Intel is developing a new SoC (System on a chip) to compete with ARM-based designs, which have dominated the mobile industry for years. Intel is licensing IP to construct its own 64-bit SoC based on its 7nm node through cooperation with fabless chip designer SiFive.
Intel announced a collaboration with SiFive for its future Horse Creek platform last week. The Horse Creek architecture is based on SiFive’s P550 core, which is the company’s “highest performance CPU.” Intel stated that the design will include its own IP, such as DDR and PCIe.
Intel hasn’t said much about Horse Creek other than the P550 core and 7nm technology. According to reports, the platform is aimed at embedded solutions, such as smartphones and IoT devices. However, because SiFive is Intel’s most powerful core to date, it’s feasible that the company will extend its licensing to include more devices.
Intel reportedly proposed $2 billion to buy SiFive in June, so it’s not out of the question. In recent months, the two businesses have grown closer, owing to rising pressure from Nvidia and its recent ARM acquisition. ARM dominates the embedded industry, with a market share of up to 90% in the mobile sector.
The market leader is being challenged by Intel and SiFive. SiFive and Intel Foundry Services established cooperation in March to offer SiFive’s RISC-V instruction set to Intel’s burgeoning foundry division. RISC-V has a significant benefit over other instruction set architectures (ISAs) in that it is open-source, allowing anyone to not only utilize but also alter the instruction set without paying royalties.
This, combined with SiFive’s new cores, could put a lot of pressure on ARM. When compared to ARM, Intel’s P550 core is expected to give a considerable performance-per-area advantage. SiFive claims that four P550 cores may be squeezed into the same space as a single ARM Cortex-A75.
Although Intel has not stated when the first Horse Creek units will be available, current conjecture suggests that it will be in 2022. Horse Creek could be used as a testbed for Intel’s 7nm manufacturing process, which the company plans to introduce with the Meteor Lake chips in 2023.