Podcast: RISC-V CEO Sees Bright Global Future for Open Source CPUs

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Calista Redmond is CEO of the RISC-V Foundation.

In this podcast, the Radio Free HPC team catches up with Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V. As the designers of a new open source processor instruction set, RISC-V is looking to disrupt the entire industry. RISC-V can be used for light weight tasks such as embedded processing but, on the other hand, is also going to be utilized as the system accelerator for the European Exascale initiative boxes. That’s some serious flexibility.

In our discussion, we briefly cover the origins of RISC-V, which started at Berkeley several years ago. It’s important to keep in mind that RISC-V is an instruction set, not a processor. Anyone can use the RISC-V instruction set, modify it for their unique needs, and then fab their own chips. Today, the instruction set is being used in everything from the smallest embedded device to large scale-out systems.

The business model for RISC-V is different than most any other company. They make the ISA freely available to all comers. The RISC-V Foundation drives the design and development of IP, software, and tools for the instruction set. Foundation members pay dues and in return receive access to Foundation technology and programs, plus visibility and input into the RISC-V roadmap.

Our interview with Calista covers a broad range of topics including how the foundation works to alleviate the risks of ISA fragmentation, where the strongest interest in RISC-V is geographically and workload-wise, and a comparison of RISC-V’s open source nature vs. the proprietary nature of existing ISA’s. Give it a listen, it’s a great introduction to RISC-V and the paradigm of open source ISA’s.

Other Highlights:

Shahin discusses how historic UNIX passwords were cracked and recovered. Both the passwords and hashing algorithms were pretty weak back in the day and we now know just how weak. Listen to the podcast to hear some of the most important passwords of the era, including Eric Schmidt, Dennis Richie, Brian Keringhan, and Ken Thompson – who probably has the best password from a technical standpoint. We also discuss how much time and hardware it took to crack these passwords.

Dan notes that there is an asteroid approaching Earth that has a “non zero” chance of impacting our beloved planet. The asteroid, dubbed 2019 SU3, is expected to come within 73,000 miles (or maybe zero miles) from Earth, which is extremely close. Expected arrival time is September 16, 2084. Is this the time to panic? Yes, says Dan. We’ll be giving updates on this asteroid every five years or so, to keep you on top of the action.

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