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Companies Pushing Open Source RISC-V Silicon Out to the Edge

It emerged as a force in the silicon market last year, and its been gaining momentum ever since.

datacenterknowledge.com, May. 28, 2019 – 

In 2018, the open source instruction set architecture RISC-V emerged as a force to reckon with in the hard-to-crack silicon market. The ball got started early last year, when SiFive, a Silicon Valley startup built around the open silicon design, quickly sold out on a limited run of a single-board computer for RISC-V developers, HiFive Unleased, that it offered on a crowdfunding site for the premium price of $999 apiece, resulting in gross sales of $143,700.

That was followed by an announcement a month later that the hard-drive maker Western Digital, had signed a multi-year license for SiFive's Freedom Platform and become an investor in the company.

Western Digital is "shifting their entire product line, which is currently shipping about a billion cores a year," SiFive's CEO, Naveed Sherwani, told Data Center Knowledge at the time. "They expect that to become, in a few years, two billion cores a year. They have made a public commitment that in a couple of years Western Digital is going to shift its entire product line onto RISC-V."

The reduced instruction set architecture (pronounced "risk-five") is becoming increasingly attractive to hardware manufacturers, especially those building embedded IoT or edge devices. Like Arm processors, the architecture only requires a small amount of power when compared to x86 devices from Intel or AMD, with some benchmarks indicating it's even more energy efficient than Arm, which has become the gold standard for battery-operated devices.

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