An earlier core, the FE310 announced in November 2016, is downloadable for free. SiFive also made dedicated RISC-V processor silicon that it has developed available on a development board named the HiFive1
Now SiFive is offering two initial commercial design configurations available under the Coreplex brand: the E31 and the E51. Both offer a degree of online configurability in terms of ports and prices start at $275,000 for the E31 and $595,000 for the E51, accoding to the SiFive online licensing procedure. Sums are payable over six months.
The Coreplex-E31 is 32bit, optimized for low power and intended for embedded applications such as edge computing, smart IoT and wearables, SiFive said. The Coreplex-E51 is a 64-bit embedded core and is intended to act as the host control core inside 64bit SoCs.
SiFive said that its website has datasheets, specifications and app notes available without a non-disclosure agreement. Designers can get instant access to FPGA bitstream models to test software, SDK and tools. Fully functional, synthesizable evaluation RTL is also available.
The RISC-V processor architecture developed out of University of California Berkeley as an open-source alternative to such architectures as ARM and MIPS. It is therefore available royalty free but the commercial use of particular instantiations and support can still be bound by a licensing contract.
“We continue to offer open-source RTL but the RTL is all you get for free. A lot of customers are asking for a commercial license,” Jack Kang, vice president of products and business development at SiFive told eeNews Europe. Kang made an analogy with the Linux open-source operating system which is available for free but is available packaged and supported for a fee from RedHat Inc.
“With Coreplex you get additional documentation, verification collateral, a warranty of performance, integration and synthesis guidelines and support. A lot of users prefer the support model and with the E31 and E51 we’ve made it very easy to license. You don’t need to talk to anyone. We’ve chosen to make them a per-project license without royalty,” Kang added.
Next: Click-through licensing
“As an engineer, trying to get information from your average IP vendor is an exercise in futility,” said Yunsup Lee, CTO and co-founder of SiFive, in a statement. “The countless number of NDAs, partial answers and sales meetings you must agree to just to get basic evaluation material makes it feel like they don’t want your business. It’s unbelievable how far behind the industry is compared to the ease in which SaaS [software as a service] companies provide their products. When we founded SiFive, we wanted to change that. Through our ‘study-evaluate-buy’ model, we’ve made Coreplex IP licensing as easy as buying a subscription to any modern software service.”
There is also a developing ecosystem of support around RISC-V (see Mixed foursome offers RISC-V development support). The RISC-V Foundation includes Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Samsung and Microsemi as members. SiFive maintains a chain of development tools, SDK and BSPs with binaries of the latest open source tools, including OpenOCD, GNU Debugger, Arduino IDE, and the Eclipse integrated development environment.
SiFive was founded by RISC-V inventors Yunsup Lee, Andrew Waterman and Krste Asanovic,
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