SiFive has become, thanks to the RISC-V architecture, one of the most promising companies in the semiconductor world. We are not talking about a newcomer, in fact the company has arrived since 2015 designing chips and marketing RISC-V solutions under a «fabless» model (It doesn’t have its own factories), but it didn’t start to generate great interest until 2018, when it received a major round of funding of $ 50.6 million.
Little by little, SiFive was achieving progress of great caliber in the CPU sector, always starting from the base of the RISC-V architecture, among which we can highlight, for example, the SiFive Performance P550, a chip that is considered the most powerful that exists based on such an architecture. Its performance in terms of efficiency, and occupied surface (size in the package), are two keys that make these designs are generating so much interest, to such an extent that, as we saw at the time, Intel itself wanted to buy Si-Five for 2,000 million dollars.
As if that were not enough, we also saw that Apple was considering using RISC-V processors because, in the end, it is an architecture that is royalty free, and this would allow you to save a lot of money in the medium and long term. Currently, the apple company uses the ARM architecture, and pays a certain amount to the British giant in terms of licenses. With RISC-V, you would not have to pay anything.
I know what you are thinking, that it would be strange to see Apple using its own RISC-V designs, but I tell you what, didn’t the idea of seeing the apple giant designing, and using, its own ARM chips seem strange to you? ? You already know, “never say Never”.
SiFive goes big with its next RISC-V chip
One of the biggest issues Apple would face, should it decide to transition to the RISC-V architecture, is its low gross power. Yes, it is an efficient architecture in every way, but its performance is well below what Apple needs, a reality that could change very soon, as SiFive has confirmed that it is working on a new generation that could outperform a Cortex-A78 chip.
In case someone is lost, I remind you that the Cortex-A78 architecture was the great novelty of ARM in 2020, And it is the architecture that many current high-performance SoCs use, such as the Exynos 2100, for example, which has a Cortex-X1 core, three Cortex-A78 cores and four Cortex-A55 cores. I am sure that, with this simple example, you will have perfectly understood why we say that SiFive has something very big on its hands.
According to SiFive, it is working on the design of a new processor that will be 50% more powerful, and that it will be able to surpass the Cortex-A78 of ARM, as we have anticipated. We already have some important details of this new CPU design clear that, without a doubt, are worth bearing in mind.
This new RISC-V chip will have configurations of up to 16 cores, It will be highly scalable (it can be grouped into blocks of up to 128 cores), it will be clocked at up to 3.5 GHz, it will feature up to 16 MB of L3 cache (1 MB per core), and it will come with up to 2 MB of L2 cache (128 KB per core). They can be adjusted to run smoothly on a large number of devices, including everything from smartphones and small devices to PCs and servers.
If all goes according to plan, SiFive will offer more information in December this year. It is very interesting to see how the RISC-V architecture is progressing, and it is that we can no longer consider it as a «rarity» that tries to make its way in a very complicated sector, but rather as a rough diamond that is already beginning to dazzle, and that could end up giving «the bell» thanks to its efficiency, freedom (it’s an open architecture, royalty-free) and performance values.