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posted by janrinok on Friday May 20 2022, @09:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the dont-put-some-of-your-eggs-in-too-many-baskets dept.

Tech war: China bets on open-source RISC-V for chip design to minimise potential damage from 'being cut off' by US sanctions

A growing number of Chinese chip design firms have adopted open-source RISC-V in their chip designs as an alternative to Intel's proprietary X86 and Arm's architecture, in a bid to minimise potential damage from US sanctions and to save on licensing fees.

[....] "[This] gives Chinese companies access to a global open standard instruction set architecture (ISA) ecosystem," said Stewart Randall, head of electronics and embedded software at consultancy Intralink. "So Chinese companies can have access to, and create, their own cores or chips based on it."

However, some industry experts said China's adoption of open-source RISC-V architecture would not shield them from all US sanction risks, as America still holds the trump card when it comes to electronic design automation (EDA) tools, the key software needed for chip design, as well as chip manufacturing technologies.

If you really want to create your own cores from scratch, without licensing anyone else's IP, is it truly possible to do so with RISC-V?

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Tech war: China bets on open-source RISC-V for chip design to minimise potential damage from 'being cut off' by US sanctions


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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by maxwell demon on Friday May 20 2022, @11:34AM (2 children)

    by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Friday May 20 2022, @11:34AM (#1246541) Journal

    IMHO it's actually a combination of several factors:

    • IBM chose it for their PC.
    • IBM required a second source for the processors, thus we got a competition of different manufacturers selling the same ISA, driving the price down.
    • IBM built their PC entirely from standard parts. IBM also did not require an exclusive licence from Microsoft for DOS. Those two facts allowing competition also on IBM compatible systems (though in this case, that definitely wasn't IBM's intent). Of course that include the system to be x86.

    In short, had IBM chosen another CPU back then (and it almost doesn't matter which one), that other CPU would likely now be the industry standard.

    Note that IBM did not, at that time, take the PC seriously (thus the open design and lack of IP protections), thus they probably chose the CPU mainly based on cost.

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 20 2022, @05:20PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 20 2022, @05:20PM (#1246629)

    In short, had IBM chosen another CPU back then (and it almost doesn't matter which one), that other CPU would likely now be the industry standard.

    I think that is correct, but completely unjustified by everything else you said. The question is not why a particular architecture won the battle in the early eighties. The question is why we are still using a descendant of that architecture 40 years later. And the answer is that in each subsequent technology generation consumers valued compatibility with their existing install base over any other factor.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Saturday May 21 2022, @12:22AM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 21 2022, @12:22AM (#1246738) Journal

      Software lock-in is a powerful phenomena. IBM had figured this out by the 1960s.

      Backward compatibility with an existing expensive collection of software is also a big draw.

      Can I interest you in a new processor that will require you to re-purchase and re-write all of your expensive software?

      Now with the rise of Linux, this problem began to disappear. Once the OS and compiler(s) are ported for other architectures, the huge software base tends to come along for a fairly low cost. But that was not true for much of computing history. Especially in the 1980s and prior.

      Once IBM chose Intel x86 for their PC -- we were stuck with it for decades.

      Now we are in the situation where the entire value proposition of both Windows and Intel x86 is nothing more than the compatibility with the existing software base. There are both better processors and better operating systems. Yet the WinTel duopoly will continue for some time just because of the tremendous need of backward compatibility with bass ackward systems.

      --
      I get constant rejection even though the compiler is supposed to accept constants.