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RISC-V Why are chip makers keen on shifting to RISC-V?

From Venus Kohli Reading Time: 3 min

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Pronounced as “Risk Five” in the world of chipmakers, the RISC-V “Reduced Instruction Set Computer” is all set to take over the decade’s new-age AI hardware. RISC-V chips are open-source royalty-free hardware used for high-processing AI and ML applications with exceptional customization options. The article explains the importance of RISC-V and the quest of giant chip makers to revolutionize open-source hardware.

RISC-V came as the fifth generation of RISC processors in 2015.
RISC-V came as the fifth generation of RISC processors in 2015.
(Source: Song_about_summer -

What is so special about RISC-V?

The main feature of RISC-V is its open-source ISA (Instruction set architecture). The word “open-source” directly points out that there is no fixed specification of RISC-V hardware. No single entity, not even the manufacturer, vendor, or designer holds control over the RISC-V-based hardware. It makes RISC-V a decentralized technology with no authoritative body in the processor market.

Organizations can develop compatible RISC-V chips with their adapted instruction set, hardware, and compliance. In simple words, an open-source instruction set enables developers to customize the processor as per the organization’s requirements. The capabilities of RISC-V hardware are not just limited to the vendor but can be customized accordingly without paying any license fee.

How is the RISC-V rise affecting proprietary RISC-based processors?

Most chip-making companies specialize in designing and licensing semiconductor IPs (intellectual properties) in the world of electronics. There was a time when RISC architecture became the successor of CISC processors. RISC-V came as the fifth generation of RISC processors in 2015. The open-source and royalty-free nature of the RISC-V processors imposed a threat to big chip-making companies.

RISC-V opposes RISC from business verticals because most RISC-based processors offer “closed source” hardware to their clients. In simple words, RISC architecture-based chips are non-customizable, proprietary, and come with a license fee. Hence, the introduction of RISC-V is a threat to RISC-based chips because of the elimination of licensing and design fees with unlimited customization capabilities.

Developments on RISC-V so far

RISC-V International is a community of hardware and software developers that support RISC-V efforts. According to the latest news, RISC-V is gaining popularity in Europe and America. Countries like China are looking to merge architectures for a unified design. RISC-V is expanding in China as the country is all set to fund RISC-V academic and business initiatives.

The new German RISC-V company

The latest buzz in the semiconductor industry is that big companies are joining hands to scale RISC-V AI chips. Five semiconductor chip-making giants- Qualcomm, Infineon Technologies, NXP Semiconductors, Robert Bosch GmbH, and Nordic Semiconductor, are investing in a joint venture to develop and commercialize RISC-V processors. The RISC-V company will be based out of Germany to design reference automotive RISC architectures. The company is later said to be focusing on RISC-V for IoT. As of now, the German company’s name, amount of investment, and other important details have not been declared for security purposes, and lack of regulatory compliance for RISC-V.

Conclusion: Future of RISC-V

A market study predicts that RISC-V is all set to witness some of the biggest growth numbers in CPU shipments over a rise of 126 % in core counts. RISC-V chips are designed to complete fast processing operations in shorter cycles that are heavily needed in AI and ML applications.

In conclusion, RISC-V chips are open-source, royalty-free, programmable, and customizable with no regulatory body. Buyers can customize the chip as they wish, without interference from the vendor and the need to bear the license fee. Hence, RISC-V is a threat to chip-making companies but an innovation in the tech world.

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