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Intel Terminates RISC-V Development Project: What Happened?

Intel has stopped its RISC-V development project, which was less than a year old, and is now recommending customers use third-party RISC-V tools in future CPU designs. The unexpected termination raises questions about the future of RISC-V architecture, platform and its potential challenges in hardware and software development.

www.electropages.com/, Jan. 31, 2023 – 

This sudden move by Intel has created uncertainty in the RISC-V processor market, and it remains to be seen what impact it will have on its pathfinder role in shaping the future of CPU architecture.

What information has come to light over this situation, what reason could Intel have for killing this project, and does this signal bad news for RISC-V?

Intel kills off its RISC-V project

In August 2022, Intel announced its interest in RISC-V development by forming a new project called Pathfinder, whose primary goal was to develop RISC-V software support for customers. As RISC-V is an instruction set (not a physical implementation), Intel's plan was to provide users with all the resources and infrastructure needed to pre-test CPUs on Intel FPGAs and/or virtual simulators. Once a design has been proven in a physical FPGA, real-world silicon implementations can then be manufactured using Intel's Foundry Service.

The launch of this project was seen as a milestone in RISC-V development and showed strong industrial support for the processor platform, especially considering that Intel's primary business is their x86/x64 line of processors. Soon after the project was launched, a second announcement in December stated that enhancements to the Pathfinder project, including multi-core support, new development boards, and debugging extensions.

Despite all of these promising signs, Intel has now recently (and silently) killed off the RISC-V Pathfinder project, instructing developers to use third-party RISC-V software instead. Visiting pathfinder.intel.com yields only the following announcement:

"We regret to inform you that Intel is discontinuing the Intel® Pathfinder for RISC-V program effective immediately.

Since Intel will not be providing any additional releases or bug fixes, we encourage you to promptly transition to third-party RISC-V* software tools that best meet your development needs."

Additionally, according to Krishnan's LinkedIn profile, his role as the RISC-V boss ended in January 2023, and he is now listed as "GM, new initiatives."

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