Imagination introduces Catapult RISC-V CPU cores

As expected, Imagination Technologies is giving another try to the CPU IP market with the Catapult RISC-V CPU cores following their previous unsuccessful attempt with the MIPS architecture, notably the Aptiv family.

Catapult RISC-V CPUs are/will be available in four distinct families for dynamic microcontrollers, real-time embedded CPUs, high-performance application CPUs, and functionally safe automotive CPUs.

Catapult RISC-V CPU

The new 32-/64-bit RISC-V cores will be scalable to up to eight asymmetric coherent cores-per cluster, offer a “plethora of customer configurable options”, and support optional custom accelerators. What you won’t see today are block diagrams and detailed technical information about the cores because apparently, all that information is confidential even though some Catapult RISC-V cores are already shipping “in high-performance Imagination automotive GPUs”. The only way to get more details today is to sign an NDA.

Having said that we have some more information about the target markets and development tools.  Imagination Capapult RISC-V cores will be used in a variety of markets from 5G modems, storage, ADAS / autonomous vehicles, data center, and high-performance computing. Real-time embedded CPUs are available now, while high-performance application CPUs and automotive CPUs are expected in 2022. We’re also told the automotive parts will comply with the ISO 26262 automotive standards and be offered for each Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL).

Catapult CPUs will offer full hardware, software, and debug support for SoCs using Imagination IP and work with the company’s (PowerVR) GPU, AI, and Ethernet Packet Processor (EPP) cores. Customers can test the core on performance models compatible with the gen5 simulator to model their application needs and choose the right compute elements. Imagination Technology will also provide the Catapult SDK and Catapult Studio IDE for development with industry-standard build and debug tools such as GCC, LLVM, and GDB, as well as optimized C libraries. Catapult Studio is based on Visual Studio Code and works in Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS, and macOS, with both FreeRTOS and Linux supported with reference bootloaders, kernels, and Yocto-based filesystems.

The press release lists quotes from various companies and organizations, and there appears to be at least one customer with Tatsuya Kamei, Vice President, Automotive SoC Development Division, Renesas, saying:

Renesas has a long history of working with Imagination, and its proven track record of delivering reliability, trust and innovation has enabled us to deliver market-leading automotive SoCs. The growing RISC-V market requires a wide range of products and trusted delivery partners, as well as an increased focus on safety and security. We welcome Imagination’s new Catapult RISC-V CPU IP, which is sure to meet those criteria.

There are few other public details, but if you are ready to sign an NDA, click on the “Request Deep Dive” button on the product page.

Via Liliputing

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14 Replies to “Imagination introduces Catapult RISC-V CPU cores”

    1. You’re thinking of Imagination Technologies. This is a new and friendlier company called Imagination Technology.

        1. Yeah, doesn’t that have a Silent “(Lacking)” in front of that? “Lacking Imagination Technologies…”

  1. To any investor in Imagination: stop, just stop. This is the same company that essentially had it value erased by kowtowing to Apple to only have them dismantle the company. There is value in having the ability to program your hardware available to the public. This enables inertia. SoC makers can trust that their software enablement task approaches zero as the “community” takes over. This makes the orignal hardware design more valuable. And hence, you get more customers for that hardware design. hence you no longer have to be dependent on one large customer (like Apple). This in turn gives you developer mindshare. This gives you leverage. This makes you financially valuable. This is a virtuous cycle.

    The current success of ARM is only temporary. Eventually the flexibility of RISC-V will overcome the inertia of ARM, and the inertia of ARM only exists because x86 was held too closely by Intel. Having RISC-V and surrounding hardware design specifications (like GPUs and NPUs) behind NDA is totally counterproductive. China, for what it is worth, only manages to escape this madness because of their extreme price competitiveness. This, again, is only temporary. The cost of intellectual labour in China will rise. This is inevitable. Eventually the cost of their semiconductors will equalize with that of the West. It’s almost there already, especially if you are a large customer.

    Those in the “community” who are enabling these questionable organizations need to stop. The people working on Linux support for Apple’s M1 are doing the world a disservice. They’re making something that’s totally closed more palatable, all in the name of intellectual curiosity. On the other end of the cost spectrum, it’s the same thing with the people working with Allwinner or SigmaStar hardware. Stop enabling this madness.

    The only reason we are able to be engineers is because we had the opportunity to learn. The opportunity to learn is only possible because the knowledge is available to all to access.

    Unless Imagination makes a drastic change to how they present themselves as a partner to both SoC makers and developers, I will recommend to any organization I work with to stay fully clear of them.

    1. In truth…why would anyone buy their stuff? I wouldn’t. They had a chance on several fronts and they rendered themselves largely irrelevant like you’ve highlighted there.

      If it was a choice of roll it yourself versus them…I’ll roll it myself. I’ve got access to some of the fastest designs in the space and some of the faster silicon…all for FREE for the design…and only the costs to fabricate.

      Hard Pass.

    2. This is actually a highlighted feature on the product page in the “Built on RISCV” section:

      Protected by a rich portfolio of hundreds of fundamental CPU patents, giving you peace of mind when you ship.

      1. Yeah, placing “peace of mind” in the same sentence as “patent” is only going to reassure those who come from the 19th century’s industry. There are hardly that many such engineers still alive, let alone interested in modern technologies! In the 21th century the sentence above would rather be rephrased “Tainted by hundreds of fundamental CPU patents, making sure you and your customers will eventually become the pawns of a 10-year long patent suit against one of our competitors, without you being able to escape”.

    3. >The people working on Linux support for Apple’s M1 are doing the world a disservice.

      I think they’re crazy too but you’re breaking the first rule of open source klub: Don’t tell other people what they do with their time unless you are paying for that time.

      >it’s the same thing with the people working with Allwinner or SigmaStar hardware.
      >Stop enabling this madness.

      How about no.

      1. you’re breaking the first rule of open source klub: Don’t tell other people what they do with their time unless you are paying for that time.

        I don’t pay a lot of people for what they end up doing in this world. It doesn’t mean I have to like it or approve of it. I was thinking of you dgp when I wrote my comment, but like I said, for you and people like marcan, it’s an intellectual challenge. That’s cool, and you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s important too, because if people didn’t we wouldn’t have all the strange and amazing things we do in our world. Like beer, for example, which is literally stuff gone funky. You keep doing you, man. I won’t try to stop you, or get in your way, but I hope you’ll accept that I ought to be free to voice my concerns.

        The worst part of open source “klub” are the people who form gangs and try and destroy people. That is totally inappropriate. Say your peace, if somebody has already said it for you with reasonable clarity, move on.

        Good luck to Imagination. Never has a company been so ironically named.

    4. People, of course, are free to spend their time and monies anyhow they want to. I won’t aregue with that, as it’s fundimental to any kind of ‘freedom’ you might have in free software/hardware. Open is great, but free is better.

      I will agree, though, that how people chose to spend their time is a fair subject for comment and discussion. But, like any kind of discussion amongst parties with different opinions, there should be no expectation of consensus. Each participant in the discussion has their own unique situation which influences their point of view and their motivations. Additionally, many of these issues are more complex than “A is good, B is bad”.

      For example, I support the linux-sunxi team in their work. Not because it benefits Allwinner, but because it benefits me and others like me who want to use OrangePi boards for our own reasons. While I would prefer Allwinner be more open and supportive, I understand that there are business and cultural reasons why that will not happen.

      Part of what makes hacking so interesting to me is how it allows the value of a device to change. Generic locked down widget from company A who is evil? Bad locked down widget. Hacker cracks open widget and makes it useful for other tasks. Good no longer locked down widget. So, even though Allwinner may do things for their reasons–which I don’t agree with–the linux-sunxi people have managed to turn that around and make something that benefits people.

      This applies in dgp’s situation as well. They had a goal they wanted and they found things that could help them acheive their goal. That doesn’t make mstar a good company, but dgp’s work can still be a good thing.

      I don’t see this helping Apple and their hardware. I don’t think they can be redemed by hackers.

      1. I don’t see this helping Apple and their hardware.

        I don’t think they can be redemed by hackers.

        There is no value in Linux for Apple. They don’t want other people’s stuff on their turf. The fact that it’s no threat to them is the only reason they don’t just block it. If Linux turns into a tool that can be used to get around their walled garden they’ll push out an update to block it. I think that will happen one day and the tens of people using the M1 port to impress people with their mad wizard linux skillz will have the dilemma of updating firmware to use newer macos versions or feeling like a computer haxor.

        That said, if people want to work on it that is totally up to them. Even if it turns that some foreign power extracts M1 chips and uses them to pilot kitten killing weapons of mass destruction. Making everyone personally responsible for what someone else because of some vague connection is unworkable.
        Licenses with moral “do no evil” clauses are unworkable.

        Eastern SoC vendors however.. they are all using Linux. Mainlining their stuff has a non-zero possibility of convincing them to not be idiots. Companies that are shipping this stuff are in the most part just using whatever crap they get from the vendor. The only people that care about mainline are other hobbyists.

        1. > There is no value in Linux for Apple

          Bare-metal and today I would agree. Maybe there’s something going on the other way around. The Hypervisor/Virtualization Frameworks in macOS make it at least pretty simpel to run countless Linux/Container instances on macOS.

          As a significant amount of ‘application developers’ currently switches away from x86_64 to arm64 by accident and many rely on Docker/Kubernetes stuff maybe this has also an effect on the server side of things making arm64 server environments more attractive/common?

          And if Apple could deliver application processors with +100 Icestorm cores (the efficient ones, not the power ones) I would be keen on getting servers with this stuff inside. But only if they are able to run Linux or a true BSD.

          1. >And if Apple could deliver application processors with +100 Icestorm cores

            Because the world needs yet another wonky ARM server platform that will be launched to massive fanfare and claims that it’s the end of Intel and virtue signalling nonsense only to be discontinued a year or so after the first units ship. :p

            If we’re going to get all moral about what people work on, stuff they use etc. ARM is like the last thing anyone should be using. Cheap ARM SoCs basically created the current open source yet closed, spyware riddled, unserviceable, e-waste devices that are common place now.

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