Computer

This is EPAC, the first European CPU that will not compete with Intel or AMD?

The EPI was founded by the European Union with the aim of giving the different countries of the old continent total independence of high-performance computing technology from the United States and the great Asian powers. The geopolitical objective is nothing more than to have technological neutrality in a market that is moving to form two large blocks that in the end will end up giving companies to choose between one block or another.

The design of these processors is based on use of the ISA RISC-V, which is not associated with any multinational or any government and we could say that it is the equivalent of GNU / Linux in the hardware world. This allows them to develop processors from scratch without relying on technologies from other parts of the world. Let’s not forget that with the attempt to purchase ARM by NVIDIA it will cease to be British, but it is already left out of technologies within the European Union with Brexit. This has led the EU to develop the EPAC, the first European processor.

EPAC, this is European CPU based on RISC-V

If we look at the measurements of the first European processor we will see that it is a very modest piece of hardware, since the chip measures 26. 97 mm2, it works to 1 GHz and has been manufactured under the node of 22 nm by GlobalFoundries. So at first glance you can see that it is a very modest processor.

Regarding its internal architecture, it is the following:

  • The EPAC is made up of quad core, which are specialized in vector processing or SIMD.
  • Each processor is derived from the RISC-V “Nibbled” core, designed by SemiDynamics in collaboration with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the University of Zagreb.
  • The four cores communicate internally with each other using a shared L2 cache and interconnections that have been created by Chalmers and FORTH.
  • In the design they have not forgotten about artificial intelligence, since they have added the Stencil and Tensor Accelerators or STX They have been designed by Fraunhofer IIS, ITWM, and ETH Zurich.
  • They have also added a variable precision processore designed by CEA LIST.
  • The four main cores and the rest of the processors communicate through a Central NoC.
  • Communication with the outside world is carried out through a SERDES, which, like the Network on a Chip, has been created by EXTOLL.

EPAC running Hello World

We do not know that other types of standard interfaces have been integrated into the chip, such as PCI Express or the type of RAM used since they have wanted to focus on what was contributed by the different participants in the project.

In any case, it is not the end point in what is the design of a high-performance computing system, but the easiest part, since now they have before them the daunting task of doing a job as complex as creating a CPU and a GPU from scratch. The versatility of the ISA RISC-V will allow them to do so without relying on third parties, but we will have to wait at least five years to see tangible results. In addition, they start from a huge disadvantage, and that is that Europe lacks its own foundries and therefore cannot opt ​​for custom designs that are more efficient.

In any case, due to the design of the EPAC, it is clear that its first customers are going to be the car manufacturers on the continent, who have seen their production stopped due to the shortage of chips from other parts of the world. So you will not see the EPAC on your PC, but it is possible that it will be found in your future car and its adoption will help finance the great project of the great European CPU.

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