SophGo, a China-based chip developer, is working on several high performance processors featuring RISC-V-based IP that it licensed from SiFive, a major RISC-V IP designer from the U.S., reports HPCwire. This endeavor somewhat underscores the rising influence of RISC-V in the global chip industry and shows why some U.S. lawmakers are concerned about this open-source technology.
SophGo’s first RISC-V-based project is the SG2380 processor, which includes 16 four-issue, out-of-order SiFive P670 cores, SiFive’s X280 accelerator for AI/ML workloads, and Imagination Technologies’ AXT-16-512 graphics processing unit. The CPU is mostly aimed at high-performance desktops, but it could also be used for edge servers that require 16 general-purpose cores as well as AI capabilities.
But the SG2380 is not the only SiFive-based product in SophGo’s portfolio, as the company has already announced its SG2044 system-on-chip, slated for release in 2024. This 120W SoC will pack up to 64 high-performance RISC-V cores from SiFive, the final version of RISC-V vector extensions, PCIe 5.0, GbE, and LPDDR5x support. This processor will succeed little-known SGF2042, which supports 0.7 version of RISC-V vector extensions and is currently used mostly by researchers.
Both SophGo’s SG2380 and SG2044 are to be produced on TSMC’s 12nm-class process technologies. These products clearly exemplify the collaborative and innovative spirit of RISC-V, akin to the Linux operating system in its global contribution and development model. However, some U.S. lawmakers are consideration limiting RISC-V cooperation between American and Chinese companies. That sparked quite the controversy, with RISC-V International, headquartered in Switzerland, strongly opposing such governmental interference.
Despite the advancements and potential of RISC-V, its widespread adoption in the server and supercomputer sectors remains a distant goal. The current market is heavily dominated by x86 chips produced by Intel and AMD, with Arm also posing significant competition. Meanwhile, Arm and x86 technologies are controlled by companies based in the U.S. and U.K., which means that they are subject to export control regulations. As a result, Chinese developers are turning their attention to RISC-V, as they can either get open-source designs and expand on them, or just design high-performance technology from the ground up without any controls from the U.S. or U.K. governments.