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Winning over giants like Intel key to growth • The Register

Interview The CEO of RISC-V’s governing body says she wants to nothing less than “world domination” for the rising open-source processor technology, but to do that, the nonprofit needs buy-in from a variety of organizations, even those steeped in dominant, proprietary architectures, such as x86 giant Intel.

In an interview this week with The Register, RISC-V International CEO Calista Redmond reckons the buy-in, which comes in the form of paid memberships, is needed to support ongoing development of the royalty-free CPU instruction set architecture to better compete with x86 and Arm ISAs.

“We have to have a level of funding in order to operate and manage this special rodeo of ours,” she says.

Redmond, an IBM veteran, pitches involvement in RISC-V International, which gives paying members an extra level of say in the ISA’s future development, as a more even playing field for tech companies than what has been allowed with proprietary ISAs, namely x86 and Arm.

“What everybody gets from this is the vested collective interests of everyone involved to say, ‘My destiny isn’t pinned to any one or five companies. Everyone’s investing together, therefore, my level of risk is much lower’,” she says.

When Intel joined RISC-V International in February, it became a premium member, the top membership tier that gave the semiconductor giant a seat on the nonprofit’s board and the Technical Steering Committee, which determines new features and specifications for the ISA.

For those privileges, Intel and the other 19 premium members each chip in an annual fee of $250,000, according to the nonprofit’s website.

Redmond characterizes the interest of these premier members like this:

Besides Intel, other major companies with premier memberships include Alibaba Cloud, Google, Huawei, Unisoc, Western Digital, and ZTE.

The premier members also range from startups like StarFive, Ventana and Micro Systems, to SiFive, the latter of which is hoping to go public in the next two years with a RISC-V CPU licensing business.

There are many more RISC-V International members at the “strategic” level, which still gives them the ability to weigh in on the future development on the ISA but not at the same level as premier members.

These members, which include Canonical, Nvidia, and Samsung, pay as much as $35,000 for an annual membership. Smaller organizations pay half or less.

But it’s not just companies that are members. RISC-V’s more than 2,400 members also include universities, and government-related entities.

Just last week, India’s government announced that it had become a premier member and revealed a RISC-V roadmap for homegrown processors.

Another significant government-related entity with premium membership is the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which participates through its Institute of Software and Institute of Computing Technology. The academy is on the US Entity List of trade-restricted organizations, which underlines the unique position RISC-V is in with its open-source nature amid international tensions.

But Redmond says that, as with other countries, such as Russia, RISC-V International is “not required to block anybody from engaging and participating,” though the organization will make changes if needed.

“If things go the way of sanctions that are heavier on a country level, we may need to pivot, but at this point we are abiding by things and [are] in very close contact in understanding what are other open source and global organizations doing,” she says.

CEO has nuanced view of what RISC-V’s rise will look like

For member companies that have historically been associated with proprietary ISAs, such as x86 or Arm, Redmond tells us they are looking at RISC-V to diversify their risk. It also gives these companies another ISA to support their increasing heterogenous computing needs.

“It makes business sense to do it,” she says.

In the case of Intel, Redmond thinks the x86 giant’s involvement with RISC-V is helping support the company’s revitalized contract manufacturing business, which has vowed to make custom chips for others using x86, Arm or RISC-V ISAs as part of a larger comeback plan.

While Intel’s move to support RISC-V could seen as a conflict with the semiconductor giant’s traditional x86 business, Redmond admits that she doesn’t think RISC-V poses an existential threat.

“This isn’t inside information, but I’m pretty sure they’re not too worried about their x86 business. I mean, they’ve locked that in. They’ve got so many customers that have some millions into that already. People are not typically ripping out existing investments,” she says.

However, Redmond does see an opportunity for RISC-V to win business in new and emerging workloads, and she thinks over time devices and IT infrastructure will increasingly shift to the open-source ISA.  

“Now one or two generations down the line as you continue to advance and evolve your portfolio, I expect many of those may shift to RISC-V,” she says.

But Redmond has a more nuanced view of what a world filled with more RISC-V designs will look like. She doesn’t necessarily believe x86 and Arm will fall out of fashion. Instead, she suspects tech companies will increasingly see RISC-V, x86 and Arm ISAs as tools within the same toolbox. This will lead to a greater mix of ISAs used in devices and IT infrastructure, which is already starting to play out.

For instance, Intel uses Arm core designs for some products, including its Mount Evans infrastructure processing unit. AMD relies on Arm for hardware-based security within its processors, and its reportedly looking at incorporating RISC-V into future products. While Nvidia is expanding its use of Arm with upcoming server CPUs, it also uses RISC-V within its GPUs, as does Imagination, which backs the architecture.

“You start to look at technology and hardware differently as building blocks rather than a blind allegiance,” says the CEO.

RISC-V can move faster than Arm

It’s important to note that RISC-V, for the most part, is pretty far out from powering mainstream processors in servers and PCs.

Patrick Little, CEO of RISC-V designer SiFive, told us in March he doesn’t expect to see commercial processors using the company’s designs in PCs until late 2025, and server efforts will take longer than that.

It should be noted too that Arm has only just started to become a serious contender in PCs and servers over the past couple years.  

But Redmond says that Google and other so-called hyperscalers are working on RISC-V projects “under the covers” and pointed out that the ISA is also used in microcontrollers in storage devices from companies like Western Digital and Seagate.

She also highlights Alibaba Cloud’s XuanTie RISC-V processors, which have been marketed for networking devices, gateways and edge servers [PDF].

intel

Intel joins RISC-V governing body, pledges $1bn fund for chip designers

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Another company, Esperanto Technologies, is testing its 1,000-core RISC-V AI chip with Samsung’s IT services arm and other companies, Redmond noted. We also know of another startup, Ventana Micro Systems, that is building RISC-V server chips.

Redmond didn’t cite any examples of PC activities. We do know that SiFive launched a RISC-V development board for desktops in late 2020, for instance, while Microchip offers RISC-V boards, folks are recreating the TRS-80 Model 100 with a RISC-V system-on-chip… it’s safe to say various projects and products are on the go.

She promises we will see more examples of RISC-V implementations of both servers and PCs later this year.

“You’re going to see a laptop this year. You’re going to see more datacenter implementation stories this year,” she says.

The CEO also makes a bolder promise: whereas it took Arm about 20 years to get where it is today, she predicts it will take RISC-V roughly five years to make the same amount of progress. “Where are we in the adoption curve? We’re not halfway yet, but we are getting there very quickly,” she says.

The caveat, she adds, is that the five-year timeline is an “imprecise measurement,” as RISC-V International and its members need to fill out some additional capabilities on the instruction set side as well as software support to cover a broad spectrum of applications.  

But what makes Redmond confident in RISC-V’s ability to gain more traction over the next few years is the growing support the ISA has received from a plurality of organizations.

“The reason that we’re getting there faster is that we have a greater shared pool of investment across the community that is driving that,” she says. ®

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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