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SiPearl Develops Arm HPC Chip

October 20, 2020

Author: Aakash Jani

SiPearl is a little company with a big goal: helping Europe wean itself off of x86-based supercomputers and reduce its dependence of foreign silicon. The French startup has assembled a complete supercomputer processor using mainly European intellectual-property (IP) blocks. It’s the first announced customer for Arm’s Neoverse V1 CPU, which is designed for high-performance computing (HPC). The processor also includes an embedded FPGA from Menta, an AI accelerator from Kalray, and a RISC-V-based vector accelerator developed by the European Processor Initiative (EPI), along with a surfeit of high-speed-memory and I/O interfaces. The company is now testing samples of the 6nm chip and expects it to reach production by mid-2021.

The EPI was chartered in 4Q18 to develop a high-performance processor for EuroHPC, a joint initiative of several European countries to support indigenous supercomputers. EPI members include Kalray and Menta as well as heavy hitters BMW and Infineon. The EPI spun off SiPearl (short for Silicon Pearl) in early 2020 with €6.2 million ($7.3 million) from a Horizon 2020 grant as well as some private investment. Fortunately, the EPI members provided their IP at no cost.

Although SiPearl’s role is to develop and commercialize an HPC processor, it has yet to confirm a customer for the initial design, called Rhea. Rhea is the first chip to integrate both Arm and RISC-V cores on the same die. This all-Greek affair features 72 Arm Zeus cores operating at a peak frequency of 3.3GHz, along with other RISC-V-based accelerators. Rhea has next-generation memory interfaces including HBM2e and DDR5 DRAM.

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