The SHAKTI Program
The SHAKTI Processor Program, was started as an academic initiative back in 2014 by the RISE group at
IIT-Madras. Realizing the limitations
of the processor industry mentioned above, the initiative aimed at not only creating open-source
but also building associated components of a bigger ecosystem - like interconnect fabrics,
peripheral IPs, etc. - which enables rapid adoption of the processors. Some of the major
highlights of the
program which make it a
viable option for adoption are:
- Source code of all the components of the SHAKTI ecosystem are open under the 3 part BSD
This means a user could freely use, modify and circulate the source code without having
to sign any
licenses or even notify the authors as long as the license header file remains. The
will not assert any patents and thereby removes the burden of paying royalties as well.
- The processors of the SHAKTI ecosystem are build using the open-source RISC-V ISA. RISC-V has been
designed for modularity
and extensions, thereby perfectly fitting the prologue of "customization". The ISA also
comes with a
software stack, including compilers, operating systems, and debuggers, which are open
source and thus
modifiable. Since the ISA does not dictate micro-architectural features, the software
and hardware can
by two complete different entities and yet be compatible. This allows for great
and sharing of code-base across the community.
- The SHAKTI processors and the front-end (RTL) designs are developed using the
open-source High Level
Synthesis (HLS) language:
Bluespec System Verilog (BSV).
BSV equips the user to develop extremely modular and parameterized modules with defined
This feature facilitates the user to focus and modify only the designs of interest
without having to
break the rest of the flow. Today there
exists a free bsv-parser which the
community can use to develop open/proprietary compilers for BSV.
- Academia now has access to a real world working prototypes of processors which they can
play with for
free. This enables them to depart
from the world of "simulators" and "emulation models" and try out their research and
ideas in practice.
They are no longer
tied down by strict NDAs on publishing and can thereby participate more actively in
shaping the future of the processor industry.
- A typical process of acquiring ISA or architectural licenses from companies like ARM
can vary anywhere
between 6-12 months. This increases the time-to market
for the consumers. SHAKTI, can immensely reduce this time by avoiding such formalities
and providing a
powerful modular framework allowing
small tech start-ups to only modify components of interest rather than building a
solution from scratch.
- With minds from all over the community pouring in ideas and solutions, SHAKTI has the
become a state-of-the-art offering
- An open-source ecosystem such as SHAKTI promotes a mix-and-match environment where users
different open-source or proprietary IPs and
innovate on new ideas and projects.
- Being completely open-source, it is close-to-impossible for external entities to add
black-boxes. This is of particular
interest to strategic sectors of a countries like India, which today depend on black-box
provided by industries which are headquartered
in foreign countries.
- SHAKTI can also enable the software community drastically. Fearing strong patent
who own licensed HW IPs for development are forced to release only binaries rather
source code and also
minimal documentation. This leaves the software Libre community in dangling state,
spending months and
"picking up pieces".
In addition to the above arguments, a combination of the open-source processor ecosystems such
as SHAKTI and a
entity like TSMC, which is offering upto 100 small tests chips on its latest technology node for
enable any project with real-chips for their final validation at drastically low costs and time.