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Mark Himelstein Steps Down as RISC-V CTO to Resume Consulting Practice

Himelstein will not be replaced by another CTO. RISC-V International is currently looking for a VP of technology, which will be their highest ranking technology officer going forward.

Mark Himelstean, who is stepping down as CTO at RISC-V International.
Mark Himelstean, who is stepping down as CTO at RISC-V International. | Source: RISC-V International

RISC-V International, the organization behind the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture specification, today announced in a blog post penned by CEO Calista Redmond that after four years on the job, Mark Himelstein will be stepping down as RISC-V’s Chief Technology Officer at the end of this month.

“It is with gratitude that I announce Mark will be resigning from his role, effective May 2, 2024, with plans to resume his consulting practice,” she said.

According to a statement from Himelstein that was included in the post, his resignation evidently doesn’t come as a surprise to the organization.

“When I joined RISC-V on June 1, 2020, I committed myself to three years and I am now at nearly four years and it is time for me to return to my consulting practice,” he said.

Since 2005 Himelstein has been listed at the president of a small Silicon Valley-based consulting firm, Heavenstone, Inc.

When Himelstein took the job as RISC-V International’s CTO, the RISC-V architecture was just beginning to move beyond being used primarily as accelerators and microcontrollers to performing full CPU duties in certain situations, primarily in edge and hyperscale cloud installations. These days, servers running production workloads on RISC-V CPUs are a real thing, as is RISC-V as a service from bare metal clouds.

Also at about the time that Himelstein came on board, the previously US-based RISC-V Foundation changed its name to RISC-V International and moved its base of operations to Zurich, Switzerland to insure that RISC-V technology would always be globally available should the US attempt restrict the technology’s exportation in the future.

RISC-V Growth Under Himelstein

The growth of RISC-V during Himelstein’s time with the organization, both technically and in use cases, was illustrated by another post on RISC-V International’s website that was published almost simultaneously with the notice on his stepping down. This post marked both the passing of a milestone for the technology as well as the setting of a new record. 40 new technical specifications have been ratified in the past two years, primarily addressing the areas of efficiency, vector, and virtualization, according to the organization.

“Across markets such as aerospace, AI/ML, automotive, data center, embedded, HPC, and security, companies are building innovative, customized, and scalable RISC-V solutions with the support of newly released RISC-V specifications and supporting extensions,” the organization said. “Currently, there are more than 13 billion RISC-V cores in the market, and the ratification of these new specs further enables the growth and adoption of RISC-V implementations worldwide.”

The adoption of RISC-V has also been on a strong upward curve during Himelstein’s tenure. One example is India, where during the last couple of years the government has been making large investments focused on establishing and nurturing a home-grown RISC-V technological base to lessen the country’s dependence on technologies from the US and China, which India sees as being potentially vulnerable to politically motivated controls.

“I am very proud of the work we have achieved together at RISC-V including over 40 ratified specifications, created profiles for application portability between RISC-V implementations, growing the technical organization from 15 to over 70 groups, recruiting incredible member leaders, and leaving an amazing roadmap including matrix operations, trusted execution, control flow integrity, overall security model, server platform specification, and more,” Himelstein said in his statement.

Life After Himelstein

At this point, whether RISC-V International plans to eventually replace Himelstein directly by appointing another CTO is anybody’s guess. In Redmond’s post announcing Himelstein’s departure, she noted that currently the organization is looking for a vice president of technology. I wondered if that meant Himelstein’s replacement would be a VP instead of occupying the C-suite, so I reached out and asked.

“We’re looking for a technical leader on staff, presently slated as a VP role,” Redmond asked in an email reply to my query. “This would be our top technical staff position.”

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