RISC-V champ SiFive confirms it's laying off 1 in 5 workers

The purpose is refocusing and 'realigning,' according to chip designer

RISC-V chip designer SiFive has laid off 20 percent of its engineers and other staff amid efforts to refocus on creating bespoke processor cores for customers – though insists everything's fine.

The fabless processor outfit said these cuts – hitting about 130 people – is part of a move to re-align its business. This appears to mean discontinuing its portfolio of ready-made RISC-V core designs and focusing on operating entirely as a design shop for customers with specific requirements.

SiFive’s woes were first reported by semiconductor industry analyst Ian Cutress on his blog, with Cutress claiming most of the biz's engineering team had been discharged, along with the sales and product team. Most of the management team are also said to be gone, leaving CEO Patrick Little and the three co-founders.

"A lot of people are getting this wrong," a SiFive spokesperson told The Register.

"There are no changes to SiFive’s roadmap or underlying business model. SiFive continues to offer both standard and customized solutions where it makes sense for its customers.

"The products SiFive announced recently will move forward as planned and have been well-received. SiFive is well-funded. This is about restructuring to meet evolving customer requirements."

The company said it "continues to be excited about the momentum and long-term outlook for our business and RISC-V," and repeated that it was well-funded.

This move has come out of the blue from SiFive, which only this month announced its latest RISC-V products in the shape of the Performance P870, a 64-bit out-of-order superscalar core design, and the Intelligence X390, a processor with vector processing extensions for accelerating workloads such as machine learning.

SiFive is one of the most prominent companies in the RISC-V ecosystem, winning a $50 million contract last year to develop a processor for NASA's High-Performance Spaceflight Computer (HPSC), and also seeing its Intelligence X280 cores used in chips for AI workloads in Google datacenters.

As Reg readers know, RISC-V is an open instruction set architecture that is available royalty-free for anyone to design a processor around. This has made it popular in places such as China, which is aiming to develop home-grown technology that is not dependent on intellectual property owned by US or European companies. ®

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