SiFive teases the next RISC-V processor for PCs, servers, mobiles • The Register



SiFive believes its fastest RISC-V processor core is closing the gap by being a consumer computing alternative to x86 and Arm.

Unnamed high-performance design is within Intel’s reach Rocket lake family, introduced in March, and the Arm’s Cortex-A78 design, announced last year, in terms of single-core performance, said James Prior, senior director of product marketing and communications at SiFive. The register.

San Francisco-based SiFive didn’t provide specific benchmarks, so you’ll have to take them at their word, if you so choose.

RISC-V is an open source and royalty-free instruction set architecture for processor cores: RISC-V International defines the Characteristics, and semiconductor designers like SiFive are implementing them as designs that can be inserted into systems-on-a-chip for customers, among other IPs.

SiFive’s latest design, due to be unveiled today, will be given an official name at the RISC-V summit in December.

The processor core is said to be around 50% faster than its predecessor, the P550, which was introduced in June. Note that the L3 cache memory capacity has been quadrupled from 4 MB in the P550 to 16 MB in the new design. Up to 16 of these new cores can be bundled up against a maximum of four for the P550. The latest design can also run up to 3.5 GHz versus 2.4 GHz for the P550.

The new processors can be integrated into PCs and servers, and downsized for mobile and embedded devices, Prior said.

It has been a busy week for RISC-V. Intel, which is already testing and evaluating the design of the P550 chip, is said to be in talks to acquire SiFive, although Bloomberg reported today those negotiations have failed. SiFive refused The registerasked for comment on this, calling reports of a proposed takeover “media speculation.”

Alibaba has also released a set of RISC-V processor designs under an Apache license.

SiFive’s new processor core also doesn’t have much architectural difference from the P550, Prior said. The base design is a 64-bit superscalar out-of-service case that supports the usual things like double-precision floating point. The chip retains a modular design to which additional acceleration units such as vector processors or GPUs can be attached within a system on a chip.

The processor plans also have the hooks on which interfaces for DDR5 RAM and PCI-Express 5.0, which are supported by the latest Intel Alder Lake chips, can be added. But that will depend on a customer’s willingness to include these features in their custom system-on-a-chip, Prior said.

SiFive provides a web design tool so that users can tailor a RISC-V processor core to their needs and obtain the corresponding RTL data for evaluation on FPGAs. Customers can rely on accelerators for AI applications and other IPs to possibly design an ASIC system-on-a-chip to be manufactured, if they so choose, in collaboration with SiFive. The new processor core is expected to be available from SiFive’s online configuration tool from next year.

“We will have an RTL deliverable in 2022, which you can run on FPGA models, start software prototype development and modeling with an understanding of exactly how it works,” Prior said.

Many companies are now looking to design, or have designed and deployed, their own custom chips to create a fully owned vertical stack, from software at the top to hardware optimized for particular applications at the bottom. Apple has moved from PowerPC and x86 to manufacturing Arm-compatible parts for laptops and desktops, and has boasted about how its developed M1 Pro and M1 Max Pro silicones can deliver high performance and durability. longer battery life than its Intel-compatible competitors.

SiFive has more than 100 customers, including some of the largest tech companies in the world, we are told, looking at its designs. Alibaba opening its own RISC-V cores in this space is a good thing because it could generate a lot of interest, accelerate the pace of development and spur RISC-V innovation, Prior said.

But anyone can give away free cores, and with the trend towards customizing processors for particular types of workloads, there is more interest in what can be done with a chip to accomplish this as well as how providing support and software stacks around it, he continued.

“Having it tested and verified on silicon, and a tool chain to go along with the support, for people to call and say ‘how did you do that?’ – that’s the inherent value of a company of intellectual property like SiFive, ”he said. ®


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