SiFive introduces open-source chip platforms

San Francisco, CA. SiFive, which calls itself the first fabless semiconductor company to build customized, open-source-enabled semiconductors, today announced its flagship Freedom family of SoC platforms. Built around the free and open RISC-V instruction-set architecture invented by the company’s founders at the University of California, Berkeley, SiFive’s Freedom U500 and Freedom E300 platforms represent a fundamentally new approach to designing and producing SoCs that redefines traditional silicon business models and reverses the industry’s prohibitively rising licensing, design, and implementation costs.

“The semiconductor industry is at an important crossroads. Moore’s Law has ended, and the traditional economic model of chip building no longer works,” said Yunsup Lee, co-founder of SiFive and one of the original creators of RISC-V. “Unless you have tens—if not hundreds—of millions of dollars, it is simply impossible for smaller system designers to get a modern, high-performance chip, much less one customized to their unique requirements. The Freedom platforms unleash the flexibility and power of custom silicon to the smallest company, inventor, or maker. Companies of all sizes are no longer held hostage to current semiconductor providers’ software deliveries and outdated business models.”

RISC-V was born from the need to address the skyrocketing cost of designing and manufacturing increasingly complex new chip architectures. SiFive attributes such costs to what it calls the economic demise of Moore’s Law. SiFive’s hardware designs leverage the body of software and tools available from the open-source community under the guidance of the RISC-V Foundation, reducing the cost of developing custom silicon. System designers can use the SiFive Freedom platforms to focus on their own differentiated processor without having the overhead of developing a modern SoC, fabric or software infrastructure.

“RISC-V represents a bold new path for system designers in embedded and industrial markets,” said Ted Speers, head of product architecture and planning for Microsemi Corp.’s SoC business unit. “We went to SiFive not only because its co-founders created RISC-V, but also due to its team’s agile methodology, which enabled the company to deliver a complete RISC-V sub-system and tool-chain targeting our secure, low power SmartFusion2 SoC FPGA platform on a very aggressive schedule.”

The Freedom platforms comprise a complete software specification, board OS support packages (BSPs), development boards, and base silicon. The platforms provide customers the ability to create their own silicon enhancements and customizations, which SiFive then quickly incorporates and delivers to the customer at a much lower cost and faster time-to-market than traditional custom silicon designs. The platforms also provide significant performance and power advantages over existing microcontrollers and FPGAs.

Freedom U500 Series

The Freedom Unleashed (U) family features a fully Linux-capable embedded application processor featuring multicore RISC-V CPUs, running at a speed of 1.6 GHz or higher with support for accelerators and cache coherency. Designed in TSMC 28 nm, the Freedom U500 platform targets initial customers in diverse markets such as machine learning, storage, and networking. The Freedom U500 platform also supports standard high-speed peripherals including PCIe 3.0, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and DDR3/DDR4.

Freedom E300 Series

The Freedom Everywhere (E) family is designed for embedded microcontroller, IoT, and wearables markets. Designed in TSMC 180 nm and architected to have minimal area and power, the Freedom E300 platform features efficient RISC-V cores with support for RISC-V compressed instructions, which have been shown to reduce code size by up to 30%.

To give developers a head start on software development, full FPGA models of each SoC are available through SiFive today. Developers will also be able to prototype their customizations in the form of custom RISC-V instructions, accelerators, and coprocessors. For more information, including how to purchase development boards with the Microsemi SmartFusion™2 SoC FPGA, visit dev.sifive.com.

SiFive will showcase the Freedom family of SoC platforms during the RISC-V 4th Workshop in Boston on Tuesday, July 12.

SiFive bills itself as the first fabless semiconductor company to build customized silicon based on the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture. Founded by RISC-V inventors Krste Asanovic, Yunsup Lee, and Andrew Waterman, SiFive says it democratizes access to custom silicon by helping system designers reduce time-to-market and realize cost savings with customized RISC-V based semiconductors. SiFive is located in San Francisco and has venture backing from Sutter Hill Ventures.

www.sifive.com

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