After decades of being looked at as more of a subculture (or arguably counter-culture) in the larger technology landscape, open source is finally getting its due. 2018 saw some big moves in the open source landscape—from automotive startups leveraging open source in their innovative products to some big acquisitions and further growth of the open-source hardware market.
But perhaps no aspect of open source saw more excitement in 2018 than open-source hardware. Building custom silicon chips—a notion once far too impractical and costly for all but the largest chipmakers—is now a serious reality, thanks to RISC-V, an open-source instruction set for building chip architectures.
In November, the RISC-V Foundation, a nonprofit aiming to drive adoption of RISC-V, announced a partnership with the Linux Foundation to accelerate the development of RiSC-V by offering more tools, education, and support to the RISC-V developer community—including legal and marketing expertise. “RISC-V has great traction in a number of markets with applications for AI, machine learning, IoT, augmented reality, cloud, data centers, semiconductors, networking, and more,” Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation, said in a press statement. “We look forward to collaborating with the RISC-V Foundation to advance RISC-V ISA adoption and build a strong ecosystem globally.”
SiFive, a chipmaker founded by some of the developers of RISC-V, kicked off 2018 by releasing the HiFive Unleashed, the first Linux-compatible RISC-V SoC. The release marks the first time that engineers will have access to a high-quality development board platform based around a RISC-V chip.
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