Transitioning to a New Era, Wave Computing Adopts RISC-V Chip Architecture


Desi Banatao, CEO of Wave Computing, explains the company’s chip design technology, in Menlo Park, California, U.S., March 31, 2022. REUTERS/Jane Lanhee Lee

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April 19 (Reuters) – Silicon Valley-based Wave Computing said on Tuesday it is launching designs for two new microprocessors using the RISC-V architecture this year as it winds down its once-popular MIPS architecture.

The move adds to the growing momentum of RISC-V, an open-standard instruction set architecture (ISA) and emerging rival to the proprietary architecture of UK-based Arm, the semiconductor technology company owned by SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T).

The nascent but growing popularity of RISC-V owes much to its free and open nature. It is also in focus because of its potential to help China develop its own semiconductor industry, as Chinese companies developing technology based on the architecture could be shielded from US export controls.

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Wave’s MIPS architecture, developed in the lab of Stanford University Professor John Hennessy, current president of Alphabet Inc, is now over 35 years old.

It has fallen behind the architecture of Arm, which rules the world of mobile chips, and x86 – originally developed by Intel Corp (INTC.O) – which dominated chips for laptops and data centers. After being owned by a series of companies, MIPS was acquired by Wave which went bankrupt in 2020 and exited early last year. Read more

“For the company to continue to exist, it had to find another way to fight this ecosystem battle that it lost,” Desi Banatao, who took over as Wave director after its bankruptcy, told Reuters.

He added that the company had already signed a contract to supply one of the new processor models to an automotive technology company.

Sanjai Kohli, former CEO of Wave, said the MIPS and RISC-V instruction sets are close enough that the company can easily modify many MIPS processors it owns.

Intel has backed RISC-V, investing in the ecosystem as part of the launch of a billion-dollar fund to support companies with disruptive technologies as it grows its foundry business.

RISC-V also gained more attention after Nvidia Corp’s (NVDA.O) bid to buy Arm heightened concerns about the chipmaker’s ability to control Arm’s architecture. The bid has since failed after being rejected by regulators.

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Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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