Intel Shows Support for RISC-V Chip Design With Intel Pathfinder

September 08, 2022 by Jake Hertz

In yet another win for RISC-V, Intel has released a program to bolster the pre-silicon development of RISC-V devices.

Emerging as a small project out of UC Berkeley in 2010, the RISC-V movement has grown by leaps and bounds—now attracting the endorsement of Intel. On Aug. 30, Intel announced the launch of the new Intel Pathfinder program designed to assist engineers in the pre-silicon development of RISC-V products.


RISC-V Gains Steam

RISC-V is an open-standard instruction set architecture (ISA) pioneering the field of open-source silicon. While ISAs are not necessarily high-performance technology, they are free and open, allowing anyone to develop hardware at no upfront cost. To this end, RISC-V has been extremely valuable in democratizing silicon development, allowing everyone from small-stage startups to large corporations to develop silicon easily, affordably, and faster than ever before.


The growth of RISC-V Foundation membership

The growth of RISC-V Foundation membership. Image used courtesy of BusinessWire


As the movement has gained momentum, RISC-V in particular has garnered support from many of the industry’s most prominent names, including Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and IBM, among many others. In some ways, the success of RISC-V can be attributed to the strong support of RISC-V Foundation members who have helped build the tools and ecosystem to allow RISC-V to thrive.


Intel Unveils Its Pathfinder Program

This week, Intel announced the launch of its Intel Pathfinder program, a development environment designed to help support the pre-silicon development of RISC-V devices. Pathfinder supports various RISC-V cores, a set of complementary IP, operating systems, and unified toolchains within a shared IDE. 

Intel Pathfinder was developed to enable SoC architects to make definitional decisions by testing their design performance across various available RISC-V cores. Here, the designers can use Pathfinder to instantiate their designs into the fabric of an Intel FPGA test and development kit, such as Intel’s Terasic Developer Kit. Pre-silicon developers can also use Pathfinder to run and debug software on top of several operating system stacks.


eVocore P8700

Diagram of MIPS' eVocore P8700. eVocore devices are MIPS' first CPUs to be based on RISC-V ISA. Image used courtesy of MIPS


In support of Pathfinder, Intel has recruited notable partnerships in the industry, including MIPS, which is supplying its eVocore RISC-V core technology to the platform, and Codasip, which is providing its 32-bit L31 RISC-V core. Other notable participants include Cadence, SiFive, and the Linux Foundation.


Tailored to Hobbyists and Professionals Alike

Intel is rolling out its Pathfinder program in two versions: the free Start Edition, designed for research, academic, and hobbyist communities, and the Professional Edition, built for organizations using commercial RISC-V-based software and silicon. 


Pathfinder feature sets

Pathfinder feature sets. Image used courtesy of Intel


With its broad portfolio of participating partners on Intel Pathfinder, Intel is helping to expand open-source chip design, get others involved, and create more tools and resources within the RISC-V ecosystem.