Radio Free HPC: SiFive’s Big Score, Will Nvidia Buy Arm?

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We start out with our personal pledge that all of our content is new and not pre-recorded. That’s our gift to you – no recycled, reused or Amazon Renewed content. 

Jumping into our first topic, Risc-V IP and silicon purveyor SiFive earned a $61 million investment from a group of high-end investors including SK Hynix, Qualcomm Vendors, Intel Capital, plus others. We discuss how they might use the money, with Henry explaining that verifying a new chip is both difficult and expensive. A tangent of this discussion almost sends Dan into a full-on IEEE Floating Point ranting rage – but Henry calms him down with the promise of discussing potential solutions to this pervasive evil. Henry also brings up the thought that the verification tools for Risc-V are also open source, which we weren’t able to verify at this point in time. Oh, and Sutter Hill Ventures are not the people who also make Sutter Hill wine. So this helps to make Risc-V much more real and a potential disruptor to the CPU, accelerator and ASIC markets.

SoftBank’s financial woes (spurred by the disastrously stupid acquisition of WeWork) has motivated it to sell off Arm in search of a big pile of cash. The company had purchased the cell phone chip king back in 2016 for the pricey sum of $32 billion. Nvidia is rumored to be highly interested in buying Arm and wants to complete the acquisition before the end of summer. This story started as a rumor but is gaining more credence as time goes on. We discuss the pros and cons of the purchase and potential price (rumored to be around $52 billion currently.) While Arm is the world’s largest player in cell phones, tablets, and is an up and coming player in servers and even supercomputers, the company isn’t all that big or profitable. In the most recent figures available, Arm had revenue of around $1.25 billion in 2019 but was $400 million in the red for the year. Henry asks how a company that has such a monopoly on chips can be so shaky financially – a great question. We discuss the possibilities, potential price and regulatory impact.

Henry Newman’s Reasons Why Nobody Should Ever Be Online. Ever:  Henry is putting this week’s entry in the “yucky bad” category, which gives Shahin and Dan pause. This one is a doozy. Qualcomm Snapdragon bugs could expose 40% of all Android smartphones to spyware. We’re not talking one or two exploits on the chip. Or even three or four. There are SIX exploits…ouch.

Old School Terminology Quiz!  Shahin and Henry vie for dominance in our archaic tech terms quiz. Here are the questions:

“What does FUD mean and who originated the term?” Henry gets the definition correct and Shahin gets the originator – nicely done – neck and neck.

“What is a Squadron Box?” Neither one of them get this one right.

“Describe Memorex-Telex, what they did and the company’s fate” This is a good one and our 1997 Fall Edition of the Handbook of IBM Technology is not kind to the company. Tune into the show to hear all about it and the answers to the other questions.

As a bonus, Dan reads the IBM 1997 definition of the word “proprietary”, which includes the word “codswallop.” This definition alone is worth listening to the show.