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JoinUp Article: Building Microprocessor Architectures On Open-Source Hardware And Software

By August 20, 2018May 12th, 2021No Comments

It has been five years since ETH Zurich in Switzerland and the University of Bologna in Italy started their joint PULP research project on the energy efficiency of microprocessor architectures. The project is fully based on open-source hardware and software, and has resulted in the tape-out of two dozen implementations.
Three years ago, the project team decided to migrate to RISC-V, a more recent open architecture. It is maintained by the RISC-V foundation, of which ETHZ is a founding member. The main reason for this choice was RISC-V’s fast-growing popularity and the support in Linux, FreeBSD and NetBSD. OSH developers have the support of the Chisel design compiler (from Verilog specifications into actual chips), the GNU toolchain, the LLVM toolchain (to create compilers), and various emulators.
Naveed Sherwani, the CEO of semiconductor company SiFive, recently talked about the democratisation of silicon. According to EE Times, he expects China and India to drive the large-scale adoption of RISC-V over the coming years.
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