RISC-V International, an organization overseeing development of the open source RISC-V instruction set architecture, this week responded to U.S. lawmakers, who last week expressed concerns that openness of the RISC-V technology could be abused by the Chinese Communist Party and expressed an idea to 'close' the ISA from Chinese entities. Calista Redmond, chief executive of RISC-V International, believes that the ISA must remain open to enable evolution of compute capabilities for a broad range of applications.
"RISC-V is here to stay. It has already grown tremendously in global adoption and influence as the open standard for compute," Redmond wrote in a blog post. "RISC-V is an open standard and has incorporated meaningful contributions from all over the world. As a global standard, RISC-V is not controlled by any single company or country."
Open standards, such as Ethernet, HTTPS, JPEG, and USB, have historically propelled technological growth, driving innovation and market expansion, Redmond reckons. Throughout the tech industry's evolution, these standards have served as guiding lights, attracting consumers to novel technologies and motivating businesses to break new grounds. Instead of acting as arenas for rivalry, these platforms provide a unified base, setting the stage for competition centered on unique offerings and value propositions. Meanwhile, American companies have traditionally played key roles in the creation and promotion of these standards, ensuring consistency in technological processes and setting the tone for global advancements.
RISC-V is another open source technology that is potentially set to become ubiquitous. Drawing from a global pool of contributions, spanning North America, Europe, and Asia, it remains decentralized. The technology also distances itself from constrained proprietary frameworks. Yet, the ascent of RISC-V has been punctuated with concerns. Its commanding presence in the semiconductor sector has not gone unnoticed by global peers. Fears loom that curbing its trajectory could curtail its manifold benefits and inadvertently provide an impetus for competitors to chart alternative terrains.
Addressing U.S. lawmakers' security-related apprehensions, the RISC-V entity is positioning itself as a collaborator in global standards, rather than as a tech gatekeeper. It underlines the essence of its open-framework ethos, highlighting competition's domain as implementation, not in the foundational standards.
"Contemplated actions by governments for an unprecedented restriction in open standards will have the consequence of diminished access to the global marketplace of products, solutions, and talent," stressed Redmond. "Bifurcating on the standards level would lead to a world of incompatible solutions that duplicate effort and close off markets."
Stay on the Cutting Edge
Join the experts who read Tom's Hardware for the inside track on enthusiast PC tech news — and have for over 25 years. We'll send breaking news and in-depth reviews of CPUs, GPUs, AI, maker hardware and more straight to your inbox.
Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.
If the US government is concerned about RISC-V being open and used by its adversaries...Reply
May as well go after the entire FOSS community while they're at it.
Legally you can't make open source platform to become restricted, RISC-V was open source from the beginning and China did use it and add to it for it local needs.Reply
With ARM maturing to the desktop and RISC-V ascending, we're on the cusp of a new golden era in computing hardware. It would be a shame if that was stopped because of geopolitics.Reply
next: block them access to any open source OS so they can't develop their own open source OS.Reply
not political but they seem to want to ban everything possible at the rate they going.Reply
The fundamental problem with such a move is that the cat is already out of the bag. RISC-V already has world-wide participation and its foundation isn't headquartered in the US.Reply
So, basically, all that would be accomplished by such a move is to lock US companies and tech workers out of what's soon to be one of the biggest ecosystems in computing. To say that would be counterproductive would probably be the understatement of the decade. I sure hope cooler heads prevail, on this one.
They're very different, in that most of the players behind RISC-V are commercial businesses. That means there's a lot of money and economic impact at stake, here.hotaru.hino said:May as well go after the entire FOSS community while they're at it.
First, RISC-V is not open source. It's an open (and royalty-free) standard. There's a massive difference.EyadSoftwareEngineer said:Legally you can't make open source platform to become restricted,
Second, yes laws restricting traffic in such IP (whether open source or not) actually could be passed and (largely) enforced against any commercial entities or notable community members of interest. One unfortunate side-effect is that trying to enforce something like this would almost certainly take resources and attention away from other priorities.
I'm not sure about ARM's long-term fortunes, but RISC-V looks set to happen - with or without the US!ThomasKinsley said:With ARM maturing to the desktop and RISC-V ascending, we're on the cusp of a new golden era in computing hardware. It would be a shame if that was stopped because of geopolitics.
That ship has sailed. They already have all the IP they need. If they get locked out of the upstream repos, they can simply establish all their own forks. Nothing would be accomplished by this, other than to bifurcate the software ecosystems in very annoying and inefficient ways for any hardware or software looking to straddle the divide.renz496 said:next: block them access to any open source OS so they can't develop their own open source OS.
What's worse: if nobody of consequence joined the US on such a move, the "international" forks would almost certainly become the dominant ones, leaving the US on its own technological island. Ultimately, self-defeating.
Again, there is no point blocking the technology when you have no control over people that can potentially be hired to create the same thing. It is not easy, but with the capital and time, they will eventually catch up and even overtake with the talents. Whatever they try to block, is at best a speed bump, and not going to stop China from progressing.Reply
Not forgetting the fact that R&D requires money. If these technology companies can't sell for whatever sanctions they need to adhere, they have less funds to reinvest in R&D. In the same vein of limiting fabs from producing cutting edge chips for China, it is going to cause losses to the fabs in the near future. The fabs have spent a lot of money expanding over the last few years, and with a significant chunk of income being denied, it is going to cause them pain and slow down progress.
Well... it depends.watzupken said:Again, there is no point blocking the technology when you have no control over people that can potentially be hired to create the same thing.
For instance ARM designed the AArch64 ISA, using some patents held by ARM. This is what allows them to require a license of anyone who implements the ARM ISA, even if you use none of their other IP. If you implement it without a license, they'll sue you for patent infringement.
So, if RISC-V has a patent pool, then someone could be effectively banned from using it, or parts thereof, simply by restricting access to the underlying patents, regardless of whether or not a license is normally required to implement RISC-V. Of course, that would only work in jurisdictions which respect those hypothetical patents. Still, if Chinese company made RISC-V CPUs which implement the vector extension, and that extension depends on a US patent, which the US Government has restricted from being licensed to Chinese entities, then they could at least ban importation of those processors or anything containing them.
Now, what that wouldn't necessarily prevent is them from designing their own extension (or ground-up ISA) which doesn't rely on that patent. However, not supporting the RISC-V ISA (or an extension, thereof) means they wouldn't be compatible with tools, libraries, and apps which use it. Being shut out of an ecosystem is the really bad part of all this. It means having to create your own ecosystem, which is costly & time-consuming, and then having to get others to adopt it. All of that can put one at an insurmountable market disadvantage. In fact, from what I've heard, RISC-V isn't so great - it derives its main benefits from its large & growing ecosystem!
If you're talking about something like semiconductor manufacturing, the trouble is that existing players are continuing to evolve quite rapidly. So, it's not enough merely to reach where they're at, today. If you don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage, you have to catch up to where they'll be, several years down the road. That's not easy, especially if it means having to reinvent decades' worth of innovation & infrastructure!watzupken said:It is not easy, but with the capital and time, they will eventually catch up and even overtake with the talents. Whatever they try to block, is at best a speed bump, and not going to stop China from progressing.
Sure, technology is "leaky", and a lot of the IP has already leaked. That doesn't necessarily make technology sanctions a fruitless exercise. They're not a long-term solution, of course. They're best used in a tactical fashion.