More Investments into RISC-V – Qualcomm Backs SiFive, OpenHW Group Created

Orange Pi Development Boards

Some may doubt RISC-V will ever challenge Arm at least in some markets, but the industry is investing in solutions based on the royalty-free open source ISA, with this week SiFive securing $65.4 Million from various investors including Qualcomm Ventures LLC, and the announcement of the launch of the OpenHW Group, a new not-for-profit global organization aims to boost the adoption of open-source processors currently backed by 13 companies, and aiming to reach 25 sponsors by year’s end.

RISC-V Investments

SiFive gets more interest from investors

Here’s the main part of the announcement of SiFive’s new series D funding:

SiFive, Inc., the leading provider of commercial RISC-V processor IP and silicon solutions, today announced it raised $65.4 million in a Series D round led by existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures, Chengwei Capital, Spark Capital, Osage University Partners and Huami, alongside new investor Qualcomm Ventures LLC. This Series D round brings the total investment to date in SiFive to more than $125 million.

The reasons for the funding is to “further enable and accelerate SiFive’s global expansion and technology development” with the company now employing more than 400 employees across 15 locations globally.

OpenHW Group launch and Core-V open source cores announcement

The OpenHW Group has just been created, with the aim of “providing a platform for collaboration, creating a focal point for ecosystem development, and offering open-source IP for processor cores”.

The non-profit organization is currently comprised of the following sponsors: Alibaba, Bluespec, CMC Microsystems, Embecosm, ETH Zurich University, GreenWaves, Imperas, Metrics, Mythic, NXP, Onespin, Silicon Labs and Thales, and also partners with the Eclipse Foundation for open-source software collaboration and innovation.

The group did not come empty handed as they also introduced the CORE-V family of cores, which “supports system-on-chip (SoC) hardware and software designers with a quality and manufacturability assurance when adopting RISC-V processor core IP”. CORE-V cores are described as follows:

CORE-V is a series of RISC-V based open-source cores with associated processor subsystem IP, tools and software for electronic system designers. The CORE-V family provides quality core IP in line with industry best practices in both silicon and FPGA optimized implementations. These cores can be used to facilitate rapid design innovation and ensure effective manufacturability of production SoCs.

At this stage, I did not find any downloadable resources however, and the product page points to the mailing list instead.

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dgp
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dgp

I see RISC-V destroying ARM in the MCU and deeply embedded markets. They have all the perks that ARM had over the tens of different completing cores all the silicon vendors had (vendor neutral compilers, debuggers etc) without any license fees. All of those places where 8051 clones are still used to avoid licenses should also migrate over. Qualcomm et al. need cores to run base bands, controllers for raw NAND etc so it makes sense for them to throw some money at SiFive if at some point in the future they can save millions by not paying anything per chip for all of those deeply embedded cores.

Anything else I think they’ll have a lot more work to make any significant progress. I can only hope some day there are affordable RISC-V workstations out there so we don’t have to live under the tyranny of developing on machines running ISAs with no Vs in their name.

slackstick
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slackstick

Fully agree. RISC-V is for ARM what ARM is for X64. The existing markets will stay with the top dog. But new markets and Embedded will move to RISC-V.

RK
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RK

> I can only hope some day there are affordable RISC-V workstations

Thanks to Trump’s ban on Huawei it’s really only a matter of time. I mean, who in their right mind would even consider closed-source proprietary software and hardware nowadays? Might as well just handover the business to your American competitors and get it over with.

jay
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jay

It isnt software, the big cost isnt in the “closed source royalties”, its along the entire supply and manufacturing chain. MIPS is already open source, I hear no buzz about MIPS. If those costs magically evaporated, sure, then you’d have a point.

RK
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RK

Cost has little to do with it when Huawei needs to fork Android or use linux since there’s too many proprietary closed parts and they can’t take part in license pools.

More importantly, it’s a trade war: There doesn’t need to be a direct or immediate profit motivation. PRC can just contract them or someone else to develop and release free open source hardware designs that American fabless normally specialize in just to erode their business model. They’ve subsidized plenty in the past over similar interests.

Mee
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Mee

RK you sound like a blind cheerleader, who doesnt know a thing about hardware. Hardware and software are *fundamentally* different, android and linux (i.e. software) can’t be equated with RISC (chip design) on *any* level. Atleast dgp had something useful to input, precisely that the MCU market is indeed large enough to sustain startups, and for RISC-V to tackle an ultrasimplified market (in terms of chip complexity, these are basically early 80s designs) may allow them a foothold to fend. Although I don’t follow about names and “tyranny”, it sounds like a bunch of nationalism “rah-rah” that doesnt make much sense to me. MIPS is already Western controlled, always been, nothing to do with China, and they have been *sent to manufacturing* exceedingly complex commercial silicon decades ago, before even ARM became sexy. The problem lies in MIPS’ power consumption, which fell behind ARM about 15 years ago (atleast that was the case, MIPS got passed around several companies, now there are revamped MIPS designs out lately, I havent the latest details) , if MIPS can get things moving and shaking…the markets could care less if “V” is in the name. To add, ARM itself may not be Western owned, but practically all highly technical architectural work (tied to royalties) is done in England and probably couldnt be taken over Japanese. There simply isnt the expertise, Softbank, the owner, has zero background in chip design, they are just an investment house. Fujitsu or Sony? Maybe.

blu
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blu

> I can only hope some day there are affordable RISC-V workstations out there so we don’t have to live under the tyranny of developing on machines running ISAs with no Vs in their name.

armv7 was ok, I give you that, but armv4t though v6 got silly with thumb. I’d rather stick with armv8/a64*, thank you very much.

* like apple’s designs.

dgp
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dgp

Yah man, stick it to those baddies at Intel! Winning the war one $900 networking SoC at a time!

blu
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blu

I thought we were discussing v-isas?

dgp
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dgp

No one cares about ISAs. It’s all about the V in the name. If it doesn’t have a V in the name a kitten dies for every instruction executed. This is why I can’t justify writing python and watching k-pop music videos on a such a machine.

blu
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blu

Right, I forgot — ‘All you need is intel’ (a great song by Beatles, btw). Worry not, next ISA by intel will be amd64-v, and the universe will be whole again.

dgp
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dgp

It’s actually “All you need is a computer that doesn’t break because of interactions between u-boot and kernel versions”. The follow up “Fixing a vendor kernel hole” is a classic.

theguyuk
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theguyuk

Risc-V Android TV box, a phone or handheld gaming console. All easy targets to get the market rolling, with public acceptance. Otherwise it is hard drive controllers, alarm boxes and electronic infrastructures. Risc-V claims to run on less power than arm.

dgp
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dgp

>Risc-V Android TV box, a phone or handheld gaming console. All easy targets to get the market rolling,

It’s a non-starter. You could get Android running on RISC-V but the effort to keep it running and supported at an acceptable level will kill it. Intel couldn’t do it. The place for RISC-V in mobile is running all of the auxiliary functions that are usually done by Cortex M? or similar cores dotted around the main processor.

>Otherwise it is hard drive controllers, alarm boxes and electronic infrastructures.

Perfect place for it. If you’re making a hard drive controller you don’t need to care about supporting existing software or anything.

Andreas
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Trump having the USA forcing ARM Holding to ban Chinese government-owned companies from buying or licensing ARM processors have got to the best thing that could have happened to RISC-V.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-48363772

The longer ARM keeps banning Chinese government-owned companies the more investments RISC-V is going to get.