Tenstorrent, a next-generation computing company that builds computers for AI, is looking to partner with Indian startups to build open source RISC-V based microprocessors, a top official of the company said.
Tenstorrent CEO Jim Keller told PTI that he is looking forward to real India projects coming out of the country’s startups like building an entire data centre using RISC-V services designed by local companies.
“Tenstorrent as a company is going to invest in some (startups). We are not an investment company but we have a very keen interest. Let’s say there has been progress with some because we’re going to collaborate where we plan to share some technology,” he said.
Keller is known for his work in designing the AMD K7 processor, which was the first computer chipset to achieve 1 gigahertz processing speed, AMD K8 processors, Apple A4 and A5 chipsets and later his role for the leading design team at AMD.
The Apple A4 chip was used in the first iPad.
Keller said that he has worked with Indian engineers over the years and has realised that sometimes they are “unwarrantedly optimistic”.
When asked about his views on India’s semiconductor mission during the time when there is excess supply of the chipsets in the market, Keller said that the chip industry is cyclical in nature and it takes a couple of decades to build the industry.
“If India wants to have local production they have to invest today, it is as good as any day,” notes Keller
“There’s a lot of space to participate in cyclical businesses. When they go down, everybody pulls back their investment till there’s a shortage and then everybody puts the investment in when the dollar is surplus. You just have to have a very long-term finance plan,” he said.
According to Keller the upturn in semiconductors has always been larger than the amplitude in the previous cycle.
“If you make good decisions, and you want localisation and you want local companies to build stuff, you can have a really good outcome. I have had good success and I have enjoyed working with India teams for years. I am an optimist. The things that are going to happen in the next 10 years are incredible. It’s a really big opportunity,” Keller said.
He said that people in India are really thinking hard about the opportunities in the semiconductor space.
The government has approved the Semicon India programme with a total outlay of Rs 76,000 crore for the development of semiconductor and display manufacturing ecosystem in the country but modified it later to provide fiscal support of 50% of the project cost on pari-passu basis for setting up semiconductor and display fabrication plant in India.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has started the Digital India RISC-V (DIR-V) program with the aim to launch the first indigenous chipset by 2023-24 and boost the local development of electronic chips.
“I was quite interested when the Indian government announced that they wanted to support RISC-V at the national level. It’s really interesting because that creates a platform for innovation and a whole bunch of different levels,” Keller said.
He said Tenstorrent design centers in Bangalore are going to partner with some Indian startups to build “cool computers” that are basically designed and built in India.