RISC-V: The Game-Changer in Microprocessor Investments. Here's 3 Companies Riding the Wave.

The tech sector has always been an area where new technology emerges every few years. However, when it comes to microprocessors, the industry has mostly been dominated by only a select few architectures for decades. Today, that no longer appears to be the case. A new processor has emerged and appears to be challenging the status quo by using an open-source philosophy and innovative design principles. The new architecture is called RISC-V.

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What is RISC-V?

RISC-V is a special type of computer chip design that stands for “Reduced Instruction Set Computing – Five.” It is an open-source instruction set architecture (ISA) derived from reduced instruction set computer (RISC) principles that were first established in 2010 at Berkeley. It is the world’s first open-source ISA available to anyone wanting to develop it.

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Not only that, developers love RISC-V as it simplifies the instructions given to the processor without the complexity of designing processor cores. This means companies get their designs to market faster.

Why is RISC-V important?

When it comes to disruptive technology, investors question its impact and importance to the industry. Anything that will shape an industry or set a new standard will usually impact the industry as a whole. In RISC-V, some of its notable impacts are:

Democratizing processor design

One of RISC-V’s biggest benefits is that it’s an open-standard ISA. With traditional proprietary ISAs, there is a limitation on innovation and competition due to only a handful of companies controlling the architecture. RISC-V’s open-source setup allows startups, researchers, and enthusiasts to develop, experiment, and commercialize their processor designs. This accessibility can lead to a surge of innovation, drive advancements across the industry and stimulate healthy competition that will benefit consumers.

Accelerated development and research

Thanks to its open-source licensing, RISC-V has helped accelerate R&D in the processor space. By eliminating licensing issues, R&D teams can experiment freely with new processor designs or test new concepts while pushing the boundaries of performance, security, and power efficiency. In addition, having an open-source community allows further collaboration and knowledge sharing that can help contribute to the growth of architecture and help the progress of technology. RISC-V has allowed designers to create processors to meet specific needs thanks to its modular nature. This allows companies to develop specialized processors, translating to a competitive edge in specialized markets.

Now, let’s look at some of the companies that have started adopting RISC-V.

Microchip Technology (MCHP)

Microchip Technology Inc is a company that provides smart, connected, and secure embedded control solutions. The company sells its semiconductor products to multiple distributors and non-distributor customers (direct customers) and operates through two segments:

Semiconductor products – designs, manufactures, develops, and markets mixed-signal microcontrollers, development tools and analog, mixed-signal, interface, timing, wired and wireless connectivity devices, and memory products.

Technology licensing – conducts sales and licensing of the Company’s intellectual property.

The company offers a range of general-purpose mixed-signal microcontroller products with several product line families. This includes power management, mixed-signal, linear, high voltage, discrete diodes and drivers, safety, thermal management, security, timing, Universal Serial Bus (USB), ethernet, wireless, and other interface products. The company has continued to invest resources into RISC-V and its adoption with its SoC FPGA Development Kit called Icicle Kit.

Western Digital Technologies (WDC)

Western Digital Corporation (Western Digital) is a manufacturer, developer, and provider of data storage devices that are based on hard disk drives (HDD) technologies and flash-based products (Flash). The Company sells these data storage devices and solutions in different countries through its sales personnel, distributors, dealers, retailers, and subsidiaries. The company operates in two segments:

Flash-based products – non-volatile data storage based on flash technology

Hard disk drives – non-volatile data storage by recording magnetic information on a rotating disk

The company’s operations develop and manufacture solid-state storage products for various applications, including enterprise or cloud storage, automotive, client storage, mobile devices, and removable memory devices. The company also develops and manufactures various recording heads and magnetic media used in its HDD products. The company has also committed to investing in RISC-V and has integrated RISC-V into its non-volatile device.

Intel Corporation (INTC)

Intel Corporation is a technology company that designs and manufactures products and technologies. They are best known for their processors like the Core-i series, Pentium series, etc. The company operates in segments like:

Client Computing Group (CCG) – focused on the long-term operating system, hardware, system architecture, and application integration to enable PC experiences

Data Center and AI (DCAI) – offers workload-optimized solutions to enterprise customers and cloud service providers, as well as silicon devices for communications service providers.

Network and Edge (NEX) – helps networks and edge computing systems from inflexible fixed-function hardware to general-purpose compute, acceleration, and networking devices running cloud-native software on programmable hardware.

Mobileye – offers driving assistance and self-driving solutions

Accelerated Computing Systems Graphics (AXG) – provides products and technologies that aim to solve customer computational problems

The company has tried to adopt the new architecture and help advance the technology. One of its attempts for adoption is its partnership with Ashling to provide Ashling RiscFree IDE for Intel® FPGAs and Unified Debugger support for Nios® V soft processors.

Final Thoughts

It’s no doubt that RISC-V has emerged as a disruptive force in the processor industry that is set to challenge the dominance of proprietary ISAs. The technology has garnered attention from startups, industry giants, and even academia. While it may still encounter challenges regarding ecosystem maturity and overcoming industry dominance, its importance and impact cannot be ignored. As investors, it is important to understand and keep tabs on such disruptive technologies that may reshape the industry standard and provide investors like you and me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in a product far before it’s widely adopted.

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On the date of publication, Rick Orford did not have (either directly or indirectly) positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article. All information and data in this article is solely for informational purposes. For more information please view the Barchart Disclosure Policy here.

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