Nvidia, AdaCore partnership telegraphs RISC-V shift

February 6, 2019 | 10:58

Tags: #ada #fossi #free-and-open-source-silicon #instruction-set-architecture #isa #logic-processors #risc-v #soc #spark #system-on-chip

Companies: #adacore #nvidia #risc-f-foundation

Nvidia is getting more deeply involved with the open RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), following a partnership with AdaCore which will see it migrate 'some system-on-a-chip products lines' away from proprietary ISAs.

That Nvidia has been working with the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), developed in 2010 at the University of California, Berkeley, as a completely free and open alternative to proprietary ISAs in everything from microcontrollers to supercomputers, is no secret: Nvidia is a platinum-level founding member of the RISC-V Foundation, after all, and has publicly commented on its work to shift to RISC-V for the logic processing in its graphics products. Now, though, the company appears to be going a step further with a partnership that will see it migrate system-on-chip (SoC) products to RISC-V as well.

Nvidia's partnership with fellow RISC-V Foundation member AdaCore concentrates primarily on the use of the Ada programming language, alongside high-integrity variant Spark, to rewrite firmware used in autonomous vehicle and other safety- and security-critical platforms to improve their robustness. 'Nvidia's selection of Ada and Spark ushers in a new era in the history of safety- and security-critical software development,' claims Quentin Ochem, lead of Business Development at AdaCore, of the companies' work together. 'We are proud to be contributing to the industrial standards set by such a market leader.'

Tucked away in AdaCore's press release, though, is the explanation that 'some Nvidia system-on-a-chip product lines will migrate to a new architecture using the RISC-V Instruction Set Architecture (ISA),' though which products are to be affected is not discussed.

At present, Nvidia's SoC designs are focused exclusively on in-house variants of the proprietary Arm processor core families, which in turn use the proprietary Arm ISA. While the company's work with RISC-V has previously concentrated on migrating logic processors, a focus on SoC migration could potentially see the company ditching Arm altogether in favour of RISC-V - starting, given the market at which its partnership with AdaCore is aimed, with its Drive family of autonomous vehicle products but potentially extending throughout its portfolio.

Neither AdaCore nor Nvidia have detailed exactly which SoC designs are being targeted for the shift, though, nor when the first RISC-V-based systems with Ada firmware will be available to customers.

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