Experts Talk: RISC-V CEO Calista Redmond and Maven Silicon CEO Sivakumar P R on RISC-V Open Era of Computing

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India’s top VLSI Training Services company Maven Silicon, a RISC-V Global Training Partner, conducted an insightful discussion with the industry experts Ms. Calista Redmond, CEO, RISC-V International, and Mr. Sivakumar P R, CEO, Maven Silicon, on the topic “RISC-V Open Era of Computing”.

To introduce RISC-V, it is a free and open ISA, enabling processor, hardware, and software innovations through open collaboration.

Maven Silicon’s vision is to produce highly skilled VLSI engineers and help the global semiconductor industry to reach skillful chip design experts. The global semiconductor industry is transforming faster than ever, enabling us to create powerful integrated chips to reinforce the next generation of advancing technologies like IoT, AI, Cloud, and 5G. So, we need to produce skilled chip designers who can design more powerful and optimized processors of different kinds. This is how we aim to disrupt the semiconductor industry. Our vision aligns with that of RISC-V’s in disrupting the semiconductor industry.

We are delighted to introduce our Industry mavens who honored the discussion.

1. Ms. Calista Redmond

CEO, RISC-V International

Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International has more than 20 years of senior-level management and alliance experience, along with significant open source community experience. Throughout her career, she has developed strategic relationships with the chip, hardware, and software providers, system integrators, business partners, clients, and developers.

2. Mr. Sivakumar P R

Founder and CEO, Maven Silicon

Sivakumar is the Founder and CEO of Maven Silicon. He is also the Founder and CEO of Aceic Design Technologies. He is a seasoned engineering professional who has worked in various fields, including electrical engineering, academics, and the semiconductor industry for more than two decades and specializes in offering Verification IPs and consulting services and EDA flow development.

This profound ‘Expert talk’ was hosted by Ms. Sweety Dharamdasani, Head of the Learning & Development Division at Maven Silicon, who is extremely passionate about upskilling the young aspirants.

The discussion highlighted some incredible topics on RISC-V, and how it can be leveraged in redefining the VLSI curriculum.

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Sweety: I would like to understand from Calista the What and Why of RISC-V? An introduction for our audience on RISC V, please.

Calista: Along the journey of the Hardware industry, RISC-V discovered the collaboration in software that helps the entire industry to form a foundation upon which they can still compete. Now, there is a boom in customized processors, and so they have taken on the opportunity.

Below are the two reasons why RISC-V catapulted to being the most prolific open ISA that the microprocessor industry has ever seen:

[A] Disruptive technology

[B] Design Flexibility with unconstrained opportunities

Sweety: Why RISC V? What were our reasons for collaboration with RISC V?

Siva: RISC-V is an open ISA. It’s free, no license constraints, but nothing comes for free when it comes to designing the chip. Still RISC-V is special because of the freedom we engineers enjoy in designing the processor as we like. Also, we need specialized processors to build the chips as monolithic semiconductor scaling is failing. As RISC-V is an open and free ISA, it empowers us to create different kinds of specialized processors.

Why RISC-V for Maven: VLSI engineers need to understand how we build electronic systems like laptops/smartphones using chips and SoCs. Obviously, we need processors to build any chips/SoCs. Without knowing the processor, the VLSI engineers can’t deal with any sub-systems/chips. VLSI training has always been about training engineers in different languages, methodologies, and EDA point tools. So, we introduced processors as part of our VLSI course curriculum to redefine the VLSI training. As RISC-V is an open, simple, and modular ISA, it was our choice.

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Sweety: So what is happening in the RISC V space right now? If you would like to share some success stories or developments, it would be great.

Calista: The predictions say that the semiconductor IP market will go from 5.2 billion dollars in 2020 to 8.6 billion dollars in 2025. We are on course with the prediction that RISC-V will consume 28% of that market in IoT, 12% in industrial, and 10% in automotive. Many venture capitalists are investing billions of dollars in RISC-V companies. There are many opportunities here for those who are starting their own companies and many more success stories are coming out every day.

Sweety: What are our current plans that are going on with RISC-V?

Siva: We are doing many things creatively with RISC-V. We have included RISC-V in our VLSI course curriculum, and it is open to all new college graduates, engineers, and even corporate partners.

Since Jan 2022, we have trained more than 200+ engineers in various domains, RTL Design, Verification, and DFT, for a global chipmaker. All of them have used RISC-V/RISC-V SoCs as their projects/case studies to learn all these different technologies. It works beautifully.

Since we became RISC-V global training partner, we trained 1000+ engineers on RISC-V processor design and verification and introduced them to our semiconductor ecosystem.

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Sweety: What are we looking at in terms of the future for RISC V?

Calista: Being successful in the microprocessors or in any business with some small incremental growth will not be helpful. What we do in RISC-V is incredible. We have 12000 developers who are engaged with RISC-V. We have 60 different technical works that have been going on, which has been an incredible compliment for the education and the knowledge-based organization like Maven Silicon.

Sweety: What are our plans at Maven Silicon with regard to RISC V? Any upgrades on curriculums?

Siva:  New applications will demand RV128. There would be new security challenges, but still, RISC-V will emerge as an industry-standard open ISA for all kinds of specialized processors, replacing most of the current proprietary ISAs.

At Maven, we would be adding more new topics like complex pipelining, floating-point core design, cache controllers, low power mode, compilers, debuggers, etc., into our existing RISC-V course curriculum. We are also looking forward to creating long-term master learning programs like designing SoC using RISC-V.

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Sweety: It would be great if you can share with us a few tips for all our young VLSI aspirants, who plan to build a career in the semiconductor industry.

Calista: Understand where your ability fits in the VLSI space. Connect with your mentors, colleagues, peers, and co-work shoulder to shoulder, and strengthen your network in your domain. When you work together, you learn faster and understand better. You can select any of the 60 courses that we have and join RISC-V and learn the topics that are going on in the various areas in the RISC-V domain.

Sweety: What are the few tips that you would like to share with the young engineers?

Siva: One major piece of advice I would like to give to the next generation is that “Do not choose the domain based on the popularity, choose whatever you are interested in. Do not lose motivation when things do not fall in place, just do it sincerely”. Seek guidance from the people who will help you to grow better. Learning is a continuous process, ask questions to yourself and keep learning. Be part of a Non-profit organization like RISC-V that is contributing to the engineering community.

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Sweety: What are your takes on organizational culture, sensitivity, gender awareness, women in business, etc?

Calista: It is important to drive ourselves as women, and all of us to create an environment and opportunities to cultivate the women around us. It is difficult to be in the spotlight as it is more transparent, but it is important to take those steps. Find out the passion that will drive us. It is important to work in a company that you believe in and to grow with them. Lift up the people around you. Shine the light on others to help cultivate their success, while cultivating your own.

Sweety: We know that Maven Silicon voices out to people. Around 60% of our employees are women. How do you take care of your employees?

Siva: I would like to mention here our Co-founder and Managing Director Ms. Praveena G who is all about people and processes. She is extremely composed, honest, and detail-oriented whereas I look at the big picture and do business creatively. Along with our co-founder there are many super talented women who do amazing things at Maven and help us stay at the top of our game.

Organizational culture reflects the style of leadership. Our culture is based on our core values. We respect our customers, partners, and employees. We believe in ‘Lead without Title’.

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We truly appreciate Ms. Calista Redmond and Mr. Sivakumar P R for sharing their experiences, and so beautifully explaining the various topics including RISC-V, tips for the young aspirants, women empowerment, and the organizational culture. Also, we would like to thank RISC-V International for this great opportunity to work with their open-source community and contribute to RISC-V learning as a RISC-V Global Training Partner.

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