The RISC-V architecture is the best asset of the European supercomputing centers to become independent from the American CPUs
The architecture RISC-V aspires to be hardware linux. And little by little and thanks to the support of a community of enthusiasts who work tirelessly on it, and also thanks to the support of companies such as Huawei, Western Digital or ZTE, among others, it continues to walk the path that separates it from its goal.
RISC-V was born at the University of California at Berkeley, in 2010, with an essentially educational purpose, but also with the intention of establishing itself in the medium term as a free hardware alternative both the Intel and AMD x86-64 designs and the ARM architecture CPUs that have proliferated so much in recent years. As we can deduce by its name it is a RISC type design (computer with a reduced set of instructions).
RISC-V aims to establish itself as a free hardware alternative to both Intel and AMD x86-64 designs and ARM architecture CPUs.
Its most obvious attraction is that since it is a free and open architecture, it is available to any person, institution or company to be able to be used and modified. without paying any fee. This is a very powerful point in its favor, and makes it attractive for a wide range of use scenarios, such as personal computers, embedded systems or supercomputers, among other machines. Yes, also for supercomputers.
European supercomputing centers are betting on RISC-V, and they are doing it now
A few days ago we had the opportunity to talk long and hard with Mateo Valero, Professor of Computer Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and director of the BSC (Barcelona Supercomputing Center). Mateo is a renowned scientist and the greatest architect of supercomputing in Spain, and during our conversation with him he shared with us a very revealing reflection:
«What happened at that time with Linux [en alusión a la utilización de este sistema operativo en los supercomputadores] is happening now with hardware thanks to the RISC-V architecture. We are promoting that Europe can develop supercomputers with European hardware.
In addition, Mateo explained to us that the institution he directs, the BSC, is sponsoring a movement in supercomputing centers throughout the European Union that seeks to promote the development and use of RISC-V processors with a very clear intention: to ensure that supercomputing european do not have the dependency of the US processors you currently have.
«The BSC is the institution that is moving all this in Europe, sometimes with political problems, and others with economic problems. In any case, the only option Europe has if it wants to be independent in the field of supercomputing is only to develop RISC-V processors. And it is a political decision. There is no other solution”.
Currently the processors integrated in supercomputers not only in Europe, but from around the world, have been manufactured by Intel, IBM, AMD, NVIDIA, or by some of the companies that produce ARM chips. And this puts all the technology in the hands of a single country.
RISC-V could end the US hegemony in the field of supercomputers, but, as Mateo confesses, whether this strategy is viable or not is not in the hands of the directors of the supercomputing centers. Is in the hands of governments. It is, as Valero acknowledges, “a political decision.”
Cover image | Derrick Coetzee
More information | RISC-V