By Stephen Nellis
Chip technology firm SiFive Inc on Thursday said it has sped up its computing core designs by 40% and now has a headcount of 700 employees, with plans to double its staff by next year.
The Silicon Valley startup is aiming to challenge the dominance of Arm Ltd in supplying key parts of computing chip designs that are used throughout the semiconductor industry.
Arm licenses its technology to major firms like Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc and is being purchased by Nvidia Corp in a deal worth more than $54 billion, though the deal faces regulatory hurdles because firms like Qualcomm have objected to it.
SiFive said its new P650 computing core designs will be available to some of its customers early next year, at which point it will likely take more than a year to find its way into physical chips. SiFive claims the P650 computing core should be competitive with Arm’s A77 computing cores, which were found in many smartphone chips released in 2019 and 2020.
The estimated 40% speed boost from SiFiv’s previous design, called the P550, has come in only five months, while Arm in the past has announced new computing cores about once a year. SiFive Chief Executive Patrick Little said he believes he can close the gap with his firm’s much larger competitor.
“We should be at the top of Arm’s line within the next couple of year’s – that’s what customers are driving us towards,” Little said.
Little said the company plans to double its headcount by next year to 1,400. SiFive has made significant hires this year, such as Chris Lattner, a former software executive at Apple Inc and Tesla Inc, and Rohit Kumar, who helped design multiple generations of custom processors for Apple’s iPhones and iPads.