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Arm execs: We respect RISC-V but it's not a rival in the datacenter

www.theregister.com, Sept. 17, 2022 – 

Arm executives this week tried to play down the threat of RISC-V to the silicon architect's business.

Speaking to reporters at a press event, Dermot O'Driscoll, VP of product solutions at Arm, acknowledged that RISC-V was driving "some competition" against the British chip designer. "It's a very exciting market right now," he said. "It helps us all focus and make sure we're doing better."

O'Driscoll proceeded to highlight the strength of Arm's intellectual property, licensing, customer relations, and software ecosystem, presumably in an attempt to draw attention to RISC-V's comparative immaturity in these areas. While the RISC-V has been around since 2010, the free and open instruction set architecture (ISA) has only recently made its way into commercial products, he pointed out.

Despite this, the RISC-V world has captured considerable mindshare and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding in over the past few years, propelled in part by high-profile contracts. The architecture has proven good enough for NASA, which plans to use Microchip-designed processors with SiFive RISC-V CPU cores in its next-gen High-Performance Spaceflight Computer.

Just this week, SiFive, one of the leading RISC-V chipmakers, announced a full portfolio of chip designs aimed at automobile manufacturers.

"The RISC-V ecosystem is growing rapidly, and RISC-V companies like SiFive are rapidly hiring," David Miller, head of corporate communications at SiFive, told The Register.

"Customers in automotive and aerospace are turning to the ecosystem – which is now widely taught in universities around the world – with confidence it will be strong and vibrant 10-15 years or more in the future."

Additionally, semiconductor industry watcher Dylan Patel claimed this week Apple is shifting the non-application Arm cores in its mobile system-on-chip family to RISC-V counterparts.

As a reminder, the RISC-V ISA is openly available, and royalty free, as a specification; chip designers are expected to implement the standard themselves in their own CPU cores. If you stick to the spec, your processor will be able to run the same software as another processor following the same spec.

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