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MIPS Catches the AI Wave

July 3, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

After spinning off from Imagination last year, MIPS has found a new home as part of Wave Computing, an AI-system startup. The deal gives MIPS a quicker path to licensing deep-learning-acceleration intellectual property (DLA IP) while allowing Wave to proliferate its architecture. The new focus on AI, however, will likely detract from the traditional MIPS CPU roadmap. Both companies are largely owned by Dado Banatao’s Tallwood Ventures, easing the transaction.

To remain competitive against other CPU-IP vendors such as Arm, Cadence (Tensilica), and Synopsys (ARC), MIPS needs to offer deep-learning IP. Developing it from scratch would be time consuming and difficult. Instead, the MIPS unit can simply adapt Wave’s data-flow architecture, which is highly scalable. We expect Wave to license a core that can be combined in multiple iterations to address both low- and high-performance applications. The company plans to announce the details of this IP product later this year.

Even after starting with an existing DLA, the effort of converting it into a licensable IP product is likely to consume most of the MIPS team’s remaining design resources. Wave will continue to license and support the existing M-, I-, and P-class MIPS CPUs, but the reduced staff can’t continue to develop new cores in all three families.

Wave hopes that providing its architecture for devices ranging from IoT to cloud systems will encourage more tool and software development, similar to the boost that Nvidia gets from its Cuda software platform. To achieve this vision, MIPS must quickly deliver its DLA IP and fend off established competitors to win licensees. Fortunately, the AI game is still in the early innings, giving MIPS time to catch up.

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