Genode OS adds RISC-V support

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2016.

The open source instruction set architecture known as RISC-V has gained significant momentum over the past year. To be sure, the ISA is now backed by a number of industry heavyweights, including Google, LG and BAE Systems.

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Meanwhile, an R&D division of the Indian government is on track to develop its very first 64-bit microprocessor based on the RISC-V instruction set. It should also be noted that a separate team of designers at IIT Madras has been working for more than two years on a family of 32- and 64-bit open source processors based on RISC-V, called Shakti. According to EE Times, the Shakti project now includes plans for at least six microprocessor designs along with fabrics and an accelerator chip.

On the software side, engineers at Genode recently unveiled new support for RISC-V CPU architecture. For the uninitiated, the Genode Framework can perhaps best be described as a tool kit for building highly secure special-purpose operating systems. It is capable of scaling from embedded systems with as little as 4 MB of memory to highly dynamic general-purpose workloads.

Genode is also based on a recursive system structure. Simply put, each program runs in a dedicated sandbox – granted only those rights and resources required for a specific task. Nevertheless, programs can create and manage sub-sandboxes out of their own resources, thereby forming hierarchies where policies are applied at each level. This secure paradigm allows programs to communicate with each other and trade resources, but only within a strictly defined framework.

Image Credit: Genode 

According to Norman Feske of OS News, RISC-V is a “possible answer” to the call for more trustworthy hardware. Indeed, such a prospect is what motivated the Genode project to take a closer look at the open source ISA.

“Since the hardware is still in flux, the scope of the support is still somewhat limited,” Feske clarified. “But Genode is already able to run on the official Spike simulator as well as on RISC-V as a synthesized FPGA softcore.”

As recently noted in “Charting a New Course for Semiconductors,” the success of open-source software – as opposed to a closed, walled-garden approach – has set an important precedent for the semiconductor industry.

To be sure, more than 95 percent of today’s web servers run on variants of the Linux operating system, while approximately 85 percent of smartphones sold worldwide use the open-source Android mobile operating system (OS). In addition, Red Hat recently became the first open source company to reach the $2 billion run-rate in annual sales.

Interested in learning more about RISC-V? You can check out the project’s official page here.