China’s appetite for RISC: observations from IP-SOC Shanghai

Last week, I was in Shanghai for the Design & Reuse IP-SOC Days Shanghai event. A very well attended event with a cross-section of the industry in attendance.

If you weren’t able to get to the event, you can see my presentation by visiting our downloads page.

What else caught my eyes and ears?

RISC-V takes center stage

Well, we knew from attending the 6th RISC-V Workshop in May, also in Shanghai, that RISC-V interest in China is high. The ability to just get on with building great products and shipping them to market clearly appeals. However, listening to concerns last week, people wanted to know that there’s an ecosystem in place to support them. We had plenty of positive news to share on that front: UltraSoC is throwing a lot into RISC-V because we believe it’s what the industry is asking for. Since we announced the first and only trace support for RISC-V in June, we have had a huge amount of interest – trace is an important step in turning great designs into great RISC-V products.

Our recently announced partnership with SiFive was also received with great interest.

We’re going to be at the next RISC-V workshop later at the end of November and I’m excited to hear what everyone else is doing to further the potential for RISC-V. It’s a shift we firmly believe the industry wants and needs. China is hungry for RISC-V, and I for one applaud that and look forward to doing what we can to satisfy that demand. If you’re attending the RISC-V workshop, then get in touch and arrange a meeting.

There were plenty of other noteworthy developments at the event: unrelated to RISC-V or UltraSoC, but interesting nevertheless!

eFPGA: a new lease of life?

Having not had much involvement in FPGAs for a long time, I was interested to hear how embedded FPGAs (eFPGAs) are giving the technology a new lease of life.  The ability to accelerate algorithms make it a great solution for applications like high frequency trading. Being an embedded FPGA, it’s more tightly coupled with the processor, giving it the edge in terms of performance – nanoseconds can make all the difference in some of these critical applications.

Hardware-based security

It’s also great to know that everyone is taking IoT security so seriously – it’s almost impossible to hear an IoT presentation now without security being cited as a concern upfront. Of course UltraSoC has led the way in this field with our hardware-based security solution, Bare Metal Security, which uses UltraSoC on-chip monitors to watch for unexpected behaviors such as suspicious memory accesses or processor activity, to enable an entirely new level of security in SoCs.

Changing commercial models in the processor market

The industry is clearly finding ways to engage with lots of Chinese engineering talent full of great and ambitous ideas but in need of as much support as they can get, as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. ARM was at the conference to share recent updates to its DesignStart program (originally launched back in 2010) – it now offers zero upfront license fees and attractive royalty deals for low-volume designs – real positive steps to encourage more designers, startups and even OEMs.

Although that caught people’s attention, from other presentations and from conversations with other attendees it seems there is just as much interest in what some of the RISC-V players have to offer: zero royalties, and just as importantly a “$0 architecture license”. I heard how these companies have huge ambitions and want to be able to take their designs to the global market at competitive prices, without sacrificing profits.