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Qualcomm's high-profile investment in SiFive is to break through the "slot" of Arm with risc-v.

date: 2019-08-28
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Recently, SiFive, a leading provider of risc-v processor IP and silicon solutions, announced the completion of a D round of $65.4 million financing, with qualcomm, Intel and samsung participating in this round of financing.A number of big international manufacturers followed suit, indicating the formal rise of risc-v camp, while ARM, as the largest IP provider in the mobile and Internet of things application market, is in a precarious position.


In the era of PC, x86 was the dominant family.In the era of mobile Internet, Arm is leading the way.Next, the commercialization of 5G technology will facilitate the deep integration of AI and IoT and usher in a brand new AIoT era, which is bound to be another golden age of chip IP market.Among ARM, x86 and risc-v, who can preempt the commanding heights of the market and become the absolute mainstream of chip and IP market in AIoT era is the focus of current industry.


Perhaps in the eyes of many industry insiders, risc-v architecture has the characteristics of flexibility, extensibility and simplicity, which is the key advantage of risc-v architecture to compete with ARM architecture in the IP market, and also an important reason why many manufacturers like SiFive and crystal core bet on the IP business of risc-v processor.As ARM's biggest customer, qualcomm is leading the investment in SiFive, which is very exciting. It seems that qualcomm wants to tell the outside world that it will develop processors based on risc-v instruction set in the future to gradually get rid of its over-dependence on ARM.Of course, qualcomm is not the only one prepared for this, it is worth mentioning that chip giants Intel and samsung have participated in the financing of SiFive.


Although the development of risc-v is now in full swing, it has to be admitted that, except for SiFive, most foreign technology manufacturers are still in a wait-and-see attitude towards risc-v, without substantial research and development investment, and the promotion is far from scheduled.Although risc-v has good prospects, there are still many problems. For example, risc-v has strong scalability, but it is still weak compared with ARM's mature and powerful CPU kernel.More importantly, risc-v also lacks adequate software technology and tool chain support in the mobile application ecosystem.


What's more, even if the chip giants such as qualcomm and Intel, it will be difficult to get rid of ARM monopoly.In the biography of Steve jobs, Bill Gates made a variety of objections to jobs, except for one: apple's Macintosh computers went from using PowerPC (RISC) chips to Intel (CISC) chips.This is proof enough of the impact that instruction set changes have on the hardware and software ecosystem.ARM has dominated mobile for more than 20 years, and the hardware and software ecosystem has matured and grown so large that it is hard for chip giants to get rid of its monopoly completely.


However, the potential for differentiation (the instruction set can be customized) of risc-v chips is unmatched by ARM.Therefore, the editors believe that it is wise for chip giants to use risc-v to break ARM monopoly, avoid rivals' advantages and highlight their own differentiation advantages.Meanwhile, qualcomm, Intel and samsung respectively add risc-v chip IP manufacturer SiFive, which will also become a strong driving force to promote risc-v to show customizable and differentiated advantages in the chip IP market.


In addition, the IoT market's demand for low-power chips is a key point for risc-v to demonstrate its advantages.At the early stage of its development, ARM avoided direct competition with x86 performance, but found a new path, focusing on the direction of development with low cost and low power consumption, and finally achieved success.Nowadays, risc-v has lower power consumption and cost compared with ARM, which may indicate that risc-v's strategy of keeping abreast with ARM architecture products will be a good way for chip manufacturers to make market advantages under the current situation.Admittedly, RISC - V is also need to continuously optimize and solve tool chain, software and security, and other issues, but the editor believes that as qualcomm this high-profile led SiFive, will attract more enterprises begin to pay close attention to RISC - V ecological construction, after opportunity really mature, RISC - V will surely with its outstanding advantage of differentiation and low cost, shine brilliantly in chip and IP market.


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