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Linux-driven RISC-V module can plug into Raspberry Pi CM4 cluster carrier

Apr 30, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 1657 views

Antmicro unveiled an open source, RPi CM4-compatible “ARVSOM” module that runs Linux on the RISC-V based StarFive 71×0 SoC. The ARVSOM can plug into Antmicro’s new Scalenode carrier in place of the CM4 for clustering projects.

RISC-V software developer Antmicro has launched its first embedded Linux driven RISC-V product. Its ARVSOM compute module uses the same RISC-V architecture StarFive JH7100 SoC as the BeagleBoard.org’s Seeed manufactured BeagleV SBC, which is now called the BeagleV – StarLight.



ARVSOM
(click image to enlarge)

The ARVSOM mimics the form factor and dual 100-pin B2B connector of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4. This compatibility enables it to work with Antmicro’s newly announced Scalenode carrier board for the Raspberry Pi CM4, which is designed for clustering applications (see farther below).

The ARVSOM module should also work with other Raspberry Pi CM 4 baseboards, says Antmicro. Both the ARVSOM module and Scalenode carrier are open hardware projects that run Linux.

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ARVSOM

The StarFive JH7100 SoC that powers the ARVSOM is built around 2x Cortex-A55-like, up to 1.5GHz SiFive U74 RISC-V cores, which are also used on the SiFive FU740 SoCs deployed on the chip designer’s $665 HighFive Unmatched SBC. StarFive’s JH7100 is further equipped with a 4K ready VPU, an ISP, and machine vision and AI coprocessors including a Tensilica Vision VP6 DSP, a 1-TOPS NPU, and an NVLDA (Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerator) Engine.

The beta version of the ARVSOM, as well as the BeagleV board, which is now shipping to beta testers, use the initial dual-core JH7100 model, which lacks a 3D GPU. Yet, according to the CNXSoft post that alerted us to the ARVSOM, production versions of both boards due this fall will ship with a quad-core JH7110, which will add PCIe support and a 3D-ready Imagination Technology IMG BXE-4-32 GPU.

Antmicro had minimal details on the ARVSOM, but CNXSoft found a few more specs, including the presence of up to 8GB LPDDR4. The 5V module measures a CM4-like 55 x 40 x 4.7mm and provides 4x M2.5 mounting holes.



BeagleV – StarLight
(click image to enlarge)

Antmicro notes that users can start developing software for the ARVSOM with its open source, RISC-V savvy Renode system modeling platform, which also supports the BeagleV – StarLight SBC. Antmicro and BeagleBoard.org have collaborated on optimizing the open source Renode simulation framework as a joint development environment.

After using Renode for software modeling, the software can be used throughout the development lifecycle to enable continuous testing and integration. Renode is also provided as a development tool by Microchip for its PolarFire SoC.

 
Scalenode

Antmicro’s new Scalenode carrier board for the Raspberry Pi CM4 or ARVSOM holds only a single module. However, the tiny boards can be combined in up to 18 board clusters in a 1U server rack. Cluster server applications include continuous integration systems and edge AI.



Scalenode with RPi CM4
(click image to enlarge)

Details were limited, but we know Scalenode is equipped with a GbE port with PoE support. The narrow board also has an M.2 slot that supports SSDs or other modules such as a Google Coral Edge TPU. There also appears to be a USB Type-C port. Antmicro will supply an enclosure, which like the board, is fully open source.

Other Raspberry Pi CM4 carriers that are aimed at clustering include the similarly single-slot PiTray. Multi-slot options include Turing Machines’ 4-slot Turing Pi 2 and Techbase’s up to 8-slot ClusBerry for Home

 
Further information

The ARVSOM will ship later in the year. The Scalenode appears to be further along, but no specific shipping or pricing details were provided for either product. More information may be found in Antmicro’s ARVSOM announcement and Scalenode announcement.

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