Open-Silicon & SiFive to Chisel RISC-V in India

Article By : Sufia Tippu

The fact that this open architecture has the capacity to bring custom silicon to all inventors and makers will benefit the entire semiconductor ecosystem.

BENGALURU – When Naveed Sherwani and Satya Gupta founded Open-Silicon, a semiconductor solutions company in 2003 with the idea of an open model in the hardware world, a free and open instruction set architecture (ISA) called RISC-V was nowhere on the horizon.

Fifteen years later and after its acquisition by SiFive last year, it was just natural that RISC-V, which has created a disruption in the industry with its open model, would pave the way forward for this Bangalore-based company, also known for its OpenModel custom SoCs.

Open-Silicon’s “OpenModel” was one of the first semiconductor industry’s first end-to-end custom SoC development solution based on a revolutionary business model that provides a seamless, low-cost, and low-risk alternative to traditional models for complex ASIC design and development. It selects the best-in-class technology from the open market (IP vendors) and applies it through an engineering process focused on three goals: low total cost of ownership, high schedule predictability and high reliability, and gets it manufactured in various foundries such as TSMC, Intel, Samsung, etc.

On the other hand, SiFive located in the Silicon Valley, is the leading provider of market-ready processor core IP based on the RISC-V. Its founders were part of the team at UC Berkeley – professor and PhDs – Krste Asanović, Yunsup Lee and Andrew Waterman who worked on defining RISC-V. Incidentally, Asanović is also the Chairman of the RISC-V Foundation.

“It has been a wild journey for Open-Silicon over the past 15 years. We moved into physical design and later transformed ourselves into a technology company. Now the next phase for us is to focus on RISC-V and by working with SiFive, we would be able to get to develop this platform in a more focus route and enable our customers to get to their prototype very quickly,” said Shafy Eltoukhy, SVP of Operations and GM of SoC Division, SiFive.

“The next generation Open-Silicon will primarily be RISC-V based but we will continue our open ASIC work that we have been doing all along and gained a considerable amount of expertise with various IPs and foundries,” he added.

Today at Open-Silicon, there is a significant amount of requirement coming in for RISC-V, in addition to say, ARM or MIPS.

The fact that this open architecture has the capacity to bring custom silicon to all inventors and makers will benefit the entire semiconductor ecosystem. “We are already witnessing a major shift in innovation from thinkers and dreamers who were previously unable to access custom silicon. For example, now clients come to us at the architectural level and we have an experienced team who can do the RTL coding and verification and take it all the way to making it into a chip,” he pointed out.

Open-Silicon has started moving into different focus areas such as 2.5D- system in package, high-speed SerDes and high-speed interfaces.

According to him Open-Silicon was a perfect fit for Si-Five because it had done a number of tape outs and chips in the past 15 years.

“We believe that getting Open-Silicon will accelerate SiFive’s vision of getting a number of people to get to the prototype and the actual chip at a much lower cost. SiFive’s SaaS-based platform that enable fast access to custom RISC-V IP cores, subsystems and robust design platforms will be moved to Bangalore so that people would be able to quickly get to the prototype and manufacturing stage,” Shafy added.

In the past 15 years, Open-Silicon has shipped over 130 million parts shipped with average 25 DPPM. It has developed long-standing relationships with seven foundries, over 30 process technologies and about 40+ IP vendors. More than 300 tape- outs in about 100 different end applications from 180 nm to 7 nm and in segments as varied as networking, telecom, storage, computing, and consumer, industrial & wireless were also completed for over 150 customers ranging from tier-1 system companies to start-ups in NA, EU, Israel, Japan, China, Korea and India.

According to Shafy, about 75% of customers have come back to Open-Silicon for their next design and about 25% of customers did not return due to funding issues. Interestingly, Open-Silicon had become a platinum premier supplier to Rockwell Collins way back in 2015for achieving the highest level of performance and business alignment and its chip can be found in Boeing’s 737 Max.

“Like most others, this chip too was entirely designed in Bengaluru,” Shafy added.

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