Hybrid CPU-GPU based on RISC-V to challenge x86 and ARM: the chip from Imagination and Ventana

Ventana Micro Systems

Legendary CPU designer Jim Keller predicted that RISC-V will be the undisputed protagonist in the computer market processors more evolved within 5-10 years. He also added that the x86-64 or ARM64 instruction set does not count in the competition between these two platforms because it is the design of the processor to always take the lion’s share.

Con RISC-VOn the other hand, an architecture in which Qualcomm is also investing, historically closely linked with ARM, designers are not forced to deal with characteristics that have stratified over the years, which also tend to burden the functioning of new chips. Keller explains that RISC-V is a simple, royalty-free architecture that integrates all modern features. Optimizations must also be concentrated on the first 8 instructions of RISC-V because they are crucial for most of the basic operations that a processor is called upon to perform. By focusing on the first 8 instructions, developers can improve efficiency processor overall, as these instructions form the basis for many other more complex operations.

Imagination and Ventana work on a RISC-V hybrid CPU-GPU chip to challenge x86 and ARM

So far we have talked about RISC-V mainly for i microcontrollori and devices designed to perform very specific tasks. More recently, products based on the RISC-V architecture have begun to enter the market data center and some companies, such as European Semidynamics, have developed intellectual property around the platform. Own Semidynamics unveiled a high-performance RISC-V vector drive forparallel processing for use with artificial intelligence applications, deep learning, scientific computing, and so on.

According to what Jon Peddie Research reports, Imagination and Ventana have teamed up for the development and subsequent launch on the market of a chip ibrido CPU-GPU based on RISC-V.

In fact, there is great interest on the part of the industry in seeking alternatives to existing platforms. The mobile and automotive industries, for example, are looking around to identify possible replacements for the SoC ARM.

Heterogeneous RISC-V processor integrating high-performance CPU and GPU: the idea from Ventana

Ventana Micro Systemsfounded in California in 2018, intends to build a chiplet processor capable of adapting to different applications: from the automotiveto edge computing to data centers, from artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to hyperscalerlarge cloud service providers that provide scalable, enterprise-grade services.

At the RISC-V Summit in December 2022, Ventana has already presented its first product: Veryon V1. The idea, however, is now to create an even more powerful CPU (consisting of a maximum of 192 cores) that can support a High performance GPUs within the same chip.


Image source: Ventana.

In fact, Ventana technicians explain that a CPU, whether RISC or CISC, is still a CPU. To make them take on the leadership role from a performance point of view, you need to use a accelerator for parallel processing SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data). In parallel processing, which is so useful for managing a wide variety of tasks, a single command (instruction) is used to simultaneously perform the same operation on multiple data.

Il advantage main feature of a SIMD accelerator is the increase in computational performance. Since the same operation is carried out on multiple data simultaneously, the benefits become tangible for all those operations that involve large sets of data. The modern ones GPU I am able to perform SIMD operations on a large scale.

Imagination Technologies will build the GPU for the RISC-V chiplet processor

To build a Heterogeneous SoC like the one described, Ventana turned to one of the companies with the most experience and a wide range of intellectual property regarding the design and creation of GPUs: Imagination Technologies.

Both Ventana and Imagination are members of RISC-V International and active supporters of the project RISC-V Software Ecosystem (LAUGHS). Even though there are over 3,000 companies involved in the development ofsoftware ecosystem Helping to support the operation of RISC-V chips, the collaboration between Ventana and Imagination is an important step for the industry, bringing together two processor developers who have achieved widespread success in their respective sectors.

Thus, the two companies have announced a hybrid RISC-V CPU-GPU that supports the two components, guaranteeing performance at the highest levels.

Ventana hybrid CPU-GPU performance

Image source: Ventana.

Competition with x86 and ARM products is destined to become intense

Ventana is also about to launch the chip Veyron V2: The main novelty, in this case, is that the RISC-V ISA sports all the main features to compete with x86/ARM. These include the adoption of a standard vector extension and the IOMMU specification.

The standard vector extensions refer to a set of instructions and features that enable advanced vector operations. These extensions allow multiple data items to be processed simultaneously using a single instruction. The IOMMU specifications refer to the I/O memory management unit, designed to map and translate memory addresses generated by I/O devices (such as network cards, video cards, data storage products,…).

Among other features of the chip, the virtualization extensionssupport for nested virtualization, support forAdvanced Interrupt Architecture (AIA) or a set of specifications and features that improve the management of interrupts within the computer system, the availability of a large set of events and counters to monitor the behavior of the processor in real time, compatibility with the UCIe interface and more.


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