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Compute module and eval kit run Linux on RISC-V-based PolarFire SoC

Jan 30, 2020 — by Eric Brown — 1437 views

Aries Embedded’s “M100PF” module runs Linux on Microchip’s RISC-V architecture PolarFire SoC and starts at $381 with 8x SERDES lanes and three levels of FPGAs up to 300K LE. A $684-and-up eval kit is also available.

Germany-based Aries Embedded, which has produced Linux-driven compute modules such as the i.MX6 UL-based M6UL, has launched the first module based on the PolarFire SoC, a Linux-powered, FPGA-enabled RISC-V system-on-chip from Microchip’s Microsemi unit (see farther below). The 74 x 42mm module supports applications including wireline access networks, cellular infrastructure, defense, commercial aviation, industrial automation, and IoT.

M100PF and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

Three versions of the M100PF module with different FPGA capabilities are available as follows:

  • M100PF-1ACI — MPF100T FPGA with 109K LE, 336 18×18 MACC math blocks — 345 Euros ($381)
  • M100PF-2ACI — MPF200T FPGA with 192K LE, 588 blocks — 408 Euros ($450)
  • M100PF-3ACI — MPF300T FPGA with 300K LE, 924 blocks — 522 Euros ($576)

An optional M100PFEVP evaluation kit sells for 620 Euros ($684), 683 Euros ($753), and 797 Euros ($879), depending on the FPGA level of the module (see farther below).

The M100PF was unveiled a year ago, as reported in a Feb. 12, 2019 CNXSoft post, and began sampling later in the year. Today, eeNews announced the product as if it was new and the products are now available on the Aries shopping page.

This is the first board-level implementation of the PolarFire SoC we’ve seen except for Microchip’s official, $2,000 dev kit. There’s also an upcoming, and presumably more affordable, PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit in the works with 40-pin GPIO. A few details on the Icicle kit were leaked in December when Microchip launched its early access program to its Linux-compatible “Mi-V” RISC-V development tools for the PolarFire SoC. At the time, the production release was scheduled for Q3 2020, so the M1000PF modules may be limited in quantity.

The M100PF ships standard with 1GB DDR3 SDRAM, 256MB NOR flash, and 4GB eMMC. RAM options include 512MB and 2GB, and the block diagram shows eMMC options up to 64GB.

M100PF front and back detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The 3.3V module provides 8x SERDES lanes with throughput ranging from 250Mbps to 12.5Gbps. There are 2x PCIe Gen2 end points/root ports, a clock PL, and a PMIC.

I/O includes a micro-USB port, as well as LCD, Ethernet, CAN, serial, I2C, SPI, and more. Both 0 to 70°C and -40 to 85°C models are available, and Aries promises support through 2032.

Dual Samtec board-to-board connectors link up to the optional M100PFEVP baseboard. The board is equipped with a microSD slot plus 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports, a micro-USB port, and 4x DB9 ports, including 2x UART and 2x CAN ports. The M100PFEVP eval board is further equipped with a TFT connector, an HSMC extension connector, and 3x PMOD extension connectors.

M100PFEVP eval board
(click images to enlarge)

The M100PF module and eval kit are available with the Linux- and FPGA PolarFire SoC development tools listed below. Open schematics are available upon request. According to eeNews, a M100PF model with a high-end 460K LE PolarFire SoC FPGA will be available in the future.

Aries has introduced a variety of Linux-enabled compute modules based on Intel PSG (Altera) FPGA SoCs. Eval kits based on the modules include the Arria 10 SoC based MAXEVK and the Cyclone V SoC powered MCV.

PolarFire SoC background

Microchip’s PolarFire SoC combines its previously launched PolarFire FPGA with 4x RISC-V U54-MC CPU cores supplied by SiFive. Microchip claims PolarFire SoC advantages over hybrid Arm/FPGA SoCs like the Xilinx Zynq such as the more customizable, open RISC-V design, lower power consumption and much better real-time deterministic capabilities. In December, the company called it “the first SoC FPGA with a deterministic, coherent RISC-V CPU cluster and a deterministic L2 memory subsystem enabling Linux plus real-time applications.”

PolarFire SoC architecture
(click image to enlarge)

The PolarFire SoC uses a modified version of SiFive’s 28nm fabricated, 960MHz to 1.5GHz U54-MC quad-core complex, which also powers SiFive’s Freedom U540 SoCs on its HiFive Unleashed development board. The official PolarFire SoC dev kit combines the SBC with Microchip’s own previously released, PolarFire FPGA equipped HiFive Unleashed Expansion Board.

Branch predictors on the U54-MC cores have been deactivated to enable more deterministic behavior, among other changes. The PolarFire SoC inherits the extensive security and reliability features of the PolarFire FPGA. These include single and double error correction and double error detection (SEC-DED) on all memories.

Further information

The M100PF is available starting at 345 Euros ($381) and the M100PFEVP eval board starts at 620 Euros ($684) — see pricing farther above. More information and links to shopping pages may be found on the Aries Embedded M100PF and M100PFEVP product pages.


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