SiFive takes on ARM with CEO from Qualcomm

September 18, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
SiFive takes fight to ARM, recruits CEO from Qualcomm
SiFive has recruited former Qualcomm executive Patrick Little as its CEO to boost the open-source RISC-V processor architecture against ARM.

The appointment at SiFive move can be seen, in part, as a response to the proposed takeover of ARM by Nvidia.

That ARM-Nvidia deal, valued at $40 billion, may not go ahead but it has been widely criticized as risking putting ARM in competition with licensees. If it does go ahead it could represent an opportunity for RISC-V, to break electronics and semiconductor companies away from ARM. SiFive is the leading proponent of RISC-V being founded by the original academic developers out of University California, Berkeley.

SiFive's previous CEO, Naveed Sherwani, has stepped down from his role as CEO but continues to chair SiFive's board.

Little spent nine years at Qualcomm where he was senior vice president of global automotive business. He has more than 30 years experience in the semiconductor industry including including as CEO of eASIC, senior vice president of CSR Technology, and senior vice president at Xilinx.

"Across the technology industry, a sharpened focus on workload-acceleration to solve next-generation computing challenges is driving demand for SiFive’s configurable RISC-V-based platforms," said Little, in a statement.

While the open-source RISC-V architecture has advantages of open-source origins, flexibility and modifiability, this also means that its environment and marketplace is fragmented.  One advantage ARM retains is a great deal of legacy software a well-developed ecosystem that is cost-effective in support of ARM-based chips. Little's challenge will be to try and build-up the RISC-V ecosystem despite the fragmentary nature of the architecture.

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