What is RISC V?
RISC V is an open-source instruction set architecture (ISA) that offers a “free” choice compared to Arm. ISAs are a collection of standard, essential, but unappealing “blueprints” for processors. To perform some basic math, every processor needs what an ISA offers. They require a significant amount of labor to create and maintain but do not give much end-product distinction, therefore chip firms who employ them find significant benefit in outsourcing this work to a third party like Arm.
There are a variety of benefits for Arm and RISC V as well, however, RISC V is generally offered for free in comparison to Arm when looking at factors such as an architecture license, commercial core IP, etc.
Benefits of ISAs
Running software is the whole idea of CPUs. However, ISAs are essential to chips that change in one leads to actual software issues even though the software developer and ISA are several layers apart.
The majority of chip vendors are reluctant to switch to a new ISA because they are so stubbornly fixed. For instance, Qualcomm has produced Arm-based processors for decades, and although Arm is suing them, it is unlikely that Qualcomm will ever switch its main products to RISC V because doing so would make all the software created for Qualcomm-based chips cumbersome, if not unusable. While switching is difficult, we don’t want to overstate the case. As previously said, there is a great deal of friction.
Attracting New Customers
Furthermore, transitioning to use the new software may be challenging, but it joined the market at the correct time. This new software appeared just as Arm became inactive with Softbank and lost any incentive to attract new companies. Meanwhile, for the first time in a decade, new semis startups were launching. This includes the increasing rise of US semis startups as well as the rapid expansion of new companies in China. None of these companies had years of legacy Arm obligations and were prepared to go with the free solution.
While there are numerous advantages to using this program, there are some disadvantages as well. The software is open-source, which implies that anyone who wants to create a RISC V processor largely has the flexibility to make all sorts of changes to their own implementation of the ISA. That means that each person’s software is unique. The RISC V group anticipated this issue and established a set of compatibility standards, and while everyone hopes to follow them, there is no actual enforcement mechanism in place to avoid this from occurring.
As a result, implementations from top standalone RISC V chip manufacturers such as SiFive, Andes, and CodaSIP may differ slightly. Everyone follows all of the regulations, but some people go above and above. This likely means that RISC V software will be different from one chip to another, meaning that other chips cannot successfully process the same information as another.
Opportunities for Technological Success
While there are risks linked with using this technology, so much of what it is utilized for does not rely on standard software. Hundreds of RISC V chips are being developed for Internet of Things (IoT), industrial, and other embedded applications. We believe RISC V will eventually dominate this market. Unless someone comes up with an operating system for the IoT, there truly is no need for a common chip architecture for these devices. And it is likely that an operating system for IoT will never exist.
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TechSpot. (2023, January 29). What’s next for RISC V? Retrieved from https://www.techspot.com/news/97420-what-next-risc-v.html