Pronounced risk-five, RISC-V is an open standard ISA (instruction set architecture) based on the principles of RISC (reduced instruction set computer). RISC simplifies the instructions given to the processor to accomplish various tasks but unlike most ISAs, RISC-V is provided under open-source licenses. This means that it’s free and open for anyone to use. Every single processor uses an ISA to function. Though some are licensable, few are free, which is what makes RISC-V unique.
Companies across the globe are becoming increasingly interested in RISC-V. Why? Precisely because it’s a common free and open standard to which software can be ported. This allows them to freely develop their own hardware to run the software – an understandably attractive prospect for many businesses. This, coupled with the growing demand for securing IoT devices, is driving the global market for RISC-V technology to new heights. BCC Research predicts the RISC-V technology market will grow at a CAGR of 33.1% to reach as much as $2.7 billion by the end of 2027. Let’s explore the current trends propelling the industry on a momentous growth curve.
Businesses need to secure IoT devices
The number of connected devices is growing. The IoT has steadily become an integral part of people’s lives, impacting almost every industry, from healthcare to transportation to agriculture. But as the devices become more interconnected, securing them also becomes more complex. One solution lies in leveraging a layered security approach that uses a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). A TEE is essentially just a secure area of a main processor, which can protect critical functionality from untrusted software. Another method is to embrace cryptographic methods to protect data in transit and at rest – but this system has its flaws. Security can only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain: exploiting a single vulnerability in any components is enough to compromise the entire device.
That’s what makes TEE the best method to guarantee confidentiality, integrity and availability. However, TEE technology is yet to achieve widespread adoption outside the mobile market because of two major factors. First, the underlying hardware blocks are based on proprietary IP, which leads to expensive, fragmented implementations across vendors and platforms. Second, the hardware-centric approach is difficult to understand and properly implement across different microarchitectures. Because of critical vulnerabilities in the microarchitectural components, this approach is tough to implement and apply.
But fortunately, the RISC-V instruction set architecture’s (ISA) design overcomes these hurdles. RISC-V succeeds because it defines most of the TEE hardware requirements as part of the standard specs. This makes the TEE hardware blocks available in any RISC-V implementation without the need for proprietary IP; it also includes privileged execution extensions and the physical memory protection (PMP), a strong standard that allows M-mode to control physical memory access from lower privileges. The open design of these RISC-V ISA makes the ISA’s TEE implementation scalable and flexible across silicon implementations from tiny 32-bit single core MCUs to 64-bit multicore Linux capable systems.
As the number of IoT devices steadily climbs, so will businesses’ reliance on RISC-V to provide a safe and secure connection.
The surge of connected autonomous vehicles
Automotive manufacturers and suppliers are slowly shifting towards software-defined connected vehicles due to increased demands on the computing platform. From entertainment and driver assistance to autonomous driving, this software provides good benefits across the value chain when integrated into vehicles. The latest automotive innovations like intuitive infotainment, self-driving abilities, and electrification depend less on mechanical ingenuity and more on supportive software quality, execution, and integration. The huge cost of integrating and upgrading the features that consumers increasingly expect, including high-end onboard assistants and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), is also intimidating. The adoption of open-source software with RISC-V is fueling a high degree of innovation in the automotive industry.
The rise of autonomous and connected cars has made open-source software and RISC-V essential in this innovation. RISC-V and open instruction set architecture (ISA) offers rapid processor innovation through open standard collaboration. The transformation to the digital automobile is driving the demand for computing requirements, the pace of innovation, and the flexibility required within the automotive supply ecosystem. This evolution is a key driver in the success of RISC-V architecture in the automotive space.
Growth in High-Performance Computing
In terms of opportunity, the growth in high-performance computing (HPC) is the place to look. Major HPC unit shipments grew 10% in 2021, driven primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rapid digitilization stimulated by the pandemic induced a structural increase in HPC-related semiconductor demand. HPC can process data and perform complex calculations at high speeds, the same as supercomputers. For the most part, HPC occurs on supercomputers. These powerful systems help organizations in solving problems that would otherwise be insurmountable. And these problems, or tasks, require processors that can carry out instructions faster than standard computers, sometimes running many processors in parallel to obtain answers within a practical duration.
As we move into the 5G era, an increasingly intelligent and more connected world means computation power needs to be up to scratch – equally, it needs to be energy efficient. All these require higher performance and more power-efficient CPUs, GPUs, NPUs, AI accelerators, and related-ASICs, which should drive the overall HPC platform towards richer silicon content, more advanced process technologies and advanced 3D packaging. These trends will support the growth of microprocessors during the forecast period. An improvement in HPC products should boost the market for RISC-V technology during the forecast period.
Market analysis of RISC-V technology
BCC Research’s recent report breaks down the market for RISC-V technology. Providing five-year forecasting, and an evaluation of the competitive landscape and emerging technologies, the report provides an invaluable guide for those navigating the landscape.
Download your complimentary report overview or purchase the report in full here.