December is right here, and with it comes a number of technical summits forward of the vacation break. Probably the most notable of which this week is the annual RISC-V summit, which is being placed on by the Linux Basis and sees the quite a few (and ever growing) events concerned within the open supply ISA collect to speak in regards to the newest merchandise and developments within the RISC-V ecosystem.  The summit at all times tends to characteristic some new product bulletins, and this yr isn’t any completely different, as Creativeness Applied sciences is on the present to offer particulars on their first RISC-V CPU cores, together with asserting their intentions to develop a full suite of CPU cores over the subsequent few years.


The corporate, at present finest recognized for his or her PowerVR GPU lineup, has been dipping their toes into the RISC-V ecosystem for the final couple of years with initiatives like RVfpga. Extra not too long ago, this previous summer time the corporate revealed in an earnings name that they’d be designing RISC-V CPU cores, with extra particulars to return. Now on the RISC-V summit they’re offering these particulars and extra, with the formal announcement of their Catapult household of RISC-V cores, in addition to outlining a heterogeneous computing-centric roadmap for future growth.

Ranging from the highest, the Catapult household is Creativeness’s overarching title for an entire household of RISC-V CPU cores, the primary of that are launching at the moment. Creativeness has (and is) designing a number of microarchitectures to be able to cowl a broad vary of efficiency/energy/space (PPA) wants, and the Catapult household is slated to embody every part from microcontroller-grade processors to high-performance utility processors. All advised, Creativeness’s plans for the absolutely fleshed out Catapult household look so much like Arm’s Cortex household, with Creativeness getting ready CPU core designs for microcontrollers (Cortex-M), real-time CPUs (Cortex-R), excessive efficiency utility processors (Cortex-A), and functionally protected CPUs (Cortex-AE). Arm stays the participant to beat on this house, so having an identical product construction ought to assist Creativeness clean the transition for any shoppers that choose to disembark for Catapult.

At current, Creativeness has completed their first CPU core design, which is a straightforward, in-order core for 32-bit and 64-bit techniques. The in-order Catapult core is getting used for microcontrollers in addition to real-time CPUs, and in keeping with the corporate, Catapult microcontrollers are already delivery in silicon as a part of automotive merchandise. In the meantime the real-time core is accessible to prospects as effectively, although it’s not but in any delivery silicon.

The present in-order core design helps as much as 8 cores in a single cluster. The corporate didn’t quote any efficiency figures, although keep in mind this can be a easy processor meant for microcontrollers and different very low energy units. In the meantime, the core is accessible with ECC throughout each its L1 and TCM caches, in addition to assist for a few of RISC-V’s brand-new extensions, such because the Vector computing extension, and probably different extensions ought to prospects ask for them.

Following the present in-order core, Creativeness has primarily three extra core designs on their speedy roadmap. For 2022 the corporate is planning to launch an enhanced model of the in-order core as an utility processor-grade design, full with assist for “wealthy” OSes like Linux. And in 2023 that will probably be adopted by one other, even larger performing in-order core for the real-time and utility processor markets. Lastly, the corporate can be growing a way more complicated out-of-order RISC-V core design as effectively, which is predicted within the 2023-2024 timeframe. The out-of-order Catapult would primarily be their first tackle delivering a high-performance RISC-V utility processor, and like we at present see with high-performance cores the Arm house, has the potential to grow to be probably the most seen member of the Catapult household.

Farther out nonetheless are the corporate’s plans for “subsequent era heterogeneous compute” designs. These can be CPU designs that transcend present heterogeneous choices – specifically, simply putting CPU, GPU, and NPU blocks inside a single SoC – by extra deeply combining these applied sciences. At this level Creativeness isn’t saying rather more, however they’re making it clear that they aren’t simply going to cease with a quick CPU core.

General, these are all clear room designs for Creativeness. Whereas the corporate has lengthy since bought off its Meta and MIPS CPU divisions, it nonetheless retains numerous the engineering expertise from these efforts – together with possession of or entry to numerous patents from the realm. So though they aren’t reusing something immediately from earlier designs, they’re hoping to leverage their earlier expertise to construct higher IP sooner.

In fact, CPU cores are only one a part of what it’ll take to reach the IP house; apart from incumbent Arm, there are additionally a number of different gamers within the RISC-V house, resembling SiFive, who’re all vying for a lot of the identical market. So Creativeness must each differentiate themselves from the competitors, and provide some type of market edge to prospects.

To that finish, Creativeness goes to be closely selling the chances for heterogenous computing designs with their IP. In comparison with a number of the different RISC-V CPU core distributors, Creativeness already has well-established GPU and NPU IP, so prospects seeking to put collectively one thing greater than only a straight CPU will be capable of faucet into Creativeness’s bigger library of IP. This does put the corporate extra in direct competitors with Arm (who already has all of this stuff as effectively), however then that very a lot appears to be Creativeness’s objective right here.

In any other case, Creativeness believes that their different huge benefit on this house is the corporate’s historical past and site. As beforehand talked about, Creativeness holds entry to a big variety of patents; so for shoppers who need to keep away from additional patent licensing, they will make the most of the truth that Creativeness’s IP already comes indemnified towards these patents. In the meantime for chip designers who’re based mostly outdoors of the US and are weary of geopolitical points affecting ongoing entry to IP, Creativeness is of course positioned as a substitute there since they aren’t based mostly within the US both – and thus entry to their IP can’t be minimize off by the US.

Wrapping issues up, with the launch of their Catapult household of RISC-V CPU IP, creativeness is laying out a reasonably formidable plan for the corporate for the subsequent few years. By leveraging each their earlier expertise constructing CPUs in addition to their present complementary IP like GPUs and NPUs, Creativeness has their sights set on turning into a serious participant within the RISC-V IP house – and significantly in terms of heterogeneous compute. Finally so much might want to go proper for the corporate earlier than they will get there, but when they will succeed, then with their numerous assortment of IP they’d be in a quite distinctive place amongst RISC-V distributors.


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