RISC-V is heading towards the desktop

In the field of hardware, the biggest news is the two new processor cores, which SiFive introduced at the end of last month, currently probably the biggest driver among RISC-V implementers:

  • P550 – kernel with out-of-order architecture, three-stage pipeline and tripple-issue instruction processing. This is the core referred to in presentations as “performance”, ie the fastest currently available RISC-V core ever. In the SPECInt 2006 benchmark converted to 1 GHz clock, it reaches 8.65, for example, the Intel Core i9-10900K received 11.08 in the same test, which is certainly not such a distant number – especially when we look at the Apple A14, which has 21.1. However, the SiFive does not compare the P550 with either Apple or Intel, but especially with the ARM Cortex-A75. Emphasis is placed here in particular on the speed converted to the core area, where the P550 delivers approximately three times the power per mm compared to the A752. In total, four P550 cores occupy the same area as one A75 core.
  • P270 – CPU with in-order architecture, eight-stage pipeline and dual-issue instruction processing. Although it would undoubtedly be slower for a normal desktop deployment than the previous kernel, it is interesting to implement optional vector units called simply “V”, which is not yet definitively standardized – the instruction set is therefore referred to as V extension 1.0 release candidate. This unit is interesting, among other things, because it has a selectable vector width, as well as the equivalent on the ARM architecture. Here, SEW (standard element width) is adjustable in powers of two from the value 8 to 1024, while numbers above 128 are only reserved as of time, 8, 16, 32 and 64 are really usable.

In addition to these two cores, a partnership between SiFive and Intel has been announced, which will be reflected, among other things, in Intel’s use of the P550 core in the upcoming Horse Creek platform, presumably as a management processor. The P550 here, as well as the main x64 cores, will be manufactured by Intel’s 7nm technology.

A few days after the hardware news, the software news came, and in addition to SiFive, Canonical, the company behind the Linux distribution of Ubuntu, is also in the lead role. Here, too, the mutual cooperation of both entities was announced, and at the same time Ubuntu installation images for two SiFive SBCs were released, namely Ubuntu 21.04 and 20.04.2 LTS for the already unsold HiFive Unleashed board and Ubuntu 21.04 for the new HiFive Unmatched board.

Canonical states in a press release that RISC-V considers the architecture mature enough to make sense to support it, and especially in the HiFive Unmatched board, which already has a PCIe slot and a format usable in the desktop, sees potential for developers interested in this architecture. He also sees RISC-V as the future main open processor architecture because it has the fastest start.

So it can be said that there is a new player in the field of processors who is slowly gaining strength. Who knows, maybe in ten years he will be where ARM is now. In ordinary PCs it will be much earlier – in the CPU from Intel.

Source: Diit.cz by diit.cz.

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