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SiFive 21G1 Update Boosts Hash Rates

May 11, 2021

Author: Aakash Jani

SiFive’s intellectual-property (IP) portfolio is getting smarter thanks to its “Intelligence” platform and 21G1 release. At the recent Linley Spring Processor Conference, the company announced a new AI platform that uses the Intelligence extensions to reduce convolution-processing time by 4x compared with a standard RISC-V vector implementation. A few weeks earlier, it announced the 21G1 update, which increases SHA-256 hash rates by 35%, among other instruction-set and architectural improvements.

SiFive updates its RISC-V IP through new releases that apply to its entire CPU-core portfolio. The latest, 21G1, packs a combination of software and instructional changes, and it upgrades the CPU subsystem. It balances multiple enhancements, such as flexible address mapping and better trace features, with performance and scalability improvements, such as core-local ports that improve bandwidth to tightly coupled accelerators. For the 21G1 release, the company is shipping RTL for general availability.

Offering a more software-centric approach, the Intelligence platform expands SiFive’s AI software stack to support its vector cores. The new software implements RVV and augments TensorFlow Lite capabilities with Intelligence extensions. Tenstorrent and Renesas are lead customers. The former will use Intelligence and the X280 for its second-generation inference and training processors (the current models have ARC cores), whereas the latter works with SiFive to evaluate RISC-V CPUs and software for automotive systems.

Beyond machine learning and AI, SiFive has been spreading the good word of RISC-V. Keeping pace with the foundry landscape, it has enabled its IP to work with Intel’s custom foundry design kits and has completed a tapeout in TSMC’s 5nm technology. To further its tool chain and reach, it also joined the Darpa Toolbox initiative, a program that simplifies access to IP and tool chains.

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