IIT Madras researchers develop homegrown microprocessor, Shakti

IIM Madras – Shakti, the home-grown microprocessor, designed by the researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), is India’s first indigenously-developed technology, which finds immense use in mobile computing devices, embedded low power wireless systems and networking systems, in addition to depending heavily on imported microprocessors in communications and defence sectors. According to a statement issued by the Institute, this microprocessor can be used by others as it is on par with international standards.

The ‘SHAKTI’ family of processors was fabricated at Semi-Conductor Laboratory of Indian Space Research Organizations (ISRO) in Chandigarh, making it the first ‘RISC V Microprocessor’ to be entirely designed and made in India, noted the statement. According to the report, the other crucial aspect of such an indigenous design, development and fabricating approach is reducing the risk of deploying systems that may be infected with back-doors and hardware Trojans. This development will assume enormous significance when methods based on SHAKTI processors are adopted by strategic sectors such as defence, nuclear power installations and Government Agencies and Departments, noted the statement.

“With the advent of Digital India, several applications require customisable processor cores. The 180nm fabrication facility at SCL Chandigarh is crucial in getting these cores manufacturers within our Country,” lead researcher Prof Kamakoti Veezhinathan, Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) Laboratory, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Madras said while speaking about the significance of this development said. SHAKTI processor family targets clock speeds to suit various end-user application devices such as multiple consumer electronic devices, mobile computing devices, embedded low power wireless systems and networking systems, among others, said IIT Madras. The Project is funded by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.

With this utterly indigenous fabrication, according to IIT Madras, India has now attained independence in designing, developing and fabricating end-to-end systems within the country, leading to self-sufficiency. With a large percentage of applications requiring sub 200 MHz processors, the current success paves the way to productisation of many hand-held and control application devices, it said. In July 2018, an initial batch of 300 chips, named RISECREEK was produced under Project SHAKTI, that was fabricated at the Multinational Chip Manufacturer Intel’s facility at Oregon, U.S., that successfully booted the Linux operating system. Now, the fabrication has been done in India.

A majority of the front-end design of SHAKTI is done using Bluespec System Verilog. The Bluespec compiler can generate a cycle-accurate C model, which in the simulation is 8-10x faster than state-of-the-art Verilog simulators. This drastically speeds up verification of designs. Additionally, the BSV generated Verilog is not only well structured and human readable/maintainable but is also 100% synthesizable, enabling users to start prototyping on FPGAs from day-1.

It also prevents classes of design errors like race-conditions and types errors from happening, thereby obviating the need for verification in these areas. This represents a paradigm change in the CPU architecture design flow. A large part of the verification tools and auxiliary components are developed using python.

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