Intel offers billions of dollars to SiFive, new RISC-V chips coming?

Intel offers billions of dollars to SiFive, new RISC-V chips coming?

Intel offers billions of dollars to SiFive

According to Bloomberg sources, Intel has put two billion dollars on the table for the acquisition of SiFive, although neither company has currently officially confirmed the news. SiFive is the leading designer of solutions based on the RISC-V open source architecture that, incidentally, has attracted much more interest following the ongoing acquisition of ARM by NVIDIA for the sum of forty billion dollars. SiFive, most recently valued at $ 500 million, is reportedly considering takeover offers from multiple companies and may still choose to remain an independent company. Much of the renewed interest in SiFive and RISC-V comes from companies seeking to avoid potential problems due to NVIDIA's control over ARM.

RISC-V is an open source Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) for RISC chip which eliminates the traditional notion of licensing costs associated with designing chips around a given ISA, as is the case with ARM. The ISA is managed by the international non-profit organization RISC-V, made up of more than a thousand members in fifty countries. RISC-V is most commonly used in microcontrollers and small, simple chips, which has earned it industry acceptance from companies like WD, which ships over two billion RISC-V controllers per year in its products. The RISC-V organization plans to evolve the standard to offer faster chips for high-performance applications in the future.

Chinese chip companies have shown keen interest in RISC-V in the wake of US restrictions on their use of ARM projects due to US national security interests. Of course, RISC-V's open source license, which avoids taxes, and the fact that the company is incorporated in Switzerland and does not “take a political stand on behalf of any country” is appealing to Chinese companies. The recent announcement by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger that the company would begin licensing its x86 processor designs to other companies as part of its new IDM 2.0 initiative was surprising and the company even revealed that it would be open to third-party ARM projects with its new custom manufacturing services, which make up Intel Foundry Services (IFS).

If the information is true, it is natural to expect that Intel will look to add RISC products -V to its offering and also provide custom designs to customers, which ties in perfectly with the company's commitment to help semiconductor manufacturing in the United States.

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Intel in talks to acquire RISC-V firm SiFive for $2 billion

Chip giant Intel has reportedly offered $2 billion to acquire SiFive, a chip startup founded in 2015 by researchers out of UC Berkeley, that designs computing cores using the RISC-V platform, which is often touted as an open source architecture. 

SiFive is reportedly weighing the offer from Intel, which already has an investment in the startup, shared Bloomberg citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. 

Earlier this year, Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger counted SiFive as one of the customers of the company’s new Intel Foundry Services division and announced that the two were working together to allow RISC-V chips to be fabbed within Intel's facilities. 

However Intel is reportedly not the only one courting SiFive, and the company has received several other takeover interests, as well as offers of investment, which the source adds could be the “preferable route' for SiFive.

The interest in SiFive may also be influenced by Nvidia’s ongoing acquisition of Arm, which has yet not passed all its regulatory hurdles, mostly because of concerns about the future of Arm’s open licensing model. 

Purchasing SiFive would bring a host of hardware and software intellectual property (IP) to Intel that the company can use to fulfill its newfound desire to service external customers through its IDM 2.0 strategy, which will also see the company open its chip factories to outsiders. 

Phoronix is of the opinion that SiFive's RISC-V IP is perhaps the “most compelling” one at the moment, especially in light of its recent developer-friendly efforts like HiFive Unmatched.

VIa Phoronix