gtechn
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RISC-V one day?

Thu May 04, 2017 7:06 pm

I don't expect it to come anytime soon to the Raspberry Pi, but there is a new, open-source architecture in the SoC world known as RISC-V. It is available now in up to 1.6GHz (I think) by a chip design company known as SiFive, but there isn't, as far as I know, a GPU yet. It does have a Linux port and will be a compiler option in GCC 7.1. A group called lowRISC is also designing hardware around this architecture.

Possible in the future? Thoughts?

I personally don't see it being ready anytime soon (as mentioned above) due to the lack of a GPU option, but it is interesting to think about.
Last edited by gtechn on Thu May 04, 2017 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

fruitoftheloom
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Thu May 04, 2017 7:19 pm

gtechn wrote:I don't expect it to come anytime soon to the Raspberry Pi, but there is a new, open-source architecture in the SoC world known as RISC-V. It is available now in up to 1.6GHz (I think) by a chip design company known as SiFive, but there isn't, as far as I know, a GPU yet. It does have a Linux port and will be a compiler option in GCC 7.1.

Possible in the future? Thoughts?

I personally don't see it being ready anytime soon (as mentioned above) due to the lack of a GPU option, but it is interesting to think about.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Thu May 04, 2017 11:48 pm

I have thrown speculation of a future RISC V based Pi into these forums a few times over the last year or so.

Does not seem a totally crazy idea, the LowRISC project is based in Cambridge and comprises a few original Pi creators.

The GPU is an issue, but I understand there are even open source GPU's being developed. Anyway for most of my uses of a Pi like computer a GPU is not required.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 1:24 am

Yes, but there needs to be a GPU in it, for sure, or otherwise it will be seen as a downgrade if it can't play 1080p30. It would also (probably) need a big company (like Broadcom) wanting to use it, otherwise the community can't implement H.264, H.265 and other proprietary codecs that some Pi users want.

We would also need packages to be built for RISC-V, otherwise it wouldn't be that compatible with most Linux packages, would it? GCC 7.1 having RISC-V building is a significant step, but...

1. All standard Raspbian packages all need to be built for RISC-V,
2. It would be quite helpful if Canonical upgraded Launchpad.net to build for RISC-V out of the box as well (like they do x86, x64, and ARMv7hf).

Finally, due to these odd things, the Raspberry Pi Foundation would almost have to build the chip themselves, probably with a paying company like SiFive and lowRISC together, with RPF designing the H.264 logic on top of some open-source GPU that isn't GPL-licensed (because otherwise the MPAA would get mad if the RPF redistributed the circuitry for H.264 playback, as required by GPL).

So, overall, it is a ways away, but if it is cheaper than ARM and the community follows, this could happen. Eventually. Raspberry Pi 5, anyone? (RISC-V on a Raspberry Pi 5.)

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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 2:58 am

Eben is aware of it, that was reported in Magpi or a post or interview?
No GPU is the kicker. Any open GPUs?

No reason not to grab a FPGA and roll your own RISC-V, FPGA's are so much fun :lol:
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 3:55 am

Gavinmc42,
No reason not to grab a FPGA and roll your own RISC-V, FPGA's are so much fun.
I'm already on to it: https://github.com/ZiCog/xoro

I found myself dabbling with Verilog a few weeks back. Decided having a CPU in there would be nice. Luckily Clifford Wolf had made a RISC V in Verilog, so I just had to get it running on my Terasic DE0 Nano board.

I created some memory, and a UART transmitter for it. And a top level module to wire it all together. It runs at 100MHz. Integer only CPU, no virtual memory so no Linux.

Only got to the stage of running a "Hello World" firmware so far.

A very helpful thing is the Icarus Verilog simulator. Makes hacking on verilog modules and checking them out a rather quick an painless exercise. Like writing Python. Then when what you have looks like it might work it's time to build it with the Quarus tools for the FPGA. Which is very slow and tedious.

A modern day GPU is not on the cards here but a good old fashioned VGA or even HDMI graphics system for text and simple graphics could be done.

Now if only I could raise a few hundred thousand dollars we could have a RISC V micro-controller FABed soon enough :)
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 1:51 pm

There ARE a few open-source GPUs. Whether they are licensed permissively enough for companies like Broadcom is still in the air, and they don't run on RISC-V yet (though they do support some sort of FPGA). So with some work they could probably be modified to work on a RISC-V core.

A big question is: Does RISC-V save power and money? If it truly does, this could start to rise quickly. What I would love to see is the Raspberry Pi 4 (based on ARM) like usual, but then a side release, with a name like "Raspberry Pi RISC-V Edition 1" which is the same as the Pi 4, but on RISC-V architecture with some sort of open-source GPU. It would have an obviously different name to show it isn't backward-compatible.

The GPU would need a company behind it (like Broadcom), and it would need to have 1080p30 playback with H.264 or it will never replace the VideoCore IV. Which brings a big question: Could the VideoCore IV be adapted to run on a RISC-V processor?

Interestingly, there is an Arduino-compatible microcontroller using RISC-V by SiFive. It sells for $59 (I think).

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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 2:04 pm

Yeah, we would need a big company behind the design for a GPU. Hopefully we would take something existing (like VideoCore IV) and rework it into a RISC-V core. This is partially due to the proprietary nature of GPU parts. HDMI is proprietary, so is MP4, H.264, H.265, and so on. An open-source core would be nice, but it would only be able to play open-source codecs like Ogg Vorbis legally, which isn't that helpful.

The processor side, at least from SiFive, is getting close. A 1.6GHz top RISC-V processor, with Linux support! Building packages all over again for RISC-V is hard, but then again, the Raspbian project did it with Raspberry Pi 1 (for armv6hf).

Of course, the biggest surprise I could imagine is if the Raspberry Pi Foundation bought a license to modify VideoCore from Broadcom, built a RISC-V GPU, and partnered with SiFive to make the Raspberry Pi 4. This would be the perfect time for it, especially since Broadcom is no longer developing VideoCore and whatever the RPF does at this point will probably break backward-compatibility anyway (for example, VideoCore has never been done on lower than 40nm).

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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 2:25 pm

I'm not sure anything you suggest could be done for less than $10M, probably double that. And the Pi market isn't big enough to recoup that sort of investment. You also need an ISP and camera interface block (there are no O/S ISP's AFAIK), display block etc. The Pi is not just CPU and GPU.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 2:47 pm

Or RPF can pump out more Pi's so they can spend more effort/money in getting them out to more people in more languages/countries.

Once RPF have a 100M Pi's out there, will they need to beg for money to make a VC5/ARMv9/RISCVI multicore chips?
Maybe, just maybe someone will say "hey we have this new chip that's faster than anything else and it has 1024 cores on it, would you like to use it?"

250K Zero W's in 9 weeks, 1.5M/year? Not much sign of demand decrease? New Distributors, most sold out in 3 days?
RPF could stick any chip on a PCB, as long as it runs Raspbian they can sell as many as they can make.
As long as it even boots they could sell them, who actually cares what cpu is on it, 1% of the buyers?
The Pi is not just CPU and GPU.
Keep the GPU, it works well enough, plus it is the secret sauce that others have trouble copying/supporting.
You have already proved the GPU/Peripherals/IO header can handle different CPU cores. Do they have to be ARM?
Pi market isn't big enough to recoup that sort of investment
Not yet :lol:
Hmm, VC4+ Peripherals and giant FPGA, "what core would Sir like today and how many?"
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 3:15 pm

Gavinmc42 wrote:Or RPF can pump out more Pi's so they can spend more effort/money in getting them out to more people in more languages/countries.
We've already made 13M, and are pumping them out pretty fast. Anyone in any country can buy one should they wish.
Gavinmc42 wrote: Once RPF have a 100M Pi's out there, will they need to beg for money to make a VC5/ARMv9/RISCVI multicore chips?
Maybe, just maybe someone will say "hey we have this new chip that's faster than anything else and it has 1024 cores on it, would you like to use it?"

250K Zero W's in 9 weeks, 1.5M/year? Not much sign of demand decrease? New Distributors, most sold out in 3 days?
RPF could stick any chip on a PCB, as long as it runs Raspbian they can sell as many as they can make.
As long as it even boots they could sell them, who actually cares what cpu is on it, 1% of the buyers?
No, not really.
Gavinmc42 wrote:
The Pi is not just CPU and GPU.
Keep the GPU, it works well enough, plus it is the secret sauce that others have trouble copying/supporting.
You have already proved the GPU/Peripherals/IO header can handle different CPU cores. Do they have to be ARM?
No they don't have to be ARM, but there is where a colossal amount of Linux kernel engineering is done. Which means robust and well supported software.
Gavinmc42 wrote:
Pi market isn't big enough to recoup that sort of investment
Not yet :lol:
Hmm, VC4+ Peripherals and giant FPGA, "what core would Sir like today and how many?"
Remember, future market...just because we have sold a load, doesn't mean that everyone who has one will buy another one. Predicting the future market is crystal ball territory.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Fri May 05, 2017 3:23 pm

I'm not sure anything you suggest could be done for less than $10M, probably double that. And the Pi market isn't big enough to recoup that sort of investment. You also need an ISP and camera interface block (there are no O/S ISP's AFAIK), display block etc. The Pi is not just CPU and GPU.
True. $10 Million is a lot of cash. Three options (ok, maybe more, but here are some):

1. Have Bill Gates make a check. After all, he gets $100 per second just for existing from bank interest. If you could convince him to give you 2 days worth of his bank interest, there's $17 million. (Not likely, but just amazing that some people can be so rich.)

2. Make Broadcom do this in partnership with you, split the profits, and license it out as the first and only RISC-V GPU on the market.

3. Run a Kickstarter for a Raspberry Pi board that uses RISC-V. A new architecture does NOT come out very often, so that alone is a big interest motivator. You would have to shoot really high, but the Kickstarter money + Broadcom + RPF = Hopefully enough.

I don't know much about FGPAs and all that, or the likelihood that RISC-V will take off, but it is a hope.
Keep the GPU, it works well enough, plus it is the secret sauce that others have trouble copying/supporting.
You have already proved the GPU/Peripherals/IO header can handle different CPU cores. Do they have to be ARM?
This is what I wish, that VideoCore could be turned over to using RISC-V cores instead of ARM cores. Job done. Possibly quite expensive, but that is what Broadcom is for (with some convincing). Not everyone wants ARM, and RISC-V is a new, novel architecture. Keeping the GPU is probably the best option, because Mali is not very good (from what I have heard). Plus it would ensure some backward-compatibility, and it really makes cloning the Raspberry Pi a hard job.
As long as it even boots they could sell them, who actually cares what cpu is on it, 1% of the buyers?
I certainly care. So do most people on here (apparently).
No they don't have to be ARM, but there is where a colossal amount of Linux kernel engineering is done. Which means robust and well supported software.
A lot, yes. This isn't something a regular programmer can help with (it is a complex language). This could be a problem, unless you really overshoot the Kickstarter option...
Remember, future market...just because we have sold a load, doesn't mean that everyone who has one will buy another one. Predicting the future market is crystal ball territory.
Predicting the future is hard. However, you have sold a lot of Pi 3s... Not a bad estimate. I would think this as being mostly future-proofing too. RISC-V is new and unproven. Prove it as a cheaper, faster, more open option, and RPF/Broadcom could make some real money... After all, Android is being converted to a core-neutral design already so that Android doesn't have to be tied to ARM anymore. If RISC-V chips from Broadcom with design input from RPF can run faster than ARM while being cheaper and using less battery (like they hope and believe), they would be a hit.

If they become a hit, RPF sells more AND the investment could slowly earn it's way back.
Pi market isn't big enough to recoup that sort of investment.
Maybe now, but a few years down the line, maybe it will be.

Finally, never underestimate the open source community. When they see a project they believe in, money comes in quickly. After all, Ubuntu raised $13 Million for a phone (that doesn't run Android apps) that could hook up to a monitor. It was on IndieGogo, so even though they didn't hit the $33 Million goal, they still got a lot of money toward a failed enterprise. A Raspberry Pi on a RISC-V, with open-source architecture? That will bring interest. Big interest.


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Gavinmc42
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sat May 06, 2017 1:56 am

The question to ask is. Will Broadcom not offer a RISC-V option?
There are some big names on that RISC-V interest list, Qualcomm, AMD, Huawei do know chips.
Will servers run on RISC-V? Will Debian run on RISC-V?
Is Broadcom watching this space? RPF is transparent compared to BCM Limited :lol:

Yes xtal ball batteries go flat very fast but sometimes you do get a glimpse of the future.

RPT is a Broadcom customer, are they a big one or just a blip on the balance sheets?
No GPU yet for the RISC-V, will Broadcom make that happen?
Do BCM have a customer that knows VC4 and can do a lot of work themselves porting?

Is the sales of Pi's limited by production or supply?
A question for Mike Buffham who may be Farnell or Director of Product Management at RPT.

Just more speculation, which is some of the fun, well for me anyway :lol: It annoys Jamesh.
If Broadcom make a VC4/RISC-V chip and RPT make a board, would I buy them?
Hifive have made a few thousand E310 boards at $59, which tends to indicate to me the chip might be quite low priced.
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fruitoftheloom
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sat May 06, 2017 12:26 pm

Avago Technology aka New Broadcom:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcom_Limited



There is nothing in their current portfolio which suggests they want to re-enter the Mobile SoC market after closing that division under Old Broadcom.


I believe RPT dealt with Brodcom Swindon STB Division for the Boot Mode BCM2837 Updates.

So unless the STB Division create a Risc-V SoC it is more than likely RPT will stay with ARM CPU...
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sat May 06, 2017 3:30 pm

fruitoftheloom,
Avago Technology aka New Broadcom:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcom_Limited
Phew, that is one complicated and tortuous company history.
There is nothing in their current portfolio which suggests they want to re-enter the Mobile SoC market after closing that division under Old Broadcom.
Where have you inferred that from?

Over the past year or so I have read snippets of news implying that Broadcom is no longer developing an ARM/GPU SoC, that the entire GPU department was laid off, etc.

That all seems to imply that it is the end of the road for the Pi as we know it, it cannot move forward unless it jumps ship to some other SoC.

At which point going RISC V does not seem so outlandish. Team up with the LowRISC guys or SiFive or whoever.

All speculation and wild guess work of course. If anyone on the inside of all this has more concrete information to share that would be great.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sat May 06, 2017 4:32 pm

Heater wrote:fruitoftheloom,
Avago Technology aka New Broadcom:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcom_Limited
Phew, that is one complicated and tortuous company history.
There is nothing in their current portfolio which suggests they want to re-enter the Mobile SoC market after closing that division under Old Broadcom.
Where have you inferred that from?

Over the past year or so I have read snippets of news implying that Broadcom is no longer developing an ARM/GPU SoC, that the entire GPU department was laid off, etc.

That all seems to imply that it is the end of the road for the Pi as we know it, it cannot move forward unless it jumps ship to some other SoC.

At which point going RISC V does not seem so outlandish. Team up with the LowRISC guys or SiFive or whoever.

All speculation and wild guess work of course. If anyone on the inside of all this has more concrete information to share that would be great.
They must have expertise left in their Set Top Box Division, here is one example:

https://www.broadcom.com/products/broad ... x/bcm7366/
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sat May 06, 2017 10:48 pm

They must have expertise left in their Set Top Box Division, here is one example:
Going through the product list there are still VC4 embedded in some products.
Not sure how they do the 4K stuff? 4K Joey, whatever that is.

But try to find a BCM chip also with camera/display interfaces, this is what RPF use.
BCM dropped Smartphone/Tablet main CPU development.
Well RPF have a 5 year road plan, BCM would have one too. Is there the same chips on both? I doubt it.

Looking at current BCM stuff I don't think BCM have any interest in a new Pi chip unless $$$$$$$$$.
But they would be silly to ignore the RISC-V architecture, because it at first glance looks simpler than high series ARMs.
Smaller die area = reduced cost, simpler chip = easier software?
Time to market, big issue, known gcc/Linux , well you can download that BCM github.

https://github.com/Broadcom
ARM64 and stblinux latest changes, so you can see, no RICSC-V yet :lol:

No RISC-V in Linus's mainstream, but watch that space.
https://riscv.org/software-tools/

https://riscv.org/2017/03/risc-v-mainstream-ew2017/
The benefits of RISC-V extensibility will also be shown
Interesting word "extensibility" It could be the thing that really kicks the RISC-V into gear.
More flexible solutions for emerging markets.

In my opinion RISC-V looks useful and with the Chinese now controlling ARM via Softbank I can see that changes will happen.
It is easy to predict that things will change, a bit harder to say exactly what changes.
But look at the member list of RISC-V. This is no brainer prediction, RISC-V will be a player.

When RPF make a RISC-V board I will be buying them
One, because they are a low cost way for me to learn the architecture
Two, they will be well made.
Three, well supported,
Four, easy to get,
Five, reliable,
Six, reasonably well documented (debatable)

What will come on the Pi-V SBC?
Who know's? it's probably 3-5 years away.
Might have to get myself a FPGA or Hifive board in the mean time.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 5:46 am

You appear to have missed the point I was making, Broadcom still have expertise in ARM SoCs

So why go down an unknown rabbit hole with Risc- V?

ARM have been around longer than Linux so a good base to start from IMO.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 6:09 am

fruitoftheloom,
ARM have been around longer than Linux so a good base to start from IMO.
I know what you mean. So has Intel for that matter.

However with that logic we would all still be using Windows.

Luckily Torvald's and his Linux upset that apple cart.

Perhaps the Pi Foundation with it's huge following can upset the Intel/ARM apple cart.

There are plenty of big concerns out there who would like to help out I think.

Who would be against an open source CPU/SoC ?
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 6:40 am

Heater wrote: However with that logic we would all still be using Windows.
If Steve Jobs had his way we would all be using NextStep (aka BSD Mach Kernel Unix) which pre-dates Linux......

Luckily Torvald's and his Linux upset that apple cart.

Perhaps the Pi Foundation with it's huge following can upset the Intel/ARM apple cart.

There are plenty of big concerns out there who would like to help out I think.

Who would be against an open source CPU/SoC ?[/quote]

Personally I believe there is a market for an alternative product somewhere between a Arduino and a RPi Zero, but whether or not the RPT are best placed to do that remains to be seen.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 8:17 am

Get in the time machine, go forwards 10years.
Is RPF still around?
Kids who grew up with Pi's are now doing CS at Cambridge.
What will they be learning to code on?
Go another 10yrs, those kids are in the work force.
In 20yrs time still only x86/ARM's?

Got a few boxes under the house, Z80, 6502, 6511, CDP1802, NS32032, 6802/05/11/16, 68000,68008, 68328, 68340, 80286 386, 387,486, Prop1..........many many more cpu chips.

One day RISC-V? Just not tomorrow or next year? :lol:
Keep checking the Linux kernel arch folders, one day RISC-V, next release? 4.16, 4.20?
There is 4.6 for it, not mainstream yet, but one day.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 8:23 am

Gavinmc42 wrote:Get in the time machine, go forwards 10years.
Is RPF still around?
Kids who grew up with Pi's are now doing CS at Cambridge.
What will they be learning to code on?
Go another 10yrs, those kids are in the work force.
In 20yrs time still only x86/ARM's?

Got a few boxes under the house, Z80, 6502, 6511, CDP1802, NS32032, 6802/05/11/16, 68000,68008, 68328, 68340, 80286 386, 387,486, Prop1..........many many more cpu chips.

One day RISC-V? Just not tomorrow or next year? :lol:
Keep checking the Linux kernel arch folders, one day RISC-V, next release? 4.16, 4.20?
There is 4.6 for it, not mainstream yet, but one day.
OK fan boys it has taken 6 years to get to Kernel 4.6, whoopee-doo, and we can run FreeBSD (obviously) :roll:

https://wiki.freebsd.org/riscv

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RISC-V
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 10:32 am

Linux Kernel not so important for me these days, but I hear some people still use it.
Prediction - they will still be using it 20yrs from now.
Currently I use baremetal Pascal on Pi's, is there a Free Pascal compiler for RISC-V yet?

I will be looking for something that can code for and handle hundreds of cores
What language/tools will be used on massive parallel computer vision stuff or can I forget this because the CV stuff will happen on sensors in custom MP cpu's which may be RISC-V.

Basically I've been ignoring RISC-V because as a hardware guy it's not real till I can buy the chips.
It's now real and I have to consider the implications and see where the trend is going.
Personally I see no reason for 64bit cpu's to support 32bit instructions for the stuff I do as I am working at the coalface and have no need to support old shovels when I am designing the latest robotic miner.

If it is new and can do what I want faster, cheaper, lower power, has more features etc I will use it.
If I was a software guy, it would be "hey don't change a thing I finally understand this chip now" :lol:
If I was a hardware guy trying to learn to be a software guy on the Pi chips, I would say, "it's too bloody complicated, I will never understand this undocumented thing, isn't there an easier chip to master"?

If I was scared of new things I would not be here.
Legacy stuff is for historians not futurists.
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Re: RISC-V one day?

Sun May 07, 2017 3:58 pm

Turned in to a thread of not much use (or indeed correctness). This threads time has come, unlike RISC-V.
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