Intel to Create RISC-V Development Platform with 7nm SiFive P550 Cores in 2022

As part of SiFive’s announcements today, alongside enabling SiFive IP on Intel’s foundry service offerings, Intel will create its own RISC-V development platform using its 7nm process technology . This platform, called Horse Creek, will feature several of SiFive’s new Performance P550 cores, also announced today, and will be paired with Intel’s DDR and PCIe IP technologies.

On first reading of the press release, it’s not 100% clear whether Intel’s comment is about a platform with P550 as a host or as an expansion device: to quote Intel , ‘We are delighted to be a Senior Development Partner with SiFive to show joint customers the impressive performance of their P550 on our Horse Creek 7nm platform ‘. Historically, Intel has generally kept its Creek surnames, such as Boulder Creek, Cherry Creek, or Timber Creek, for socket platforms, and not for all-in-one integrated development platforms. Not only that, the wording gives the impression that we should think of a RISC-V kernel as a helper kernel managing another part of a system.

However, it looks like Intel intends to make it a full development system, along the lines of SiFive’s own HiFive Unmatched platform that launched earlier this year. What makes this special is that Intel is committing to develop the SoC on its own 7nm process node, which provides a “simpler” vehicle for Intel to test and accelerate its 7nm technology. This can be coupled with a growing interest in RISC-V development and the deployment of a platform through Intel’s supply chain and distribution could have far-reaching implications for putting them in the hands of future developers.

The new SiFive Performance P550 core at the heart of Horse Creek is the highest performing SiFive processor to date, with the company citing a SPEC2006int of 8.65 per GHz. It is a Linux compatible kernel, with full support for the RISC-V v1.0rc vector extension. It features 13-step triple-edit failed microarchitecture with 32KB + 32KB private L1 cache and private L2 cache (per core) The design supports four cores in a single cluster that can be paired up to ‘to 4 MB of shared L3.

The timescale for bringing this platform to market is quite interesting. Although Intel recently committed to bringing its 7nm to market in 2023 with its Meteor Lake processor compute slab as its first 7nm product, we are told that Horse Creek silicon will be ready in 2022, which would make Horse Creek its first 7 nm. product. For what it’s worth, the Intel RISC-V solution is unlikely to be tile-based, but it might be easy enough to bring a small RISC-V chip development platform to market at this time – the. The chip is likely to be small, which could also work in favor of its costs. A question remains as to whether Intel’s involvement here is purely hardware, or whether there will be an Intel-based software stack to go along with it.

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