SiFive Takes Aim at Mission-Critical and Edge AI Markets with New Apex, Intelligence Core Generators

Company claims that the SiFive Intelligence cores offer an average ninefold performance boost for AI workloads over previous scalar designs.

RISC-V pioneer SiFive has announced two new core generator families, dubbed Apex and Intelligence, targeting the mission-critical market and edge machine intelligence market — though while they build on free and open source foundations, the core generators themselves will remain proprietary.

SiFive Apex, the company announced during the RISC-V Summit this week, is designed to generate core IP for mission-critical workloads and assured through formal verification methods. The Apex cores are, the company claims, generated using a high-level parametric verification methodology dubbed Kami — but while the company has pledged that Kami will be open source, it had not released any details at the time of writing.

SiFive Intelligence, meanwhile, targets edge artificial intelligence workloads with core IP based on maximum performance through vector processing extensions — themselves not a core part of the free and open source RISC-V instruction set architecture. Using the open source RISC-V Vector Extension (RVV), SiFive Intelligence is claimed to offer an average ninefold performance boost over traditional scalar RISC-V cores.

"The announcement of SiFive Apex and SiFive Intelligence is a tipping point for SiFive," claims SiFive CTO and RISC-V co-inventor Yunsup Lee. "SiFive Apex's innovation in functional correctness permits the creation of differentiated roadmaps without legacy cruft. SiFive Intelligence creates a new level of configurable, scalable CPU that is sorely needed for enabling machine learning and inference processors in AI markets."

SiFive has opened an evaluation program for the SiFive Intelligence family, but has not yet dated commercial availability for either Apex nor Intelligence.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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