Researchers at Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) Laboratory at Indian Institute of Technology Madras design and develop India’s first indigenous microprocessor. The ingeniously developed microprocessor, named “Shakti”, could be used in mobile computing, wireless and networking systems, besides reducing reliance on imported microprocessors in communication and defence sectors. The chip is designed based on RISC V Microprocessors Architecture. And is one of the few such designs available in the world right now.
The project, initiated in 2011, received a fund of 11 crores by the Government of India only in 2017 which speeded up the development process. Though the initial few sample during the research was fabricated by Intel the final design and processor were fabricated at the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Semi-Conductor Laboratory in Chandigarh. Hence, making this chip a completely “Made In India”.
RISC – V
The development of any microprocessor system starts with choosing the right Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). RISC-V is an open ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) developed as a project in 2010 by the University of California, Berkeley. Other well known ISAs are the ARM (Advanced Risk Machines) and Intel x86 architecture. Due to their lower power consumption, ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) instruction set-based chips have dominated smartphone, tablets and other small device markets. While Intel x86 architecture is well known for high performance, though not suited for low-power devises. The RISC-V has been designed keeping both speed and low-power consumption in mind. Shakti is The RISC-V based processor and hence stands at par with the international standards.
The open-sourced architecture would give a significant boost for the Indian electronics manufacturing sector. The project has already spinned off a startup. The startup InCore is developing two families of in-order cores that target edge systems ranging from ultra-low-power IoT to high-performing desktops.
Recently, a leading Chinese electronics manufacturing company had hit the headlines for secretly inserting spy chip to infiltrate top US companies. This notorious spy-chip were found in servers at Apple, Amazon and haven’t spared the US Department of Defense, the CIA, the Navy either. This has resulted in a growing concern on the reliability of Chinese made electronics amongst several nations across the world. Hence, the “Shakti” processor will play a strategic role in both communication and defence sectors of the nation if not the entire world.