If you think Wave Computing (Campbell, Calif.) is just another startup building AI systems for servers and workstations used by data scientists, think again.

In 2019, Wave is planting its banner in the licensing business.

Wave is launching a fully-fledged licensing business that combines the company's AI technologies with IPs from MIPS Technologies, acquired by Wave in June.

In the first concrete sign of this development, Wave announced Monday the appointment of Art Swift as president of its MIPS licensing business.

Art Swift
Art Swift

Swift is known in the industry for occupying a host of executive positions at high-tech companies and open source foundations. He has been vice president at Esperanto Technologies, president and CEO at Transmeta, vice-chair of the RISC-V Foundation’s Marketing Committee and president of the prpl Foundation. Swift, moreover, is no stranger to MIPS. He was vice president of marketing and business development at MIPS Technologies from 2008 to 2011.

Swift will report to Wave CEO Derek Meyer. He will be responsible for delivering an “AI-enabled IP roadmap” to be made available for licensing next year.

In a brief interview with EE Times, Meyer stated his ambition to drive Wave’s AI into many use cases and applications. “Our AI will cover from the cloud to the edge, all the way down to low-power embedded IoT devices,” Meyer said.

Pivotal to pursuing a myriad of use-case opportunities is IP licensing. “MIPS and Wave’s AI IPs” will be the vehicle to carry out such a strategy for MIPS/Wave AI everywhere, he said. 

However, to date, Wave has not disclosed what AI-enabled MIPS IPs would look like.

Being open & collaborative
Swift pointed out that Wave hopes to drum up enthusiasm and generate support for MIPS/Wave’s AI from the developers’ community – in an “open, collaborative way.” He cited lessons learned from the RISC-V movement, which has generated substantial energy and momentum. Swift cautioned that “RISC-V today might be close to reaching the peak of Gartner’s hype cycle.” 

That said, he added, “RISC-V reminds us of early days of Linux. There are a lot of contributions and collaborations, while everyone is welcome from entry-level engineers to PhD’s.”

MIPS, thanks, to its heritage, has an installed base of “thousands of developers, a lot of support from academia and recognized industrial standing,” according to Swift.

After years of neglect and mismanagement when it was in the wrong hands, MIPS appears to have lost its focus. The first order of business for Wave is to restore MIPS’ former glory. The company hopes to build excitement among partners in the eco-system with the infusion of Wave’s AI technologies. “We believe there are a lot of things we can collaborate with developers and partners on,” said Swift.

Compared to Arm, which is expanding its footprint everywhere from smartphones to AI and IoT, Swift said, “We will take a much more focused approach.” MIPS’s focus will be centered on AI.

In contrast to RISC-V, which has so far generated heavy activity on the microcontroller-level with a low-end focus, Swift said MIPS’ strategy will use its multi-threading architecture, cache coherence and heterogenous clusters to its AI advantage.

Wave’s first-generation AI chip — based on a massively parallel dataflow architecture — is using a 32-bit RISC processor core developed by Taiwan’s Andes Technology Corp. Its second-generation dataflow processing unit (DPU) will use MIPS 64-bit CPU.

The data center version of the new DPU is being developed in collaboration with Broadcom, and will be manufactured on TSMC’s 7nm process technology. The new DPU leverages “Broadcom’s industry-leading design platform, productization skills, and proven 7nm 56Gbps and 112Gbps SerDes that are ideally suited for high-performance deep learning applications,” the two companies said in their August announcement. That product, however, won’t hit the market until late 2019 to early 2020, according to Meyer.

— Junko Yoshida, Global Co-Editor-In-Chief, AspenCore Media, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times Circle me on Google+