Wave Computing, the new owner of the MIPS instruction set architecture, has announced it plans to compete with increasingly-popular open alternative RISC-V in the only logical way: by opening MIPS up to all.

RISC-V, pronounced 'risk five,' has been making waves of late: Designed to scale from low-power embedded systems all the way up to supercomputers, the open instruction set architecture (ISA) is free for anyone to adopt, build upon, modify, and commercially exploit without the restrictions and high costs associated with commercial equivalents like Arm and x86. Its potential hasn't gone unnoticed: Western Digital has pledged to ship a billion RISC-V cores a year in its data-processing products, based on the in-house SweRV Core implementation, Esperanto is using the tech for many-core artificial intelligence accelerators, Rambus in security co-processors, and multiple companies in SSD controllers, while SiFive was the first to produce a Linux-compatible 1.5GHz multi-core development board based on the ISA.

With RISC-V being free, as in both speech and beer, industry incumbents are getting worried: Arm, which currently dominates the embedded space targeted by most early RISC-V adopters, launched an ill-advised marketing campaign to convince developers to stick with its proprietary ISA instead, and recently announced free, as in beer but not speech, Arm core IP as a direct competitor to RISC-V.

Now, Wave Computing is getting in on the act. Having acquired the rights to the MIPS instruction set architecture back in June as part of Imagination Technologies' big Apple-triggered sell-off, the company has announced it is doing away with licensing and royalty fees and will make the ISA available free of charge in both 32-bit and 64-bit incarnations under the banner of MIPS Open.

'Having spent years in the open source technology movement, I can attest to the hunger for community-driven solutions,' claims Art Swift, president of Wave Computing's MIPS IP business unit. 'However, until now, there has been a lack of open source access to true industry-standard, patent-protected and silicon-proven RISC architectures. The overwhelmingly positive response we have received thus far from customers on our MIPS Open initiative is an indication of the dramatic, positive impact we believe the program will have on the industry. We invite the worldwide community to join us in this exciting journey and look forward to seeing the many MIPS-based innovations that result.'

'The MIPS Open initiative is a key part of Wave's "AI for All" vision,' adds Lee Flanagin, Wave’s senior vice president and chief business officer. 'The MIPS-based solutions developed under MIPS Open will complement our existing and future MIPS IP cores that Wave will continue to create and license globally as part of our overall portfolio of systems, solutions and IP. This will ensure current and new MIPS customers will have a broad array of solutions from which to choose for their SoC designs, and will also have access to a vibrant MIPS development community and ecosystem.'

While Wave has confirmed that MIPS Open will include downloadable core IP, support mechanisms, and licensing for MIPS' hundreds of worldwide patents without any fees, it has not yet confirmed whether it is taking the Arm approach of making the technology free-as-in-beer or the RISC-V approach of making it free-as-in-speech. Full details on the licensing terms are to be provided early next year, the company has announced.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04