Nordic Semiconductor CTO Svein-Egil Nielsen has penned a chunk detailing the corporate’s considering on leaping on the RISC-V bandwagon — one thing which it argues enhances, fairly than competes with, its present relationship with proprietary chip IP big Arm.
“At first look, Nordic asserting that it’s placing its full technological and business weight behind the event and adoption of an open supply chip structure would possibly elevate questions on how robust the corporate’s on-going relationship with Arm is,” Nielsen admits within the article. “In any case, Arm offers a business chip structure that’s something however open supply, and has been used on Nordic’s semiconductor wi-fi connectivity merchandise for the reason that 2012 launch of Nordic’s nRF51 Sequence Methods-on-Chip (SoCs).”
Nordic Semi is downplaying its curiosity within the RISC-V ISA, regardless of having joined 4 others within the trade to type a RISC-V-focused three way partnership. (📷: Nordic Semiconductor et al)
Nordic introduced its curiosity within the free and open supply RISC-V instruction set structure (ISA) again in August, leaping in with each toes by asserting the formation of a three way partnership with Bosch, Infineon, NXP Semiconductors, and Qualcomm Applied sciences. The quintet of trade heavyweights are within the means of forming a German firm which goals to speed up the commercialization of the platform and its software program ecosystem — starting with its use within the automotive market and increasing to the Web of Issues (IoT) and cellular in the end.
Scaling from low-power microcontrollers all the best way to many-core supercomputers, the RISC-V instruction set structure is free and open supply — no one has to signal any non-disclosure agreements, pay massive sums in licensing or royalties, and even acquire permission to start constructing round it. Whereas all of that would appear to spell bother for trade big Arm, whose earnings is pushed solely by licensing and royalty funds on its processor cores and different mental properties (IPs), Nielsen says there’s room for each.
Nordic makes heavy use of Arm core IP in its chips, and in accordance with Nielsen that will not be altering any time quickly. (📷: Nordic Semiconductor)
“I see RISC-V in the same option to how I see the proliferation of wi-fi IoT connectivity requirements: nobody expertise will be all issues to (resolve) all utility issues. So does Bluetooth LE actually compete with Thread or mobile IoT? In fact not. Every is designed to do various things effectively, however not every part,” Nielsen argues. “What RISC-V is in actuality, subsequently, is a complimentary various to Arm, and never a menace. And that is notably true in energy consumption-critical cellular and IoT purposes the place Arm has historically been dominant.”
Nielsen claims Nordic’s curiosity in RISC-V is primarily in providing clients’ “freedom and suppleness” in paring down the options of the modular ISA so as to get as low an influence draw as doable — however that it will likely be restricted to “sure particular and extremely specialised purposes.” This stance is the alternative of that taken by rival Espressif, which introduced two years in the past that it might be transferring to RISC-V as customary for all future components “except,” as chief govt officer and president Teo Swee Ann mentioned on the time, “now we have some particular wants.”
Nordic rival Espressif is taking the alternative strategy, transferring to RISC-V as customary throughout all new components. (📷: Espressif)
“So the place would possibly the flexibility to develop an extremely lowest energy instruction set actually come into its personal? To me it is on the edge in, for instance, less complicated embedded chips for sensors that require a small little bit of processing energy so as to ship localized machine studying,” Nielsen says. “In such purposes having an Arm core could be full overkill. However that sensor should still want to speak with and work alongside an Arm core-based Nordic machine.
“What RISC-V is not going to do is battle with Nordic’s long-established use of Arm cores in its wi-fi IoT connectivity gadgets.”
Nielsen’s full argument it laid out over on the Nordic weblog.