Bitmain SoC Support Coming To Linux 5.1 - Sophon ARMv8 + RISC-V Chip For Deep Learning
Queued for mainlining with the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle is initial support for Bitmain SoCs. Bitmain is the Chinese company that started out designing ASICs for Bitcoin mining with the Antminer and other products. The company has also been venturing into designs for artificial intelligence and deep learning.
With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel will be initial support for Bitmain's BM1880 System-on-a-Chip as well as the "Sophon Edge" developer board.
The Bitmain BM1880 SoC features a dual-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor plus a single core RISC-V subsystem as well as a Tensor processor subsystem. But with the initial state for Linux 5.1, only the A53 cores are enabled at the moment. The BM1880 is marketed as an "edge TPU" capable of delivering [email protected] performance, a single-core RISC-V processor capable of reaching 1GHz, and optimized for deep learning while only pulling around 2.5 Watts. The BM1880 is found in their Neural Network Stick, a Neural Network Module, and the Edge TPU Developer Board "Sophon Edge".
With Linux 5.1, besides adding the BM1880 Sophon processor support there is also the Sophon Edge developer board that's supported. Sophon Edge complies with Linaro's 96Boards specifications and features 1GB of LPDDR4 memory, 8GB eMMC, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, USB 3.0, 40-pin GPIO header, and H.264/MJPEG encode/decode. Pricing on this board starts at around $130 USD and more details can be found via 96Boards.org.
So with Linux 5.1 is just the initial support and hopefully in succeeding releases the upstream kernel gets the enabling bits for the tensor and RISC-V subsystems to really make this SoC support interesting. Linaro developers have been the ones working on this upstream kernel support.
With Habana Labs Goya AI Processor also working on a mainline Linux driver, exciting times ahead for mainline kernel support on next-generation AI / deep learning hardware. All these recent efforts are what is leading to a likely hardware accelerator subsystem for the kernel.