Western Digital Releases Their RISC-V Cores To The World

What grew out of a university research project is finally becoming real silicon. RISC-V, the ISA that’s completely Big-O Open, is making inroads in dev boards, Arduino-ish things, and some light Internet of Things things. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t mean anything until you can find RISC-V cores in actual products. The great hope for RISC-V in this regard looks to be Western Digital, manufacturers of storage. They’re going to put RISC-V in all their drives, and they’ve just released their own version of the core, the SweRV.

Last year, Western Digital made the amazing claim that they will transition their consumption of silicon over to RISC-V, putting one Billion RISC-V cores per year into the marketplace. This is huge news, akin to Apple saying they’re not going to bother with ARM anymore. Sure, these cores won’t necessarily be user-facing but at least we’re getting something.

As far as technical specs for the Western Digital SweRV core go, it’s a 32-bit in-order core, with a target implementation process of 28nm, running at 1.8GHz. Performance per MHz is good, and if you want a chip or device to compare the SweRV core to (this is an inexact comparison, because we’re just talking about a core here and not an entire CPU or device), we’re looking at something between a decade-old iPhone or a very early version of the Raspberry Pi and a modern-ish tablet. Again, an inexact comparison, but no direct comparison can be made at this point.

Since Western Digital put the entire design for the SweRV core on Github, you too can download and simulate the core. It’s just slightly less than useless right now, but the design is proven in Verilator; running this on a cheap off-the-shelf FPGA dev board is almost a fool’s errand. However, this does mean there’s progress in bringing RISC-V to the masses, and putting Open cores in a Billion devices a year.

90 TB Drive Array For Home Storage Needs

Why store it in the cloud when you could have a 90 Terabyte hard drive (translated) array in your house? The drives are mostly Western Digital Caviar Green EARS 2TB models which are known for energy efficiency and quiet operation. It’s a little unclear as to whether this is using one or two motherboards, but the drives are connected using PCI RAID5 and RAID5+0 controller cards. There’s a total of 40 cooling fans built into the case, half on the bottom and the rest on the top. They move air up through the case, with plans to add a dust filter in the future. Heck, with that type of air movement you could throw on a standard furnace filter. Apparently it is quiet enough to talk in “almost a whisper” while next to the plywood monolith. But we’re a bit skeptical of that claim.

It’s not quite as fancy looking as the 67 TB storage from last year… but it does look pretty easy to build at home.

[Thanks Henrique via EnglishRussia]

Hacking The Western Digital TV Media Player

Western Digital recently released a media player that attaches to your TV and allows you to play HD media straight from an external USB drive to the television. With a price point of about $100, it’s strange that the device hasn’t made more of a stir in the consumer electronics market. Of course, if it exists, someone will hack it, though. Clever hardware and software hackers have already managed to get an alternative firmware running on the device, allowing for packages like a web server, RSS reader, Apple trailer viewer, and other linux-based packages. It’s good to see a device with so many software mods so early into production.

Related: OpenPogo, an alternative to Pogoplug software