Imagination launches four RISC-V processor IP families

Imagination launches four RISC-V processor IP families

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The launch of the Catapult range is intended to provide the foundation of a significant new line of processors at Imagination. The first cores use a 32bit in-order pipeline for real time embedded CPUs, and a functionally-safe version is already shipping for automotive GPUs.

It is also developing a range of ultra low power, small area dynamic microcontrollers, as well as 64bit in-order High-Performance Application CPUs that will run Linux and automotive CPUs from 2022.

The company has a long heritage of processor design, with its original META core still used as the house keeping core in its latest ray-tracing graphics processor unit (GPU) IP. The company also owned the MIPS processor line until 2018. Former Imagination CEO Ron Black is now CEO at competing RISC-V processor IP developer Codasip.

“Renesas has a long history of working with Imagination, and its proven track record of delivering reliability, trust and innovation has enabled us to deliver market-leading automotive SoCs. The growing RISC-V market requires a wide range of products and trusted delivery partners, as well as an increased focus on safety and security. We welcome Imagination’s new Catapult RISC-V CPU IP, which is sure to meet those criteria,” said Tatsuya Kamei, Vice President, Automotive SoC Development Division, Renesas.

But the company is aiming at 32bit and 64bit out-of-order CPU pipelines with multiple stage for higher frequency and higher processing performance in the next 18 to 24 months. This will lead to a new processor family in 2024.

The Catapult CPUs are aimed at markets ranging across 5G modems, storage, ADAS / autonomous vehicles, data centre, and high-performance computing. They are multi-threaded and come in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants and are highly configurable, scaling up to eight asymmetric coherent cores-per cluster for enhanced SoC versatility, with an option to add custom accelerators.

“As the demand for compute grows in the cloud, at the edge and in devices, there is an ever-greater challenge to process immense amounts of data in tightly constrained area and power budgets. Heterogeneous architectures are key to providing performance, flexibility and resilience when accelerating an increasingly diverse set of workloads,” said Tim Mamtora, Chief of Innovation at Imagination. “Our new CPU cores allow us to better meet these needs by bringing to market a comprehensive range of outstanding RISC-V solutions that complement our world-class GPU, neural network and Ethernet products.”

The cores are fully supported by the broad and increasing RISC-V ecosystem of software and tools. With the early availability of performance models, SoC manufacturers can model their application needs and choose the right compute elements.

Catapult CPUs are delivered with both fast and performance models, which offer interactive debug and are compatible with the gem5 simulator, unlocking simulation environments for enhanced power and energy-efficiency testing.

Catapult automotive CPUs are developed to ISO 26262 automotive standards and provide a range of CPU solutions for each Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL). In addition to being available in functionally safe and secure variants, the CPUs are based on industry-proven security.

“RISC-V welcomes Imagination’s introduction of a line of RISC-V CPUs,” said Calista Redmond, Chief Executive Officer, RISC-V International. “These products by Imagination underline the growth of the RISC-V marketplace and its ecosystem of suppliers and their industry partners. Imagination demonstrates the rich and diversified opportunities that exist in RISC-V solutions targeting heterogeneous computing.”

Catapult CPUs are delivered with a fully featured SDK, which includes enhanced versions of industry standard build and debug tools such as GCC, LLVM and GDB, optimised C libraries, and Imagination’s Catapult Studio IDE. This is based on Visual Studio Code, with extra features focusing on embedded, RISC-V development and close integration to the wider SDK, empowering developers to take full advantage of Catapult CPUs.

The SDK is available for Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS and MacOS and includes both FreeRTOS and full support for Linux including reference bootloaders, kernels and Yocto-based filesystems.

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