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A Minimal RISC-V


Microcontrollers exist in almost everything, but can RISC-V satisfy the needs of this market? Is it small enough to replace 8-bit processors? What might help people migrate to a more modern processor architecture? RISC-V defines a 32-bit processor instruction set architecture (ISA) that is open source and free to be implemented in any number of ways. It is touted for being a very small and e... » read more

Is Programmable Overhead Worth The Cost?


Programmability has fueled the growth of most semiconductor products, but how much does it actually cost? And is that cost worth it? The answer is more complicated than a simple efficiency formula. It can vary by application, by maturity of technology in a particular market, and in the context of much larger systems. What's considered important for one design may be very different for anothe... » read more

The High But Often Unnecessary Cost Of Coherence


Cache coherency, a common technique for improving performance in chips, is becoming less useful as general-purpose processors are supplemented with, and sometimes supplanted by, highly specialized accelerators and other processing elements. While cache coherency won't disappear anytime soon, it is increasingly being viewed as a luxury necessary to preserve a long-standing programming paradig... » read more

Bandwidth Utilization Side-Channel On ML Inference Accelerators


Abstract—Accelerators used for machine learning (ML) inference provide great performance benefits over CPUs. Securing confidential model in inference against off-chip side-channel attacks is critical in harnessing the performance advantage in practice. Data and memory address encryption has been recently proposed to defend against off-chip attacks. In this paper, we demonstrate that bandwidth... » read more

New Approaches For Processor Architectures


Processor vendors are starting to emphasize microarchitectural improvements and data movement over process node scaling, setting the stage for much bigger performance gains in devices that narrowly target what end users are trying to accomplish. The changes are a recognition that domain specificity, and the ability to adjust or adapt designs to unique workloads, are now the best way to impro... » read more

Working With RISC-V


RISC-V is coming on strong, but working with this open-source processor core isn't as simple as plugging in a commercial piece of IP. Zdenek Prikryl, CTO at Codasip, talks about utilizing hypervisors and open source tools and extensions to the RISC-V instruction set architecture, where design teams can run into problems, what will change as the architecture becomes more mature, the difference b... » read more

New Power, Performance Options At The Edge


Increasing compute intelligence at the edge is forcing chip architects to rethink how computing gets partitioned and prioritized, and what kinds of processing elements and memory configurations work best for a particular application. Sending raw data to the cloud for processing is both time- and resource-intensive, and it's often unnecessary because most of the data collected by a growing nu... » read more

An Introduction To Domain-Specific Accelerators


After 50 years, Moore’s Law, Dennard Scaling, and Amdahl’s Law are failing. The semiconductor industry much change, and processor paradigms must change with it. So what exactly are domain-specific accelerators and why are they so important in light of the failure of these semiconductor scaling laws? » read more

Shifting Toward Data-Driven Chip Architectures


An explosion in data is forcing chipmakers to rethink where to process data, which are the best types of processors and memories for different types of data, and how to structure, partition and prioritize the movement of raw and processed data. New chips from systems companies such as Google, Facebook, Alibaba, and IBM all incorporate this approach. So do those developed by vendors like Appl... » read more

Customizing Chips For Power And Performance


Sandro Cerato, senior vice president and CTO of the Power & Sensor Systems Business Unit at Infineon Technologies, sat down with Semiconductor Engineering to talk about fundamental shifts in chip design with the rollout of the edge, AI, and more customized solutions. What follows are excerpts of that conversation. SE: The chip market is starting to fall into three distinct buckets, the e... » read more

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