ISA Ownership Matters: A Tale of Three ISAs


An instruction set architecture (ISA) is crucial to the development of processors and their software ecosystems. In the last half century, the majority of ISAs have been owned by single companies, whether product companies for their own chips/systems or processor IP companies who licensed their processors to chip developers. Does ISA ownership matter? Let’s consider three proprietary ISAs a... » read more

Week In Review: Manufacturing, Test


Chipmakers and OEMs Third Point, a hedge fund, released a letter, saying that Intel needs to explore its strategic alternatives. This includes the breakup of the chip giant. Obtained by Yahoo and others, the letter says Intel needs to decide “whether Intel should remain an integrated device manufacturer” and should divest certain failed acquisitions. Here’s another analysis of the sit... » read more

RISC-V Verification Challenges Spread


The RISC-V ecosystem is struggling to keep pace with rapid innovation and customization, which is increasing the amount of verification work required for each design and spreading that work out across more engineers at more companies. The historical assumption is that verification represents 60% to 80% or more of SoC project effort in terms of cost and time for a mature, mainstream processor... » read more

Speeding Up AI With Vector Instructions


A search is underway across the industry to find the best way to speed up machine learning applications, and optimizing hardware for vector instructions is gaining traction as a key element in that effort. Vector instructions are a class of instructions that enable parallel processing of data sets. An entire array of integers or floating point numbers is processed in a single operation, elim... » read more

Practical Processor Verification


Custom processors are making a resurgence, spurred on by the early success of the RISC-V ISA and the ecosystem that is rapidly building around it. But this shift is amid questions about whether processor verification has become a lost art. Years ago custom processors were common. But as the market consolidated around a handful of companies, so did the tools and expertise needed to develop th... » read more

Re-Imagining The GPU


John Rayfield, CTO at Imagination Technologies, sat down with Semiconductor Engineering to talk about RISC-V, AI, and computing architectures. What follows are excerpts of that conversation. SE: What your plans are for RISC-V? Rayfield: We're actively finalizing the integration of RISC-V cores into future-generation GPUs. That work has been going on for several months. Moving forward, we'... » read more

Open Source Hardware Risks


Open-source hardware is gaining attention on a variety of fronts, from chiplets and the underlying infrastructure to the ecosystems required to support open-source and hybrid open-source and proprietary designs. Open-source development is hardly a new topic. It has proven to be a successful strategy in the Linux world, but far less so on the hardware side. That is beginning to change, fueled... » read more

Will Open-Source Processors Cause A Verification Shift?


While the promised flexibility of open source could have advantages and possibilities for processors and SoCs, where does the industry stand on verification approaches and methodologies from here? Single-source ISAs of the past relied on general industry verification technologies and methodologies, but open-source ISA-based processor users and adopters will need to review the verification flows... » read more

RISC-V Challenges And Opportunities


Semiconductor Engineering sat down to discuss open instruction set hardware and the future of RISC-V with Ben Levine, senior director of product management in Rambus' Security Division; Jerry Ardizzone, vice president of worldwide sales at Codasip; Megan Wachs, vice president of engineering at SiFive; and Rishiyur Nikhil, CTO of Bluespec. What follows are excerpts of that conversation. (L-... » read more

Open ISAs Gaining Traction


Open instruction set architectures are starting to gain a foothold, often in combination with other processors, as chipmakers begin to add more specialized compute elements and more flexibility into their designs. There are a number of these open ISAs available today, including Power, MIPS, and RISC-V, and there are a number of permutations and tools available for sale based on those archite... » read more

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