The activity around creating a legit graphics processor for RISC-V chip designs, an emerging competitor to x86 and ARM, is gaining steam. Special interest groups at RISC-V next year will expand the focus on extensions for shaders and advanced matrix operations, which is important for artificial intelligence and machine learning, Mark Himelstein, chief technology officer at RISC-V, told The Register. "There is no reason why you could not integrate C-series -- which is the part that has ray tracing -- with RISC-V," David Harold, chief marketing officer at Imagination, told The Register. Andes Technology, which creates RISC-V chip designs, has verified that Imagination's GPUs work with RISC-V, and so has RIOS Lab, which has David Patterson, vice chair of the Board at RISC-V Foundation, on staff. The need for a GPU on RISC-V could be fundamental as the chip architecture gains importance, Shreyas Derashri, vice president of compute at Imagination, told The Register.
If you're buying a PC or server, you've likely considered chips based on x86 or, perhaps less often, the ARM architecture. But like Linux in software, an open-source chip project is out to break the dominance of proprietary chips offered by Intel, AMD, and ARM. The RISC-V open-source architecture, created by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010, is open to all who want to use it. The RISC-V design can be modified for PCs, servers, smartphones, wearables, and other devices. A startup called SiFive is the first to make a business out of the RISC-V architecture.
ZURICH – Dec. 2, 2021 – RISC-V International, a global open hardware standards organization, today announced that RISC-V members have ratified 15 new specifications – representing more than 40 extensions – for the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA). Most notably, RISC-V members ratified the Vector, Scalar Cryptography, and Hypervisor specifications which will help unlock new opportunities for developers creating RISC-V applications for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), connected and autonomous cars, data centers, and beyond. "In 2021, RISC-V International made huge leaps in our technical progress as we ratified 15 specifications that are critical for the future of computing," said Krste Asanović, Chair of the RISC-V International Board of Directors. "The development of these specifications really showcased the incredible benefits of open collaboration across companies and geographies as members worked together to develop novel approaches for the latest computing requirements." The RISC-V Vector specification will help accelerate the computation of data intensive operations like ML inference for audio, vision, and voice processing.
RISC-V, the emerging open-source instruction set processor architecture, is growing up. Sure, most of the attention has come from hardware hackers playing on RISC-V processors on development boards from companies such as SiFive. But, according to RISC-V CTO Mark Himelstein, RISC-V processors have already found a home in data centers and Alibaba cloud servers. So, it's high time for classes on how to use this new open-source hardware architecture. Then you need to know Linux and open-source software.
RISC-V is, like x86 and ARM, an instruction set architecture (ISA). Unlike x86 and ARM, it is a free and open standard that anyone can use without getting locked into someone else's processor designs or paying costly license fees. Apple's recent move to redesign its Mac computers around chips that it fabricates for itself, replacing Intel, has cast a new spotlight around a class of processor that there's a very good chance you own right now. RISC-V (pronounced RISC-5) is the brainchild of UC Berkeley professors David Patterson and Krste Asanović. Patterson has a talent for catchy acronyms and architectures as a developer of RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) and RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) in the 1980s.