RISC-V processor architecture pioneer SiFive Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.) has laid off about 20 percent of its staff and is “re-aligning” its business.
Reportedly the 20 percent cut equates to about 130 jobs terminated. The exact nature of the re-alignment remains unclear but it will include customization of RISC-V processors for specific customers. Standard products will continue to be offered where it makes business sense, the company said.
“As we identify and focus on our greatest opportunities, SiFive is shifting to best meet our customers’ fast-changing requirements by undergoing a strategic refocusing of all our global teams. Unfortunately, with this realignment, approximately 20 percent of employees across all different business groups and levels were impacted,” the company said in a statement sent to eeNews Europe.
The lay-offs are reported to include engineers, product teams and senior management with the exception of the founders of the company.
“Patrick [Little] is still CEO and the senior management cuts were proportional to the layoffs, so about 20 percent,” a SiFive spokesperson said.
RISC-V is an open-source processor technology that competes with proprietary technologies most notably those from processor licensor Arm Holdings. SiFive licenses RISC-V cores using a similar business model to Arm – and as a lower cost option, has been achieving market traction around the world, including in China.
The extensibility of the RISC-V instruction set architecture means variations can be used across a broad set of applications from embedded and IoT to automotive and from smartphones to artificial intelligence. The architecture is relatively young and therefore lacks the breadth of well-established legacy software that the ARM architecture has built up, but in mid-2022 it was announced that more than 10 billion RISC-V processor cores had shipped (see Europe steps up as RISC-V ships 10 billion cores).
Although SiFive is the pioneer of RISC-V, the open nature of the community means that it faces competition. Rivals include such companies as Codasip GmbH and MIPS Inc.
The statement from SiFive said: “SiFive continues to be excited about the long-term opportunities for the company and for RISC-V. The growth of the company has never been stronger and the opportunities never better. We are well funded for years in the future and continue to work with the market leaders in every segment. We remain focused on our four product groups – essential, intelligence, performance and automotive – and as we explained in a press event earlier this month, have a robust roadmap to meet the needs of these markets. We see tremendous new opportunities in AI and with consumer products like wearables and mobile as Google brings Android to the RISC-V ecosystem.”
The statement continued: “We will continue to offer customization for specific customers, offering standard and custom products where it makes sense from a business standpoint.”
SiFive was founded in 2015 by Krste Asanovic, Yunsup Lee and Andrew Waterman, three researchers from the University of California Berkeley. The company has pioneered the licensing of processor cores based on the RISC-V architecture that they first researched there. The private company has received US$365.5 million in venture capital over its eight years of existence. The latest round – Series F in March 2022 – was worth US$175 million and was brought in at a company valuation of US$2.5 billion.
Earlier this month US lawmakers including Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Mark Warner urged the Biden administration to act over RISC-V on national security grounds. They expressed concern that China is making use of the open nature of RISC-V to erode US leadership in processors and to help modernize China’s military capability.
At the time Calista Redmond, the CEO of RISC-V International Association industry body commented in a blog post that: “Contemplated actions by governments for an unprecedented restriction in open standards will have the consequence of diminished access to the global marketplace of products, solutions, and talent.”