Microchip Technology recently starred at the RISC-V Summit in San Jose, California, showcasing its PolarFire 2 FPGA silicon platform and RISC-V-based processor subsystem and software suite roadmap.
Mid-range and System-on-Chip field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which are designed to be configured by the customer after manufacturing, have helped to move computer workloads to the network edge. Microsoft Technology has played a leading role in this transition, with its award-winning semiconductors helping to push the limits of what’s possible.
In what has been a busy year for the firm, Microchip has also pushed the world’s first RISC-V-based FPGAs to mass production. The PolarFire SoC FPGA delivers twice the power efficiency of mid-range FPGAs and also features a best-in-class operating system and solutions ecosystem.
Blending RISC-V and FPGAs
What has made all this possible is Microchip’s ability to build a RISC-V system out of FPGA fabric. Combining FPGAs and RISC-V makes a lot of sense and offers new design solutions that provide extensive control over the system architecture and its core functions in the instruction set.
In essence, both FPGAs and RISC-V are designed to do the same thing - provide users with more customisation options. FPGAs allow users to write specialised code to shape them into custom computing blocks, while RISC-V was developed to make hardware design and customisation open to everyone. Combining the two, therefore, gives designers access to an open-source platform that’s highly customisable and can be optimised for their intended applications.
Upping the performance and power efficiency curve
Microchip Technologies PolarFire FPGA SoC families already deliver the best thermal and power efficiency in the mid-range segment. However, by adding the new RISC-V-based high-performance elements, now the PolarFire2 family goes even further, with the PolarFire SoC delivering up to 50% lower power than comparable FPGAs.
As well as showcasing the production-ready PolarFire SoC family, Microchip Technology also showcased its Mi-V solutions ecosystem for supporting RISC-V-based-solution stack development. It combines users with a comprehensive set of tools, including IP, hardware, operating systems, middleware, debuggers and compilers, to support RISC-V designs.
It provides 90% of coverage for commercial and open-source Operating System (OS) and Real-Time Operating System packages and includes tools from Microchip as well as its Mi-V ecosystem partners.
A big deal for the RISC-V industry
The first RISC-V-based SoC FPGA to enter volume production is a big deal not just for Microchip Technology but for the whole semiconductor ecosystem. It shows that the industry accepts the role RISC-V has to play in its future. It also means more engineers and designers will be exposed to RISC-V architecture and be able to design custom hardware more easily.
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