Intel Foundry Services Going Big On RISC-V ‘Brawny Cores’ With Ventana Micro Systems Compute Tiles

By Patrick Moorhead - March 28, 2022

Intel has made a considerable amount of strategic announcements in the past month, whether it be its Tower Semi acquisition, its $20B Ohio investment or numerous disclosures at its recent investor day. I wanted to make sure another announcement it made didn’t slip through the cracks with Ventana Micro Systems.

Ventana Micro Systems Inc announced a strategic partnership with Intel earlier this month. The partnership will make Ventana's RISC-V CPU cores and chiplets available through the Intel Foundry Services (IFS). As of last year, Intel has fully re-entered the foundry business with the introduction of IFS. The company will offer a wide range of IP to its customers with its new foundries, including RISC-V, X86, graphics, and much more. Last summer, I wrote about Intel's IDM 2.0 strategy, and Intel Foundry Services was a big part of that announcement. If you want to dive deeper into Intel's IDM 2.0 strategy, you can access that here. It takes a lot of buy-in from different SoC manufacturers to create a robust design ecosystem for a foundry. The addition of Ventana to the design ecosystem indicates to me that Intel is taking strengthening its design ecosystem very seriously. 

Ventana Micro Systems is a high-performance RISC-V CPU core and chiplet technology supplier. Its key differentiator is its high-performance RISC-V cores, often utilized for Cloud, Data Center, 5G, Edge, and AI applications. RISC-V, an alternative to X86, Arm or MIPS, and wants to offer programmability and ability to speed up an SoC designer's time to market while saving costs. Let's dig a little deeper into what this partnership means.

About Ventana Micro Systems Inc.

Before we dive deeper into what this partnership means for Ventana and Intel Foundry Services, it’s worth giving a little more context into who Ventana is and what the company specializes in. Ventana Micro Systems is a Cupertino, California-based startup developing high-performance RISC-V CPU cores and other chiplet technology. The company was founded in 2018 by semiconductor industry veterans Balaji Baktha and Greg Favor. Even though Ventana Micro Systems has only been around since 2018, the company has made significant headway with high-performance RISC-V's in recent years.

Founder and CEO Balaji Baktha VENTANAMICRO

The RISC-V value proposition is lower capital spend, get to market quicker, and quickly add instructions to designs. RISC-V chips started in lower-level embedded designs like hard drives and graphic cards but many companies are popping up to address the larger compute opportunity. You can now expect to see RISC-V IP in many applications, including IoT, edge servers, networking, and automotive.

Ventana is building “brawny” cores for these higher performance designs. 

Ventana RISC-V cores and chiplets available through IFS 

Intel already invested over 20 billion dollars into new fabs in the last 12 months, with foundries coming soon in Arizona and my home state of Ohio. One thing that lets me know Intel is committed to foundries for the long haul is that IFS uses the same standard models, rules, and tools as other big foundries like TSMC, Samsung, and others. With Intel investing in its foundry, it can offer its customers the ability to build on a variety of different SoC manufacturers, including Arm, Amazon, and Qualcomm, to name a few. IFS opens some significant opportunities for Intel and Ventana, allowing IFS customers to use critical IP in SoC development.

Intel & VentanaMicro INTEL

I like this partnership for Ventana and Intel, but each for different reasons. For Ventana, it's an opportunity to show off modular, scalable RISC-V cores that the company says will offer excellent single-threaded performance to customers. Since RISC-V's offer an open instruction set, Ventana's RISC-V's allow IFS to provide modular solutions to meet varying customer needs ranging from reducing power, increasing performance, or speeding up time to market. Ventana will also offer a customizable computing platform that combines its multi-core chiplets with an IO Hub that IFS manufactures. IFS customers already building an SoC can soon utilize Ventana chiplets and then add its special sauce like AI acceleration. For Intel Foundry Services, this announcement shows that Intel is committed to building out a complete foundry that offers its customers many computing capabilities scaling different companies and architectures. Intel is strengthening its design ecosystem with each SoC designer that offers its IP through IFS.

Bob Brennan, VP Customer Solutions Engineering at IFS, had the following to say about the partnership between Ventana and IFS, "We are excited to partner with Ventana to give our customers access to the highest-performance RISC-V cores. RISC-V offers a level of scalability and customization that is unique in the industry. We are seeing strong demand from our customers to support high-performance RISC-V solutions."

Since Ventana’s chiplets and RISC-V IP cores are soon available through Intel Foundry Services, I am sure that we are closer to seeing SoCs that utilize the company's tech. Ventana marks yet another company joining the Intel Foundry Services design ecosystem.

Wrapping up

Ventana's new partnership with Intel Foundry Services is a big step in the right direction for the company. By having the company’s chiplets and RISC-V IP cores available for IFS customers, the company is that much closer to realizing revenue. Chiplets are undoubtedly where the semiconductor industry is moving as it offers high performance, time to market advantages and unlimited flexibility. The modular, high-performance Ventana RISC-V cores have a wide range of applications spanning from cloud to automotive to edge computing, and I think it could benefit IFS customers tremendously. I have to do a lot more research on the software and security side of RISC-V in general, but that’s the topic of another analysis. 

Congrats to both Ventana and Intel Foundry Services on the partnership. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.