RISC-V pioneer SiFive has announced its intention to encourage growth of the RISC-V developer ecosystem with the release of a ready-to-run off-the-shelf RISC-V-powered personal computer built on its FU740 processor – offering a turnkey alternative to the current raft of do-it-yourself options.
The free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) and the ecosystem which surrounds it is gathering momentum on a daily basis. From hobbyists and academics experimenting through to shipping and soon-to-ship commercial products, it’s clear RISC-V is here to stay – but there’s still a bootstrapping consideration.
Developing for RISC-V as an embedded platform is straightforward; developing as a high-performance desktop-class platform, with Linux compatibility, is more difficult. Previously, discounting emulation, developers have been putting together home-brew Linux-capable systems – like our own RISC-V PC, built around SiFive’s HiFive Unleashed platform with a Microsemi add-on board.
SiFive’s plan: an off-the-shelf RISC-V personal computer, built on the company’s as-yet unannounced FU740 processor. The latest in the company’s U7 range of application processor designs, the FU740 is a variant of the existing U74 – an eight-stage dual-issue superscalar pipeline design built around a 64-bit implementation of the RISC-V ISA – and will include a heterogeneous mix-and-match core complex with what SiFive describes as “modern PC expansion capabilities and form factor.”
The key, SiFive claims, is to grow the development ecosystem beyond those willing to experiment with open but DIY solutions, and to allow for the development of RISC-V software in a bare-metal environment – everything from the operating system to end-user applications.
SiFive has promised to announce more about the FU740 and the RISC-V PC at the Linley Fall Processor Conference in October.