CEO interview: Wally Rhines on startups, AI and China

July 14, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: Wally Rhines on startups, AI and China
Wally Rhines – one of the most respected veterans of the semiconductor industry – sat down with eeNews Europe, to explain why he has joined 'sea-of-cores' processor startup Cornami (Campbell, Calif.) as CEO. He also shared his thoughts on some bigger industry and global issues.

Wally Rhines was CEO of EDA software company Mentor Graphics from 1993 until he finally guided the company into the arms of Siemens (see Siemens pursues Industry 4.0 with Mentor Graphics buy) in 2017.

And having spent more than 20 years at Mentor and 21 years prior to that with semiconductor company Texas Instruments, Rhines could be excused for now putting his feet up, or least just doing exactly what he wants to do. Rhines said it had not been his intention to take another CEO position.

"I had a full agenda of other things I was doing. One of which was a project for DARPA on the availability of fully homomorphic encryption [FHE] technology," Rhines said.

It turns out that FHE is not very available at all. And that was key to Rhines agreeing to take the top job at Cornami, which was founded by in 2011 by Gordon Campbell, Paul Master, and Fred Furtek under the name Sviral (see Wally Rhines takes CEO job at 'sea-of-cores' startup).

But what is FHE? It is a form of encryption that allows computation using ciphered text that generates an encrypted result that when decrypted matches the result that would have been obtained by operating on the raw data. It may sound arcane but is important because it means that outsourcing storage and computation to the cloud can be made more secure. Data centers can be allowed to process data or parts of bigger data sets without any knowledge of the data itself.

That can be as important for something as mundane as a Google Maps request for the location of a local coffee shop as it can be for emails about the travel plans of persons of significance, such as heads of state. FHE is also said not to be susceptible to quantum computing attacks, Rhines added.

DARPA is interested because it believes it will become conventional wisdom to "secure the data, not the data center," Rhines said.

Next: Meeting Cornami

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