Author Topic: Intel Buying SiFive?  (Read 3008 times)

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Offline Sal Ammoniac

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Intel Buying SiFive?
« on: June 11, 2021, 11:15:35 pm »
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Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2021, 02:06:39 am »
Good lord.
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2021, 03:24:05 am »
An offer is possibly quite far from buying. It seems there may be multiple offers. All could be refused.

At minimum it does help set a base valuation for the next funding round, if there is one.

I struggle to see how such a deal would make sense for anyone. Ok, maybe SiFive founders if they want a "never need to work again" pay day now rather than a potentially much bigger pay day later on. But I think at least Krste, Andrew, and Yunsup actually do want to change the world and burying SiFive inside Intel quite likely would not help with that.

Intel doesn't need to buy SiFive to get a license to make RISC-V chips. Anyone is allowed to. Buying SiFive doesn't give control of RISC-V. Intel doesn't need SiFive technology, unless they're planning to get into microcontrollers and IoT, and even then they can (and already do) simply license cores from SiFive. SiFive's most sophisticated shipping cores are around original Pentium or PowerPC 601/603 in complexity (at much higher MHz obviously) Pentium Pro level cores have been announced but are not yet shipping. That's 25 years behind Intel. Intel could do an Apple M1-style RISC-V very easily if they want to, but they don't need to buy SiFive to do it -- it wouldn't even make it easier, particularly.

Does it make sense for SiFive or RISC-V? It's hard to see it. Too much risk of getting buried inside the behemoth. It's not even as if Intel can threaten to compete with them and squash them -- SiFive's battle for the foreseeable future is with ARM, not x86, and not an M1-level RISC-V (if Intel wants to make one)
 
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Online PCB.Wiz

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2021, 05:31:01 am »
Sometimes, offers are made to get the engineering teams and their client streams.
There are many strategic benefits to this for Intel.
 

Offline FlyingDutch

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2021, 11:52:18 am »
Hmmmm... I wonder what this means for RISC-V?

Hi,

there is one more possibility: Maybe Intel wants to inhibit development of RISC-V hardware.

But this opinion catch on conspiracy theory  ;D

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Offline Siwastaja

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2021, 11:58:35 am »
It's not a conspiracy theory, it's a completely normal business practice to buy out smaller companies (especially startups) just to inhibit their efforts when seen they could pose a competitive threat but do not fit nicely into the larger buyer company's portfolio. The risk of competition doesn't even need to be very real, this can be done "just in case". It's common and completely legal to do so.
 
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2021, 03:59:00 pm »
Hmmmm... I wonder what this means for RISC-V?

Hi,

there is one more possibility: Maybe Intel wants to inhibit development of RISC-V hardware.
That doesn't make any sense. Intel is not in the segment where RISC-V may become big (embedded and mobile). ARM is more likely to be threatened by RISC-V
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2021, 04:47:51 pm »
Even if Intel has no direct interest in RISC-V at the moment, they may be considering buying SiFive just to prevent some other company from doing so.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2021, 05:13:32 pm »
Even if Intel has no direct interest in RISC-V at the moment, they may be considering buying SiFive just to prevent some other company from doing so.
And then what? RISC-V is open source; any other company can jump in.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2021, 05:15:24 pm »
And then what? RISC-V is open source; any other company can jump in.
Sure, but at the moment SiFive is a significant driver behind the architecture. And if nobody will actually want to jump in, then RISC-V will go back to its "paper only" status.
Alex
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2021, 09:53:21 pm »
Sometimes, offers are made to get the engineering teams and their client streams.

Both have legs, if they don't like the new owner.

Founders and other staff with a lot of stock can be made to commit to staying several years as part of getting their (multi) million dollar pay day. There is no leverage over staff who joined too late to get much.
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2021, 10:11:37 pm »
Even if Intel has no direct interest in RISC-V at the moment, they may be considering buying SiFive just to prevent some other company from doing so.
And then what? RISC-V is open source; any other company can jump in.

That was actually the best point I've seen.

SiFive is getting to the point of having pretty high performance OoO cores -- announced but not shipping yet -- but there are performance numbers from FPGA and simulation. Something in the Pentium Pro, II, III, Pentium M spectrum which Intel after all is still basically just incrementally enhancing now 25 years later. And I think we'll find they have a pretty good vector processing unit too.

Nothing that Intel can't duplicate in their sleep if they decide to make a high performance RISC-V implementation, of course.

Any other company is of course free to start designing RISC-V cores. But it's a significant amount of work, which companies other than Intel / AMD / IBM / ARM could short-circuit a lot by buying SiFive.

Even those companies would get a couple of years head start from acquiring the current designs.
 

Offline rsjsouza

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2021, 10:45:56 pm »
In my mind, such purchase would only make sense if Intel is trying to buy the people's expertise - the IP is open anyways and (hopefully) there is no legal loophole that would lock it.
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Online ataradov

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2021, 10:49:23 pm »
SiFive's IP is not open. The spec is open, but by buying SiFive you don't "get" the spec in any way.

The only reason for Intel to buy them is to remove one of the most significant players in the ecosystem.
Alex
 

Offline phil from seattle

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2021, 11:22:48 pm »

That doesn't make any sense. Intel is not in the segment where RISC-V may become big (embedded and mobile). ARM is more likely to be threatened by RISC-V

Perhaps you missed a more obvious reason.  Intel is nowhere in those spaces and they see it as an opportunity to be a leader in yet another market segment.  Pretty much how big companies get bigger.
 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2021, 11:35:18 pm »
Even if Intel has no direct interest in RISC-V at the moment, they may be considering buying SiFive just to prevent some other company from doing so.
And then what? RISC-V is open source; any other company can jump in.
It could be something trivial, we wouldn't think of in a million years. Like they want to use the cores in the management engine for ethernet ports in servers. Or as a core for their 5G modem portfolio.
It doesn't have to be steamrolling the market with chips.
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Online NorthGuy

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2021, 12:36:42 am »
They just have too much money which has to be spent before it's eaten by the inflation.
 

Offline rsjsouza

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2021, 01:17:59 am »
SiFive's IP is not open. The spec is open, but by buying SiFive you don't "get" the spec in any way.

The only reason for Intel to buy them is to remove one of the most significant players in the ecosystem.
I read some more. You are correct and I confused the open ISA with the closed implementations from different companies. In this case, I suspect that Intel is buying SiFive for the same reasons it purchased StrongARM: to quickly enter a market they have zero know how. Once they get bored with it, they will sell it just like they did with their SA/XScale to Marvell.
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Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2021, 01:19:39 am »
Even if Intel has no direct interest in RISC-V at the moment, they may be considering buying SiFive just to prevent some other company from doing so.
And then what? RISC-V is open source; any other company can jump in.
It could be something trivial, we wouldn't think of in a million years. Like they want to use the cores in the management engine for ethernet ports in servers. Or as a core for their 5G modem portfolio.
It doesn't have to be steamrolling the market with chips.

Samsung and Qualcomm already use SiFive RISC-V cores for those purposes. For both the 5G modem and controlling the camera in the high end 2020 Samsung phones (they said so), and I assume but don't know in 2021 also. Same with Qualcomm for 5G.

That's a $1 million or $2 million license. No need to spend 1000 times more buying the company.
 

Offline chickenHeadKnob

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2021, 03:06:59 am »
They just have too much money which has to be spent before it's eaten by the inflation.
Ding! Ding! Ding! we have a probable winner.  The engineering mindset tends to over-emphasize the engineering aspects of the deal. I think back to the tech stock boom of 1998- 2000 when NorTel was flying high on insane valuations and I tried warning my father to sell them. Under John Roth NorTel was buying up companies left and right while at the same time inflating their order book by subsidizing their customers. Some of the companies purchased made a modicum of sense from the engineering perspective but over-all he was driving NorTel into the ditch.
 

Online HwAoRrDk

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2021, 03:25:19 am »
I seem to recall some news earlier this year that Intel were planning on opening up their foundries to external customers. What if an acquisition of SiFive is to ensure they have a guinea pig 'customer' to help refine their capability to produce other companies' chips?
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2021, 03:42:24 am »
I seem to recall some news earlier this year that Intel were planning on opening up their foundries to external customers. What if an acquisition of SiFive is to ensure they have a guinea pig 'customer' to help refine their capability to produce other companies' chips?

That co-operation was announced months ago in March.

https://www.sifive.com/blog/sifive-collaborates-with-new-intel-foundry-business

Again, you can do that without buying them.
 

Offline rsjsouza

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2021, 11:14:24 am »
They just have too much money which has to be spent before it's eaten by the inflation.
Ding! Ding! Ding! we have a probable winner.  The engineering mindset tends to over-emphasize the engineering aspects of the deal. I think back to the tech stock boom of 1998- 2000 when NorTel was flying high on insane valuations and I tried warning my father to sell them. Under John Roth NorTel was buying up companies left and right while at the same time inflating their order book by subsidizing their customers. Some of the companies purchased made a modicum of sense from the engineering perspective but over-all he was driving NorTel into the ditch.
Back then, Nortel and so many others were riding on the waves of Arthur Andersen's consulting tips for a successful business, where Enron was the straw that broke the camel's back. Would something similar be taking place twenty years later? Definitely plausible, but Intel does not seem to be in the hot water as these other companies were.
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Oh, the "whys" of the datasheets... The information is there not to be an axiomatic truth, but instead each speck of data must be slowly inhaled while carefully performing a deep search inside oneself to find the true metaphysical sense...
 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2021, 02:35:11 pm »
Even if Intel has no direct interest in RISC-V at the moment, they may be considering buying SiFive just to prevent some other company from doing so.
And then what? RISC-V is open source; any other company can jump in.
It could be something trivial, we wouldn't think of in a million years. Like they want to use the cores in the management engine for ethernet ports in servers. Or as a core for their 5G modem portfolio.
It doesn't have to be steamrolling the market with chips.

Samsung and Qualcomm already use SiFive RISC-V cores for those purposes. For both the 5G modem and controlling the camera in the high end 2020 Samsung phones (they said so), and I assume but don't know in 2021 also. Same with Qualcomm for 5G.

That's a $1 million or $2 million license. No need to spend 1000 times more buying the company.
Yeah, but synergy and vertical integration and other weasel talk.
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Online NorthGuy

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #24 on: June 13, 2021, 04:22:09 pm »
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #25 on: June 13, 2021, 06:44:22 pm »
That's a $1 million or $2 million license. No need to spend 1000 times more buying the company.

In the times like this?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-small-business/biden-will-need-more-than-52-billion-for-chip-effort/2021/06/09/0f4ebffc-c91b-11eb-8708-64991f2acf28_story.html

Ugh.

Government money always comes with thick and unpleasant strings attached, and as many charlatans as innovators put out their hands for it -- and often spin a better story.
 
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Offline Sal Ammoniac

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #26 on: June 14, 2021, 05:04:20 pm »
I think back to the tech stock boom of 1998- 2000 when NorTel was flying high on insane valuations and I tried warning my father to sell them. Under John Roth NorTel was buying up companies left and right while at the same time inflating their order book by subsidizing their customers. Some of the companies purchased made a modicum of sense from the engineering perspective but over-all he was driving NorTel into the ditch.

Tell me about it. I worked for Nortel in that era and at first things were great and lots of people I know were able to buy houses and cars by cashing in stock options. Then the shit started hitting the fan and the stock price started collapsing and the layoffs started. I dumped all of my stock in the summer of 2000 before the plunge started and came out fine, but lots of others didn't and held on to their stock hoping for even more spectacular rises and ended up with nothing (including a job).
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Offline srce

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #27 on: June 19, 2021, 06:00:24 pm »


Samsung and Qualcomm already use SiFive RISC-V cores for those purposes. For both the 5G modem and controlling the camera in the high end 2020 Samsung phones (they said so), and I assume but don't know in 2021 also. Same with Qualcomm for 5G.

That's a $1 million or $2 million license. No need to spend 1000 times more buying the company.

Which cores? E31 list price was $300k royalty free. $1m would be massively over market rate for that class of CPU.

No idea how you get a $2bn valuation based on selling a handful of licenses like that each year. If they are making any money, I'd have thought it would have to be selling silicon via OpenFive.

 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #28 on: June 19, 2021, 10:08:45 pm »


Samsung and Qualcomm already use SiFive RISC-V cores for those purposes. For both the 5G modem and controlling the camera in the high end 2020 Samsung phones (they said so), and I assume but don't know in 2021 also. Same with Qualcomm for 5G.

That's a $1 million or $2 million license. No need to spend 1000 times more buying the company.

Which cores? E31 list price was $300k royalty free. $1m would be massively over market rate for that class of CPU.

Where do you find a price list?

I was giving a very generous guess figure to be sure I wasn't understating the cost of a license compared to buying the company.
 

Offline bson

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #29 on: June 19, 2021, 10:35:14 pm »
I struggle to see how such a deal would make sense for anyone.
Unless SiFive is out of runway and money, they all need new jobs, and Intel is offering this plus a stock swap that vests over four years.

Edit: but then $2b is still crazy, but that could just be paper figure.  $25m, sure.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2021, 10:44:31 pm by bson »
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #30 on: June 19, 2021, 10:46:13 pm »
I don't have the last figures, but SiFive's annual revenue is roughly $120M from what I got, so that should give an idea.

$2B looks pretty over-valued, generally speaking, for a company with this kind of revenue, but still relatively common in this specific area, for a company that is probably still considered a "startup".

Certainly buying them just to avoid having to pay for IPs would be rather dumb. Especially since it wouldn't even get costs down to zero; you'd still have to pay for SiFive's operating costs (at least if you keep a significant part of it...)

Buying them to get the know-how, well that wouldn't be a good enough reason here either. I don't doubt SiFive's cores are good and that they have a bunch of great engineers, but I doubt it would be worth that much money.

So there is inevitably another good reason - as we suggested earlier.
 

Offline srce

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #31 on: June 20, 2021, 09:40:08 am »
I don't have the last figures, but SiFive's annual revenue is roughly $120M from what I got, so that should give an idea.
Any idea what the split is between IP, design services and silicon?
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #32 on: June 20, 2021, 04:06:01 pm »
I don't have the last figures, but SiFive's annual revenue is roughly $120M from what I got, so that should give an idea.
Any idea what the split is between IP, design services and silicon?

Absolutely not. But silicon sales must be a pretty small fraction of it.
 

Offline srce

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #33 on: June 22, 2021, 10:16:35 am »
I don't have the last figures, but SiFive's annual revenue is roughly $120M from what I got, so that should give an idea.
Any idea what the split is between IP, design services and silicon?

Absolutely not. But silicon sales must be a pretty small fraction of it.
By silicon sales, I mean stuff done through OpenFive (i.e. what used to be Open Silicon). I would have thought they'd make more revenue through that, than IP licensing.
 

Offline mipl

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #34 on: June 22, 2021, 02:52:58 pm »
https://www.reuters.com/technology/sifive-aims-challenge-arm-with-new-tech-pairs-with-intel-effort-2021-06-22/

It should give some more info on to the subject: "SiFive Inc on Tuesday released a new computing chip design that aims to challenge Arm Ltd's dominance in smartphone chips and said it would pair with Intel Corp's factories to make the design available to hardware makers."
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #35 on: June 23, 2021, 01:13:57 am »
Horse Creek certainly looks like an interesting project!
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #36 on: June 23, 2021, 01:31:14 am »
Horse Creek certainly looks like an interesting project!

What is Horse Creek?
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #37 on: June 23, 2021, 02:46:36 am »
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #38 on: June 23, 2021, 04:09:49 pm »
Horse Creek certainly looks like an interesting project!

What is Horse Creek?

Intel 7nm chip / platform using P550 RISC-V cores.

https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-to-adopt-sifives-new-high-performance-p550-risc-v-cores

Ah yes.
I'm really curious about this announced P550. If it's as powerful as they state, then things are going to be interesting.
 

Online PCB.Wiz

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #39 on: June 23, 2021, 08:16:20 pm »
> Intel 7nm chip / platform using P550 RISC-V cores.
Ah yes.
I'm really curious about this announced P550. If it's as powerful as they state, then things are going to be interesting.

Yes, it's the info we cannot see that matters here. Intel likely already has test results on the P550 and it's even possible SiFive are somewhat in the loop with core <-> process tuning.
At the GHz and nm levels there is a lot of careful 'secret sauce' tuning of the critical paths, and the tight interfacing to peripheral blocks.
Cores may get talked about a lot, but the system engineering is very important too.

Apple and others will be keen for intel to develop in this direction, & customers that size, make 2B on paper look like chicken feed.
 

Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #40 on: June 24, 2021, 12:17:24 am »
> Intel 7nm chip / platform using P550 RISC-V cores.
Ah yes.
I'm really curious about this announced P550. If it's as powerful as they state, then things are going to be interesting.

Yes, it's the info we cannot see that matters here. Intel likely already has test results on the P550

If the core has been formally announced (which it just was) then that means SiFive have final or near-final (there are always tweaks between announcement and people actually taping-out) RTL running in an FPGA, have booted Linux on it and run SPEC and other benchmarks, and have made the same available to lead customers.

Intel absolutely will have FPGAs with P550 running at 50 or 100 MHz or whatever. Possibly quite a bit faster as Intel has the big expensive hardware simulators, while SiFive just uses off-the-shelf FPGA boards such the $7k VCU118 (or Amazon F1 instances using the same FPGA chip).

It's still four or so years behind ARM's latest cores, of course, let alone Apple's. And around Core 2 in terms of Intel cores.
 

Offline nudge

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #41 on: June 25, 2021, 11:34:18 am »
Slightly off topic but a friend of mine had an office right next to theirs in San Francisco back in 2016 when they were still getting started. I managed to snap this pic when visiting and walking down the hallway. Amazing to see where they are at now!
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Online brucehoult

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Re: Intel Buying SiFive?
« Reply #42 on: June 25, 2021, 12:51:13 pm »
Slightly off topic but a friend of mine had an office right next to theirs in San Francisco back in 2016 when they were still getting started. I managed to snap this pic when visiting and walking down the hallway. Amazing to see where they are at now!

Cool! By the time I first visited SiFive in October 2017 (while I was on a business trip from Samsung R&D Moscow to Samsung R&D in San Jose, after we finished what we'd gone to achieve) they were already in the office in San Mateo. There were still only about 20 people. That evening I went to dinner in Berkeley with some of them and other Berkeley folk.

The really funny thing was I dragged my team leader from Samsung along with me.

My H-1B paperwork five months later said there were 32 employees. By the time I actually got the H-1B and moved to the US there were 500.
 
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