabling RISC-V and SiFive to win on our merits - something we are truly excited about!
Developing for RISC-V
SiFive had a breakout year in 2021, as we entered performance-driven markets with new products to be part of the high-value silicon blocks that deliver the experiential uplift. We launched the SiFive Intelligence™ family in Q2 of 2021 and now have several licensees, following our first public win with AI leader Tenstorrent. Similarly, the SiFive Performance™ P550 has multiple licensees including Intel, as part of the IFS “Horse Creek” platform and SoC. Delivering 3x more performance per area than our competitor’s core, as well as being the fastest commercially available RISC-V processor IP at launch, contributed to why the SiFive Performance P550 will be at the forefront of Intel’s RISC-V development platform. We saw firsthand the power of seeding the industry with our SiFive HiFive line of developer boards, and our partnership with Intel will take those efforts to the next level.
As an IFS Accelerator - IP Alliance partner, SiFive will offer our industry-leading portfolio of RISC-V-based processor IP to customers of IFS, supported by our partnership with Intel’s $1B innovation fund, a collaboration between Intel Capital and IFS. In addition to investing in disruptive startups, Intel will dedicate expert open source software developers to collaborate with SiFive to enhance and grow the RISC-V ecosystem, using the “Horse Creek” Development system powered by SiFive Performance P550 processor cores.
The Open Computing Era
The RISC-V instruction set architecture was invented over a decade ago to enable freedom to innovate and avoid the pitfalls of proprietary technology, and SiFive is the vehicle the inventors of RISC-V has chosen to explore the commercial opportunities of the open specification. The open approach of RISC-V is combined with the collaborative nature of RISC-V International and the technical groups to enable contributions from many parts of the world. As part of these groups, premier members like SiFive and Intel are able to openly help develop the specifications and extensions that all parts of the RISC-V ecosystem can implement. From hardware to software, the open specification of RISC-V ensures an era of open computing is enabled.
This is what I mean by the headline “investment heard around the world.” We’re well past the time of “Is RISC-V going to take off?” and into “How high can it go?” The answer is that RISC-V has no limits, and SiFive is eager to show what our immensely talented team is capable of. We’re hiring at many levels and we’d love to hear from you if you think you’d be a good fit - please see our career options, here. This year, we’re going to deliver on our promise to bring the SiFive Performance P650 (2) to market, and continue to innovate and extend our performance leadership in RISC-V!
1 - SemiCo Research report CC330-21, “Analyzing the RISC-V CPU Market for SIP, SoCs, AI and Design Starts”
2 - Case study from The Linley Group by Techinsights, "SiFive P650 Pumps Up Performance by 50%"