SiFive has announced plans to utilize a new cash injection to challenge the dominance of Arm with its RISC-V CPU cores.
The company has sealed an additional $175 million in funding in a recent investment round, which will combine with the takings from the sale of its connectivity business, OpenFive, to create a $350 nest egg.
According to Patrick Little, SiFive CEO, the firm will use the funds to accelerate the development of new RISC-V based cores capable of besting Arm across performance and efficiency metrics.
Arm vs. RISC-V
In today’s market, Arm-based processors are ubiquitous. The company dominates the mobile computing landscape, and the success of Apple’s M1 series shows Arm has a promising future inside laptops and desktops too. Arm designs also feature in chips for TVs, smart cars, drones, various IoT devices and some data center servers.
RISC-V is a free, open source instruction set architecture (ISA) built around the same design principles as Arm’s proprietary designs, which command royalties each time they are integrated into an SoC. Although RISC-V-based processors are currently far less common, data from Deloitte suggests the number of RISC-V cores in circulation will double in each of the next two years.
Founded by the creators of RISC-V, SiFive has ambitions to topple Arm in each of its major markets with specialist core designs based on RISC-V. The company says it already has the edge when it comes to power-to-performance ratio in some scenarios, such as automotive.
"We believe that over the coming next two years or so we should be able to say to customers in earnest in any market: 'if you can get it from Arm in terms of the performance level, you can get it from SiFive’," said Little.
In support of this push, SiFive says it intends to double its 300-strong workforce over the next 12 to 18 months.
Arm, for its part, says it is relatively untroubled by developments in the RISC-V space, at least for now. Speaking to TechRadar Pro at MWC 2022 earlier this month, the company’s SVP of Infrastructure Chris Bergey said Arm is confident in its position, particularly in the server market.
“We’ve shown that alternative architectures can be successful, and RISC-V will have aspirations to follow us in that way. We’re staying on our toes, but we don’t see it as a significant threat,” he told us.
“We’re going to keep focusing on what we can control: providing a lot of performance and a rich software ecosystem. Beyond delivering the cores, it’s important to note that part of our success is about the maturity of our software ecosystem too.”
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Via The Register (opens in new tab)