Year in Review: Established IP Vendors Jump on RISC-V

Over the past year, a few CPU-IP vendors have adopted RISC-V, challenging both Arm and RISC-V startups. Meanwhile, AI-accelerator vendors are jockeying to stand out in a crowded field.
Joseph Byrne
Joseph Byrne

Comedian Mitch Hedberg once quipped that rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something. Intellectual-property (IP) cores are analogous: billions of instances can ship without bloating anyone’s bank account.

In mid-2022, RISC-V International claimed that 10 billion of its eponymous-architecture CPUs had shipped, but licensing and royalty revenue is of far lower magnitude. Billions of cores from Andes and Codasip, for example, go out each year, but the associated revenue is much smaller than that of Arm, the biggest CPU licensor.

Arm alone counts annual shipments of about 30 billion chips based on its IP. It has the additional advantage of a portfolio that includes premium-price X-series cores operating as “prime” CPUs in smartphone processors, as well as the Neoverse series for computing and communications infrastructure. Complementing its CPUs, it also offers GPUs, which appear in smartphones and other devices.

The company has struggled to make inroads into other technologies, however, including the burgeoning deep-learning-accelerator (DLA) market. Customers wanting to accelerate AI processing haven’t suffered for lack of choice, however. Startups and established companies have flooded the market with unique cores for edge systems. Their challenge is to secure enough buyers to turn their DLA projects into sustainable businesses.

For signal processing, Cadence and Ceva are among a small group to have staked out territory. Free from ruinous competition caused by too many suppliers, they’re pursuing opportunities in growth areas such as ADAS radar and lidar processing along with low-data-rate 5G.

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