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This year, RISC-V has a higher priority for software

Last year, RISC-V International focused on standardizing its instruction sets. For application developers in particular, acquisition of the software stack is a priority this year.


Olof Kindgren Developer on Open Hardware, Board Member of FOSSi Foundation and Ambassador for RISC-V International, and more. He works at Comcom, a Swedish development company.
This text was previously published in Business Journal Electronics.

A processor is the interface between hardware and software and the processor architecture must have an instruction set that satisfies both.

Once it is implemented, software and hardware must be implemented.

Last year, under the leadership of its chief technology officer, Mark Himmelstein, RISC-V International made it a high priority to hammer out the final specifications of the most important additions to the instruction sets.

They were successful in this. By 2021, 15 specifications were completed. One is vector algorithms, which are important for machine learning, high-performance computing, and multimedia applications. Another is the hypervisor add-on, which is required for cloud and virtualization.

The next step will be software and hardware. Hardware is provided by chip suppliers, so RISC-V International has identified software as a priority area for 2022.

Although large parts of the software stack are already available for RISC-V, some important pieces of the puzzle are missing. This can be proprietary and open operating systems such as the latest version of Android or software standards such as ACPI or EFI.

A particular challenge with RISC-V is that there are currently about 40 additions to the base instruction set. To make it easier for software vendors, RISC-V has created so-called International Profiles.

A profile describes the set of instructional subroutines that software vendors can expect to be implemented, so that they don’t have to account for every conceivable combination of subroutines.

Currently, there are plans for three profiles, where RV22A, i.e. the profile for utility processors of 2022, is the highest priority.

In the long term, profiles M for microcontrollers and I (integer) for the base package will also be defined.

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