SiFive is an open source company making waves in the world of hardware. They’ve raised money from Intel, Samsung, and recently added Qualcomm to the ranks. An article in The Information discusses why this is so important, and why you should keep SiFive on your radar.
Considering that Qualcomm is one of the biggest customers of RISC-V’s legacy competitor, SoftBank-owned Arm, the mobile chipmaking giant’s investment is symbolically important for SiFive….Six of the top 10 chip companies are now SiFive customers, the company said.
The finances of open source can seem a little precarious. We recently discussed some of the hurdles facing the world of open source, but also talked about the value inherent in the model. Google’s Android is evidence that even large companies leverage open source design to financial success. Red Hat is a rather explicit example of success with open source software. They have industrial edge doing what anybody else could do: they know the Linux platform well and will help companies take advantage of that platform — for a price of course.
SiFive’s model revolves around RISC-V — an open source hardware instruction set architecture (ISA). ARM has bunch of ISAs and licenses them out. RISC-V enables you to borrow an existing ISA or slightly modify it to suit a new purpose. Doing this on your own might be challenging. Crudely, SiFive is to RISC-V what Red Hat is to Linux.
SiFive’s approach in the hardware market is similar to how Red Hat operates in the booming open source software world, making money from packaging technology for businesses to easily incorporate….SiFive says it can help companies develop a chip design in one to three months, as opposed to more than a year typically.
There are a lot of moving pieces here and large industry giants are sure to be aware of SiFives value. It’s possible a chipmaker may even scoop them up, but whatever happens to them, this is all a huge vote for RISC-V as a viable foundation for future processors.
We’ll be staying tuned. Read the whole article here.