CEO interview: Silicon Valley is still the place where the magic happens

December 15, 2020 // By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: Silicon Valley is still the place where the magic happens
We interview Mark Santoro, CEO of Micro Magic Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), a company that has produced a a 64bit RISC-V processor that can clock at 5GHz but also operate at near-threshold voltage.

Santoro pointed out to us that while the high clock frequency is exceptional (see EDA company claims world's fastest 64bit RISC-V core) the more significant achievement may be the RISC-V processor's low-power performance. Santoro told us dropping the operating voltage to near the threshold voltage at 350mV decreases performance by a factor of five but increases the power efficiency of computation by a factor of more than 9.

And getting such power consumption efficiency is likely to be the big win that will get licensees to sign up to use this core – if that is the direction Santoro chooses to take the company.

Santoro provided some background to his company to put the performance – up to 13,333 CoreMarks and power consumption as low as 10mW – into context.

He pointed out that the company has a history that stretches back to Sun Microsystems and before. The company is a relatively small group of engineers – less than 50 according to LinkedIn – who specialize in datapath design and optimization and high-speed memory design. The company was originally founded in January 1995 but was acquired for $260 million in December 2000 by Juniper Networks Inc. The founders of Micro Magic restarted the company in 2004.

Although the company's founders were interested in leading-edge processor implementation they had to develop their own EDA tool suite to do that. Since its reformation in 2004, Micro Magic has been a vendor of those EDA tools, and a design services firm, using its tools to improve customers' ASICs.

One of the benefits of those EDA tools is the ability to place and route circuits in response to timing requirements, thereby making design for performance and timing closure easier, Santoro said.

Next: CoreMarks per watt

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