Dr. Shafy Eltoukhy, SiFive: “We Just License The Processors And There is No Royalty”

by November 9, 2018 0 comments

Dr. Shafy Eltoukhy, SVP of Operations and GM of SoC Division, SiFive talks about RISC-V instruction set architecture and its rapidly increasing ecosystem.

What are the key objectives of SiFive and its products portfolio?

SiFive is the leading provider of market-ready processor core IP based on the RISC-V instruction set architecture. Sifive Core IP portfolio is highly configurable, it helps SoC designers to reduce the time-to-market and realize cost savings with customized, open-architecture processor cores, enabling system designers to build customized RISC-V based semiconductors.  

How it is different from other players?

It is the semiconductor industry’s first end to end custom SoC development solution to select best in class technology. We focus on three goals: low cost of ownership, high schedule predictability, and high reliability.

Our main aim is to reduce the cost to harness the performance and energy efficiency of custom silicon to the smallest company, inventor, or maker, enabling a whole new range of applications.

What was the concept behind launching RISC-V based semiconductors?

It is an open architecture has the capacity to bring custom silicon to all inventors and makers will benefit the entire semiconductor ecosystem. We are already witnessing a major shift in innovation from thinkers and dreamers who were previously unable to access custom silicon.

RISC V is growing, how has it impacted the dominance of ARM?

RISC V is an open spec; it allows people to build their own processors. You don’t have to rely on ARM as a company to provide you with the software. Indian Government has adapted RISC V as national processors, mainly because no one wants to depend on another country. In addition to that ARM model in general, it licenses processors for you but you have to pay a royalty on every chip one sells. In our case we just license the processors for you and there is no royalty. So, there will be a lot of adaption for RISC V very soon.

Would it become the dominant computer architecture in the next 5 years?

Maybe not in the next 5 years but i will put a good bet on the next 10 years. There is a lot of interest from researchers, so in the next ten years there will be a good adaption.

How does RISC V change the memory system?

It actually doesn’t change the memory system because we already have the software which allows one to configure processors according to one’s memory system. So basically, there is no change.

Which are the major brands of company which rely on RISC V?

There are some public companies which has announced that they are working with RISC V. NVIDIA has already announced that moving forward their controllers will be made on RISC V platform. Western Digital has already announced two years ago that all the processors they are using on chip is of RISC V. They ship about a billion every year. These are the major ones who have publicly announced. We are in touch with some companies but almost all major companies have teams working on RISC V.

What is RISC V processor’s roadmap in India?

The Indian govt. has announced RISC V as the national processor. IIT madras have already developed RISC V processor.  IIT Madras’s Shakti project is the project that India has taken up and the Govt. is funding it. C-DAC is also working on RISC V processors. So yes, there is a lot of traction of RISC V in India.

How would RISC V impact the education sector?

It is actually very important for the education sector. Any professor or any researcher would be restricted on say ARM architecture as it is available as proprietary software. RISC V is open so that would allow all of the research to come in. There are a lot of books now available on RISC V so students would know how to work with RISC V as well as professors will now know how to optimize and innovate with RISC V.

Written By: Divya Bishi

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