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SiFive's Design Democratization Drive

Apr. 25, 2018 – There is something endearing and refreshing in seeing a novel approach unfold in our Semi-IP-EDA ecosystem currently settled in its efficient yet, let us say it, unexciting 'going through the motions', constantly comparing, matching, competitively and selfishly sub-optimizing what the art of the possible can be.

Enter a new breed of technologists, industry veterans, academics and evangelists articulating and embarking on testing and applying a new business model, building on agility, collaboration and continuous delivery and improvement, emulating moves from the playbook of the widely successful parallel industry of Software, DevOps, IT and Social Media. I am talking about Open Source initiatives like the RISC-V movement, crowd-sourced and building on standardization of an instruction set architecture (ISA) while allowing differentiation for each company with a set of extensions built on top of those common constructs and testing new fresh and promising approaches to business as usual. What is also admirable is the well-intentioned strive to make a better world allowing contributions from parts of the world where opportunity and access to funds and technology are lacking. SiFive is now articulating and executing on this vision.

At the just held GSA Silicon Summit in San Jose, Naveed Sherwani, SiFive's CEO outlined in his Closing Keynote the elements of this vision and practice. He challenged the audience to explain how Instagram, a 13-employee startup, ended up being a $1B acquisition. The answer was that it provided a minimum viable product (MVP) on top of an existing stack of tools, infrastructure, and technologies that did not need developing from scratch. He posited that in our industry MVPs cost too much ($1M-$7M+), Design takes too long (9-24 Months + Fab Time) and too many experts are needed (14+ disciplines from architects to package and test and all the expert steps in between). He challenged the industry to set the following goals:

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