The researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) have designed India’s first indigenous microprocessor, which will reduce dependency on imported microchips and the risk of cyber attacks.
The microprocessor called ‘Shakti’ was designed, developed and booted by IIT Madras with a microchip fabricated in the Semi-Conductor Laboratory of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at Chandigarh. It has been developed at an outlay of about Rs 11 crore.
The ‘Shakti’ project is aimed at developing industrial-grade microprocessors and other components of the microprocessor ecosystem.
It is partly funded by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), as part of two-decade-old efforts to develop indigenous microprocessors.
• The design of the microprocessor originates from an open source instruction set architecture (ISA), a set of basic instructions called RISC V, which makes it customisable to any device.
• The RISC-V is an open, free ISA, enabling a new era of processor innovation through open standard collaboration.
• It delivers a new level of free, extensible software and hardware freedom on architecture, paving the way for the next 50 years of computing design and innovation.
• The ISA is basically the programming or machine language and provides commands to the processor instructing it on the functions to be executed.
• The concept to design the chip was germinated in 2011 and some preliminary works were then carried out. Bluespec, an open-source high-level synthesis language, went into making the chips.
• Initially, the researchers created a normative design to show the feasibility. Different devices may need a different type of hardware and may be even new features or instructions.
The microprocessor will reduce dependency on imported microchips and the risk of cyber attacks..
It could be used in mobile computing, wireless and networking systems, besides reducing reliance on imported microprocessors in communication and defence sectors.
It may also provide power to mobile phones, surveillance cameras and smart meters.
The brain of all computing and electronic devices, many such microprocessors that are connected are used to operate larger high-speed systems and supercomputers.
• Launched in 2014, the ‘Shakti’ microprocessor was designed at the Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) Laboratory at the IIT-Madras’ department of computer science and engineering.
• In July, an initial batch of IIT-M-designed 300 chips, ‘RISECREEK’, was developed at Intel’s facility at Oregon, US, and later booted the Linux Operating System. Now, developed in the country, the microprocessor is completely indigenous.
• While the microprocessor fabricated in India was in a 180nm facility, the one in the US was in a 20nm lab.
• According to Prof Kamakoti Veezhinathan, lead researcher at IITM’s RISE laboratory, “180nm, though outdated, is relevant as many applications across the world look for limited frequency.”
• He also added that the chip can be used for any application where conventional power is available. The one fabricated in the US consumes less power and hence can be used in mobiles.
• The microprocessor has already attracted the attention of Indian industry and IIT-M is in touch with more than 13 companies involved in strategic and commercial applications.
After ‘Shakti’, the research is now ready with ‘Parashakti’, an advanced microprocessor for supercomputers.
The super scaler processor will be ready by December 2018 and it will go into desktops and 32 of them interconnected may go into supercomputers.
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