The lowRISC blog

Six more weeks of Ibex development - what's new?

In the past months, we have invested considerable effort in improving our RISC-V core Ibex. This 2-stage, in-order, 32-bit microcontroller-class CPU core was contributed to us by ETH Zürich in December 2018, with activity really ramping up since May. Having been taped out multiple times (as zero-riscy) in a mix of academic and industry projects, it came to us as a relatively mature code base. Despite this, we have continued to invest in improving its design and maintainability.

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Ibex cleaning up

Large-scale RISC-V LLVM testing with Buildroot

A few years ago lowRISC started developing a new LLVM backend targeting RISC-V. Rather than copying and modifying an existing backend, in an ad hoc fashion, we started from scratch and proceeded systematically. This approach proved successful in producing a high-quality codebase. We recently announced on the llvm-dev mailing list that the backend is now reaching stability and could be promoted from its current status of experimental to an official target.

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The RISC-V LLVM backend in Clang/LLVM 9.0

On Monday I proposed promoting the upstream RISC-V LLVM backend from “experimental” to “official” for the LLVM 9.0 release. Responses so far are extremely positive, and we’re working to ensure this is a smooth process. This means that from 9.0, the RISC-V backend will be built by default for LLVM, making it usable out of the box for standard LLVM/Clang builds. As well as being more convenient for end users, this also makes it significantly easier for e.

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Introducing Sam

On June 1st, Sam Elliott followed Laura and Pirmin in becoming lowRISC’s newest employee. A few weeks into his new role, he shares why he joined lowRISC and what he’s been doing since he started. “I joined lowRISC CIC as a Compiler Developer, working on the RISC-V LLVM backend, and so far I’m enjoying working on the team! Prior to lowRISC, I worked as a compilers and programming languages researcher at the University of Washington, where I completed my Masters degree.

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lowRISC at Week of Open Source Hardware

Pretty much the whole team is in Zurich this week for the RISC-V Workshop and inaugural Week of Open Source Hardware, with a packed programme that got off to a start today and which runs all the way through to Friday afternoon. This morning lowRISC board member, Professor Luca Benini, gave a RISC-V Workshop keynote entitled, Energy efficient computing from Exascale to MicroWatts: The RISC-V playground. Our friends and close collaborators at PULP Platform are giving a number of talks this week and, we’re pleased to say, so are members of the lowRISC team!

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lowRISC enamel badge

An update on Ibex, our microcontroller-class CPU core

At the beginning of many chips projects, there’s a dream. Could we create a more future-proof chip by embedding an FPGA fabric into it? Could we measure glucose levels more accurately by integrating a small bio lab onto a chip? Could we more reliably recognize kittens in a set of pictures by implementing neural network inference in hardware? In implementation, this dream becomes a piece of hardware, with digital or analog logic, sensors, actuators, and much more.

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Ibex block diagram

Introducing Pirmin & Laura

Pirmin Vogel and Laura James both joined lowRISC on May 1st this year. A few weeks in to their new roles, they each share thoughts on what attracted them to work at lowRISC. Pirmin: “After having traveled around the world for 6 months, I finally started my new position as hardware/software engineer at lowRISC C.I.C. in Cambridge at the beginning of May. At lowRISC, we are working on open-source hardware/software ecosystems with a fully open-sourced, Linux-capable, RISC-V-based SoC being the ultimate goal.

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Onwards and upwards at lowRISC

If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to take a look at our press release and the corresponding Google blog post. This industry support and growth of our board is a huge step forwards for lowRISC. As Royal Hansen, vice president of Security, Google, said: "Google believes that open source is good for everyone. To further our commitment, we are investing both capital and engineering resources to create a sustainable open source hardware ecosystem.

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lowRISC Expands and Appoints New Members to the Board of Directors from Google and ETH Zurich

London, England - lowRISC C.I.C., the open source system on a chip (SoC) organisation, today announced that Prof. Luca Benini (ETH Zurich), Dominic Rizzo (Google) and Ron Minnich (Google) have joined its board of directors. The announcement coincides with a new phase of hiring by lowRISC with the goal of significantly increasing the size of its Cambridge-based engineering team during 2019. lowRISC is a not-for-profit, community-driven organisation working to provide a high quality, security-enabling, open SoC base for derivative designs.

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lowRISC Board

lowRISC at the SiFive Symposium in Cambridge

Several lowRISC team members attended the SiFive Symposium in our home town of Cambridge on May 13th 2019, a lovely sunny day. Imagination Technologies were co-hosting with SiFive, and we heard from both companies. Krste Asanovic, chairman of the board at the RISC-V Foundation, gave a great introduction to RISC-V and progress so far. Naveed Sherwani, CEO of SiFive, talked us through their silicon design platform and future services. We also heard from SecureRF and IAR Systems.

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