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RISC-V and Linux Foundation partner up

Nov 27, 2018 — by Eric Brown 1,318 views

The RISC-V Foundation and the Linux Foundation agreed to a collaboration to accelerate open source development for the open source RISC-V ISA, starting with RISC-V starter guides for Linux and Zephyr.

The RISC-V Foundation and the Linux Foundation announced a partnership to “accelerate open source development and adoption of the RISC-V ISA” and “grow the RISC-V ecosystem with improved support for the development of new applications and architectures across all computing platforms.” The Linux Foundation will advise RISC-V on “neutral governance and best practices for open source development” and provide resources for training programs, infrastructure tools, community outreach, and marketing and legal expertise.

One early collaboration between the nonprofit open source organizations is the joint development of “Getting Started” guides for running Linux and the LF’s open source Zephyr RTOS on RISC-V. The guides will be unveiled at the RISC-V Summit in Santa Clara, Calif. on Dec. 3 during training classes. The classes will be hosted by led by project contributors from RISC-V Foundation Founding Platinum Members Antmicro, Google, Microchip Technology, and Western Digital, in addition to the Linux Foundation.


HiFive Unleashed

The RISC-V Foundation can legitimately use the buzzwords that other technology projects often misapply, from disrupting the industry to going viral. The project has enjoyed 100 percent year-over-year membership growth, with some 210 members to date. RISC-V’s open source ISA catalog includes microcontroller designs for RTOSes like Zephyr that compete with Arm’s proprietary Cortex-M ISA (instruction set architecture), as well as Linux-friendly applications processor ISA that competes with Arm Cortex-A and x86 platforms.

The Linux efforts are led by SiFive and its Freedom U540 SoC, which powers its HiFive Unleashed SBC. SiFive recently announced new U74 and U74-MC core designs. Other Linux-ready RISC-V contenders include the India-based Shakti project.

As an organization that promotes Linux and open source projects, it’s not surprising that the Linux Foundation would collaborate with RISC-V. The foundation’s Linux kernel project worked quickly to add kernel support for RISC-V’s architecture, and now other Linux software projects from the LF’s Yocto Project to Fedora are accelerating RISC-V development. Zephyr was also early to jump on the RISC-V bandwagon.

While the early focus for RISC-V has been on embedded platforms, a quote from Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation suggests it’s going after the cloud and datacenter, as well. “RISC-V has great traction in a number of markets with applications for AI, machine learning, IoT, augmented reality, cloud, data centers, semiconductors, networking and more,” stated Zemlin. “RISC-V is a technology that has the potential to greatly advance open hardware architecture.”

Rick O’Connor, executive director of the RISC-V Foundation, had this to say: “This joint collaboration with the Linux Foundation will enable the RISC-V Foundation to offer more robust support and educational tools for the active RISC-V community, and enable operating systems, hardware implementations and development tools to scale faster.”

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