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India to design first 64bit RISC-V processor

Posted: 28 Jan 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RISC-V  Shakti  IoT  VLSI  neuromorphic cores 

India is set to develop its first 64bit microprocessor once the government's R&D division receives about $45 million funding before June. The project is the country's second attempt at designing a CPU based on the RISC-V instruction set, following the Shakti designs in the works at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras.

The projects show the increasing sophistication of India's semiconductor sector. However it's not clear if either effort will result in commercially deployed products, and both face challenges retaining skilled chip designers at a time when engineering salaries in India are rising and job hopping is common.

If funding is released as expected, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), a branch of India's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, could tape out a 64bit RISC-V processor in about 30 months, said Biju C. Oommen, a senior manager in C-DAC's chip design unit. The team consists of about 70 engineers who have designed a wide variety of 8- to 32bit processors and SoC blocks.

The team has worked on chips for both government and commercial users ranging from an energy metering IC to a digital programmable hearing aid and an automotive controller. C-DAC was created in 1988 to develop supercomputers after the United States banned export of the systems to India and expanded to cover a wide variety of high tech projects.

The VLSI team plans to design a quad-core processor running at up to 2GHz. "This is more complex than any other processor we have designed. We have not taped out anything beyond a 32bit processor to date," said Oommen.

The design could deliver variants for a wide range of public and private customers. Targets could include tablets or gateways for the Internet of Things.

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