05-10-2021 | | By Robin Mitchell
Recently, RISC-V development Codasip announced that it will be looking to hire 100 engineers in the UK to continue its development with RISC-V IP cores. Who is Codasip, why are they hiring, and why is RISC-V becoming increasingly popular?
Codasip is a semiconductor IP company founded in 2014 that operates on the core belief that processor and hardware development should be democratised. During its inception, the RISC-V architecture started to make its appearance in academic circles and with some hardware engineers, and it was the openness of RISC-V that saw Codasip adopt it immediately.
In 2015, Codasip was one of the many companies that helped found the RISC-V Foundation, which pursued the development of RISC-V architecture. In 2015, Codasip was also the first company to offer a commercial RISC-V CPU and introduced the first 64-bit RISC-V core in 2017.
Recently Codasip announced that it is looking to hire over 100 engineers from the UK with RISC-V experience. The two sites that will be hiring are located in Cambridge and Bristol, but the changes in the workforce will give applicants the opportunity to work remotely. Such a work environment makes sense for a company that does not operate foundries and is entirely fabless.
In the report from Codasip, it was also mentioned that the drive for RISC-V comes from the slowing down of silicon reduction. If engineers can no longer reduce the size of transistors reliably, then the next path for semiconductor development will be specialist hardware requiring unique processor technologies. Codasip specialises in RISC-V and IP development; Codasip services are geared towards this new direction in semiconductor development.
ARM has been the industry de facto for decades thanks to ARMs fair policies on non-discrimination, reasonable licensing options, and the overwhelming amount of software support for their various processors when it comes to RISC architectures. This adoption in ARM processors can be seen in almost all ICs on the market, and everything from microcontrollers to FPGAs integrates some kind of ARM processor.
However, recent events around the world are changing this view on ARM and its viability as a processor architecture for the future. One cause for a potential shift away from ARM is the US/China trade war which saw the US ban key technologies from China. While ARM IP was not banned from being used in China (as ARM is a UK-owned business), the potential sale of ARM to US company Nvidia would change this. There is fear that countries such as the US could arbitrarily halt access to ARM technology.
The other major event surrounding ARM is that Nvidia is looking to acquire it, and this could see Nvidia restrict technology access to ARM customers while potentially influencing the design of ARM to best suit Nvidia products. Such a move would destroy ARMs neutral stance on technology availability and hardware that works with it.
RISC-V also has a significant advantage over ARM in that it is free and open-source. Any design using a RISC-V processor does not need to pay license fees or royalties to anyone. Furthermore, the open-source nature of the design enables the public to contribute to the public, thereby opening the architecture to potentially more creativity and development.
RISC-V is destined to become one of the major processor technologies and could easily rival ARM on multiple fronts. If RISC-V can boost its software support, then it may even takeover ARM as the major RISC processor technology in use. Of course, open-source projects often struggle to gain traction for multiple reasons. Whether it be a lack of professionalism in the members, disagreements on how the processor technology should move forward, lack of security and flaws in the underlying architecture, still too few manufacturers are willing to manufacture RISC-V processors.