SiFive Partners with Western Digital to Produce 1 Billion RISC-V Cores

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Architecture like Arm and x86 are well established, and initiatives like RISC-V opens source ISA have potential, but market acceptance and commercial success are not guaranteed.

But RISC-V just got a big boost, as SiFive announced it raised $50.6 million in a Series C round from existing and new investors, as well as strategic partners such as Huami, SK Telecom and Western Digital.

Even more importantly, Sifive and Western Digital signed a multi-year license for the Freedom Platform, with Western Digital pledging to produce 1 billion RISC-V cores.

The announcement does not explicitly mention which Freedom platform, but Western Digital statement makes it quite clear they’ll use one of the more powerful (and Linux capable) core:

RISC-V delivers a platform for innovation unshackled from the proprietary interface of the past. This freedom allows us to bring compute closer to data to optimize special purpose compute capabilities targeted at Big Data and Fast Data applications. The next generation of applications like Machine Learning, AI, and Analytics require this ability to focus on a specific task. Western Digital is focused on the next generation of innovation to enable this new class of applications to deliver the possibilities of data

That should mean Freedom U540, or a new unannounced RISC-V core.

Via Linuxgizmos

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Anon
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Anon

Sounds great, it will definitely bring momentum to risc-v adoption. But as far as I know, WD doesn’t make consumer facing CPUs or microcontrollers. So Id assume these cores will be used for HDD and SSD components.

theguyuk
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theguyuk

RISC-V needs GPU use to access extra markets not yet touched.

Back in 8 bit days the CPU often also was used for display, in many devices, arcade machines, Sinclair computers and many others. There is no way such a design could compete with today’s GPU for fastest speed, but such a design could give the RISC-V a display.

RK
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RK

I’m surprised WD decided to outsource but choosing SiFive is not a surprise at all. Those guys know their stuff and deliver so fast… It’s rare for companies to workout such a mutually beneficial deal. Well done.

Sander
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Sander

Western Digital, so this must mean CPU’s meant for disk drives, right? But those disk drive CPU’s don’t run Linux, do they?

tkaiser
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tkaiser

Today’s storage controllers have to be pretty fast even when not thinking about ‘AI’ and the other buzzwords above. In the last 1.5 decades they were a good Marvell (and ARM) customer but this seems to change now and AFAIK they use RISC-V already in their new SN720 and SN520 SSD series.

See also: https://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1332658

blu
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blu

RISC-V is extremely promising in both price/performance and in the ’embedded errors stay forever’ metrics (where e.g. x86 fares abysmally). Their SIMD plans also look competent (not the greatest, but not bad by most criteria). Everything else is in the compilers, where I sincerely wish them all the best (as they’ll need it).